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Joshua Tree's Landfill: Battle Not Over


    Earlier this fall I wrote about a federal judge's decision to reject a proposed land swap that would have allowed for one of the country's largest landfills to be set up next to Joshua Tree National Park.
    Unfortunately, I now hear that the company behind the landfill plans to appeal that ruling.

    Back in September U.S. District Judge Robert J. Timlin ruled that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management erred when it approved the proposed land exchange, which would have cleared the way for a massive dump surrounded on three sides by Joshua Tree. He said, in part, that the BLM had not accurately calculated the value of public lands.
    While the BLM had determined that the 3,942 acres of land involved in the swap was worth only between $79 and $104 per acre, for a total of nearly $410,000, the company that wanted to buy the property was ready to sell it to the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County for $41 million.
  Judge Timlin also ruled that the BLM had not truly determined whether the land swap, which as designed would create a dump that would take in 20,000 tons of garbage every day for the next 117 years, was in the public interest.
     The judge also held that an environmental impact statement conducted for the project failed to demonstrate the need for the dump, analyze a good range of alternatives, or fully take into consideration the dump's impact on bighorn sheep and the desert ecosystem.
    But now the Land Letter, a news service that follows environmental issues, says Kaiser Ventures/Mine Reclamation Corp., which is behind the land-swap-and-sell effort, plans to appeal Judge Timlin's ruling. BLM officials have not decided yet if they will appeal.
    Park advocates checking to see if the land in question can be returned to Joshua Tree, as it was removed from the park in the 1950s -- when Joshua Tree was a national monument -- to allow for mining. At the time it supposedly was agreed the land would revert to the park once mining ceased.


Whether or not Kaiser follows through on their promise to appeal, and whether the BLM joins them, will affect the near-term course of events in the fight against the unneeded and ill-conceived Eagle Mountain landfill. Regardless, park supporters should rest assured that all plaintiffs remain committed to fighting this project. The dump's likelihood of coming to fruition has been dramatically reduced and will hopefully soon be permanently defeated, which should allow the visionary idea you mentioned--returning this land to Joshua Tree National Park--to continue growing roots and eventually blossom. We're both referring to the “Give It Back!” campaign launched by the Citizens for the Chuckwalla Valley in 2003. The goals of this campaign are to return 29,775 acres of land in the Eagle Mountains to Joshua Tree National Park and that the old Kaiser mine and townsite be designated a National Historic Landmark because of their unique role in developing the steel industry on the West Coast. This land was originally included in Joshua Tree National Monument when it was designated in 1936, but was amongst areas deleted from the monument in 1950 in order to determine their potential for mineral development. Today, no mining is occurring in the Eagle Mountains and the “Give It Back!” lands possess significant natural and cultural resources worthy of inclusion in Joshua Tree National Park. The defeat of the Eagle Mountain dump provides a unique opportunity for the “Give It Back!” campaign to move forward. For more information about “Give It Back!”, call the Citizens for the Chuckwalla Valley at 760-574-1887 or visit, where you can also become an endorser of the campaign. Howard Gross California Desert Program Manager National Parks Conservation Association

Well, I was going to comment with a rather unconstructive "oh, crap," but your last para - and Howard's elucidation of it - gives me a constructive response to this project that will not die.

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