Center for the State of the Parks: Park Assessments
Published June 2005
NPCA's comprehensive assessment of the health of Joshua Tree and Death Valley national parks and Mojave National Preserve in the California desert reveals disconcerting threats to park air and water quality from development, and insufficient funding, which is affecting the condition of cultural artifacts, historic sites, and other treasures.
Key findings of the report include:
Joshua Tree National Park
- Air pollution from the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area threatens the park. Major highways surround the park, cutting across natural animal migration routes.
- The proposed Eagle Mountain Landfill, which could be built just outside Joshua Tree’s borders, would receive up to 20,000 tons of trash from Los Angeles each day if approved. This landfill would introduce air, light, and noise pollution while attracting scavengers such as ravens that prey on the threatened desert tortoise and other wildlife.
- Only 95 items from Joshua Tree’s extensive museum collection of more than 245,000 objects are on display, and these are in substandard exhibit space. More and improved exhibit space is needed so that visitors can fully appreciate the park’s impressive collection.
Death Valley National Park
- Rapid development in communities surrounding Death Valley results in increased demands on the region’s limited water supply and raises concerns about future availability of water for wildlife. Depletion of the carbonate aquifer underlying Death Valley affects the availability of water for the endangered Devils Hole pupfish and other aquatic species. The aquifer also supplies the park’s numerous springs and seeps, providing a lifeline for plants and animals. Myriad wells are already approved for withdrawing groundwater from adjacent lands, and applications continue to be filed.
- Funds and staff are needed to stabilize historic buildings, catalog the park’s museum collection, survey archaeological sites, and preserve historic structures, furniture, and museum objects at Scotty’s Castle. Funds are also needed to repair a leaky roof and update old exhibits at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center.
Mojave National Preserve
- The potential for new and/or expanded mining operations associated with outstanding mining claims in and near the preserve represent an un-quantified threat to ground water and air quality.
- Potential construction of the Ivanpah airport just north of the preserve represents significant threats to air quality at the preserve and the now-peaceful experiences of visitors.
- None of the objects in Mojave’s small museum collection have been catalogued, and a management plan is needed.