Press Release Oct 7, 2016

Industrialization Over Conservation: Harmful Project Advances Near Joshua Tree National Park

In a move that prioritizes industrialization over conservation, the Bureau of Land Management issued a finding of no significant impacts for the Eagle Crest pumped storage proposal. The project site is surrounded on three sides by Joshua Tree National Park in a critical wildlife habitat.

Joshua Tree, CA – Today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its final Environmental Assessment (EA) of a transmission line for the Eagle Crest pumped storage facility. The project poses severe threats to Joshua Tree National Park and is opposed by desert communities, the National Park Service and local and national environmental organizations. However, the BLM indicated that a 12-mile right of way for a transmission line to support the approximately 700-acre Eagle Crest project would not have significant impact on the land’s resources.

Recent studies by the National Park Service have demonstrated that the lands in the transmission corridor, neighboring Joshua Tree National Park, are currently of national park quality. However, if approved, the project stands to deplete groundwater resources, inflate the population of ravens that prey on desert tortoise and disrupt critical bighorn sheep corridors.

The Eagle Mountain area, surrounded on three sides by Joshua Tree National Park, has been ground-zero for misguided development threats over the years and continues to be in jeopardy. The 2013 defeat of the Eagle Mountain Landfill, which would have been the nation’s largest dump, was a cause for celebration in this wildlife-rich area. Yet, the Eagle Crest pumped Storage project continues to move forward, posing similar impacts.

Below is a statement by Seth Shteir, California Desert Program Manager for National Parks Conservation Association

“National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has worked for more than two decades to protect the Eagle Mountain region. Our fight continues, as the Eagle Crest pumped storage proposal advances today, despite the severe and irreversible threats it poses to Joshua Tree National Park, its wildlife, water supplies and other resources.

“Approving the transmission line without examining the project’s cumulative impacts is a piecemeal approach to managing our wildlife-rich and ecologically significant public lands. The National Park Service has requested a comprehensive analysis for the transmission line within the larger context of the Eagle Crest Project due to its potential harm to Joshua Tree National Park. And the BLM’s parent agency, the Department of Interior, previously challenged the scientific analysis that the BLM’s review of the transmission line is based on. And yet, inexplicably, BLM is still allowing this process to move forward.

“The ink is barely dry on the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), which designated the areas that the transmission line would run through as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). The approval of the transmission line contradicts the Interior Department’s plan, which took years and millions of taxpayer dollars to develop.

“What’s more, the BLM’s consideration of the Eagle Crest Project overlaps and contradicts the Department of Interior’s current review of a vastly different proposal for the region: the opportunity to expand Joshua Tree National Park by returning the Eagle Mountain area to its boundary. It prioritizes industrialization over conservation.

“It is clear that a full reckoning of the project and its impacts to Joshua Tree National Park, BLM wilderness areas and local communities is needed. NPCA echoes the call by local communities, including the Palm Springs City Council and Mayor of Cathedral City, in urging the BLM to provide such in-depth analysis, instead of rushing to advance this proposal.”

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About National Parks Conservation Association Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.