Press Release Apr 21, 2017

Interior Ignores Joshua Tree National Park, Wildlife with Eagle Crest Project Approval

In a move that threatens Joshua Tree National Park, wildlife and precious water resources, the Bureau of Land Management took the next step towards approving the contentious Eagle Crest pumped storage facility.

Joshua Tree, CA – In a move that threatens precious desert water resources, wildlife and Joshua Tree National Park, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved a right-of-way necessary for the function of the contentious Eagle Crest pumped storage facility. The proposed project, surrounded on three sides by Joshua Tree National Park, stands to deplete groundwater resources, inflate the population of ravens that prey on the federally threatened desert tortoise and disrupt critical bighorn sheep corridors.

The National Park Service recently identified this region as valuable for desert tortoises, golden eagles and bighorn sheep, as well as containing cultural and historic resources. The region also hosts precious water resources including desert springs and groundwater that serves farms, rural communities and the Colorado River. However, despite the numerous harmful impacts of the proposed 12-mile right of way, the BLM published their finding of “no significant impact” on the land’s resources from a transmission line to support the Eagle Crest project.

The Eagle Crest proposal is widely opposed by desert communities, the National Park Service (a sister agency to the BLM) and local and national environmental organizations.

Below is a statement by David Lamfrom, California Desert and Wildlife Director for National Parks Conservation Association

“For more than 20 years, National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and desert communities have defended the Eagle Mountain region against ill-advised projects, and called to return these rich lands back to Joshua Tree National Park. That process is nearly complete, but the Eagle Crest project threatens our progress to protect this special place.

“The BLM’s finding of no significant impacts directly contradicts facts and resources on the ground here in the desert, including the Department of Interior’s own scientific analysis. The right-of-way crosses important wildlife habitat – as identified by the BLM itself in the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, (DRECP) finalized last year. Joshua Tree National Park is a vital source of economic benefit; a point which was confirmed by the Department of Interior’s just-released visitor spending report. Visitors to Joshua Tree spent more than $123 million in surrounding communities and supported 1,700 jobs in 2016 alone. Such tremendous value and sustainable return on investment must not be overlooked.

“The agency approving the transmission line without examining the full impact of the entire project demonstrates the inadequacy of the project review and instead offers an incomplete approach to managing our wildlife-rich public lands when management across adjacent landscapes is so disparate and ignores important existing science. In fact, the BLM’s action today contradicts the proposal to expand Joshua Tree National Park by returning the Eagle Mountain area to its boundary. The National Park Service has repeatedly requested a comprehensive analysis of the transmission line impacts within the larger context of the Eagle Crest Project due to its potential harm to Joshua Tree National Park.

“Yet, despite the questions, facts and opposition raised, the BLM has mysteriously concluded that no significant impacts exist when considering this right of way. This decision appears to be backed by the weight of a desert mirage versus science.”

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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 1.2 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historic, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.