Press Release Apr 3, 2018

National Parks Group Files Lawsuit to Defend Mojave Desert Parks, Wildlife and Water

NPCA's lawsuit against the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) challenges policy changes by the agencies that threaten Mojave National Preserve, Mojave Trails National Monument, wildlife and fragile desert water resources.

WASHINGTON – National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) today filed a lawsuit in federal court in the District of Columbia against leadership in the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). NPCA alleges that soon after taking office, the Administration abruptly changed policy and procedures to allow uses of railroad rights-of-way that can threaten important resources, including national parks and national monuments, without federal environmental review or authorization. Pointing to the Cadiz, Inc. water mining project, a Trump administration infrastructure priority, NPCA alleges that Interior’s new policy illegally green-lighted the construction and operation of a pipeline across federal lands without a permit or environmental review. The Cadiz Inc. proposal threatens fragile springs, wildlife and water resources in Mojave Trails National Monument and Mojave National Preserve.

“National Parks Conservation Association has fought the ill-advised Cadiz Inc. proposal for two decades, and we won’t let up now. As the Trump Administration attempts to advance this proposal, our resolve is only strengthened to continue to defend our national parks and public lands,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO of National Parks Conservation Association. “The Department of Interior has silenced science by illegally blocking federal environmental review of this harmful California desert project. Since the Interior Department has disregarded its obligation to protect California’s groundwater and iconic national parks and the tourism economies they support, we must step in and defend these fragile, special places.”

The lawsuit challenges a Department of Interior Solicitor’s Opinion from 2017, which removed federal oversight of projects using certain railroad rights-of-way, allowing developers to evade required federal review for projects that could impact national parks and other public lands. This illegal action has blocked scientists from the National Park Service and U.S. Geological Survey from reviewing and regulating the Cadiz project, as required by law. Federal scientists have previously found that Cadiz Inc. would extract up to 25 times more groundwater than is naturally recharged, severely damaging resources throughout the Mojave Desert.

The lawsuit also challenges the BLM’s application of the new policy, through a 2017 determination that the construction and operation of a 43-mile long water conveyance pipeline within the Mojave Trails National Monument may proceed without a Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) permit. The administration’s change of position also enables projects such as Cadiz, Inc.’s to avoid federal environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Even before taking office, the Trump Administration’s transition team targeted the Cadiz Inc. proposal as one to fast-track. The project, which aims to pump 16 billion gallons of water annually for 50 years from fragile Mojave Desert aquifers, was listed on the transition team’s “Emergency & National Security” infrastructure priority list.

“We are fighting the Trump administration’s decisions on behalf of our 1.3 million members and supporters and the community members, tribes and all who do not want to see these reckless actions harm Mojave National Preserve and California’s largest national monument, Mojave Trails,” said Pierno.

Polling released earlier this year by the Hispanic Access Foundation found that more than two-thirds of California voters agree the Cadiz project will harm the national park and monument. NPCA is represented in this lawsuit by the U.C. Irvine Environmental Law Clinic.

# # #

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 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.