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[GreenYes] Garbage railroad trashing Mojave Desert

NEWS RELEASE: for immediate release Thursday, September 26, 2002


Garbage Railroad Construction Trashing Endangered Species and Desert Public 
Conservationists challenge work on line to haul L.A.'s trash to dump at Eagle 
Mountain next to Joshua Tree NP

Daniel R. Patterson, Desert Ecologist, Center  909.659.6053 x 306
Donna Charpied, Citizens for the Chuckwalla Valley  760.392.4722
Elden Hughes, Chair, Sierra Club CA/NV Desert Committee  562.941.5306
Frank Buono, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

E. RIVERSIDE COUNTY, CA -- U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton, Kaiser 
Corporation and others were put on notice today about glaring legal 
violations and threats to endangered species from construction of a railroad 
to haul thousands of tons of L.A. County trash daily to be dumped next to 
Joshua Tree National Park, at the proposed Eagle Mountain Landfill in 
California's Sonoran Desert region.

The landfill proposed for northeastern Riverside County by Ontario-based

Kaiser has been bitterly opposed by desert residents, farmers, 
conservationists and Joshua Tree National Park.  An abandoned 52-mile rail 
line leading from the Salton Sea to Eagle Mountain, along with a right-of-way 
are considered a key part of the dump proposal.  The rail line and right of 
way pass through an established area of critical habitat for the threatened 
desert tortoise.  They also cut across the Chuckwalla Bench Area of Critical 
Environmental Concern, which was designated by the U.S. Bureau of Land 
Management to protect a significant population of tortoises.  Kaiser's 
construction work on the line has been consistently violating a U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service permit, known as a biological opinion, and wildlife 
mitigation requirements.  Kaiser has failed to provide safe rail line 
crossing points for tortoises, leaving them trapped or at risk of injury or 
death, and have consistently violated biological monitoring, mitigation and 
take avoidance requirements since at least 1998.

"Construction of the garbage railroad is trashing the desert and violating 
the law as Secretary Norton fails to enforce." says Daniel Patterson, Desert 
Ecologist with the Center in Idyllwild, who formerly worked with BLM.

"The railroad permit required that the tortoise and other critters be taken 
care of.  Instead the operators have created death traps." says Elden Hughes, 
longtime Sierra Club desert champion.

Under the terms of the biological opinion, BLM is required to revoke the 
right-of-way across public lands if Kaiser does not comply.  Today's notice 
asks the Secretary to do it, or face a lawsuit.

"The dump developers kill tortoises year after year with blessings from BLM." 
say Donna and Larry Charpied, organic farmers and activists with Citizens for 
the Chuckwalla Valley in Desert Center.  "What is really frightening is 
tortoises are being harmed by the dump's railroad, and not one gum wrapper h
as been sent to Eagle Mountain yet.  What will happen if 20,000 tons of 
garbage a day comes barrelling through critical tortoise habitat?  It appears 
Norton's plan is to kill the species off and then nobody has to worry about 
them any more."

"There is a disturbing pattern of Interior Department agencies in the 
California Desert not living up to the requirements imposed on them by the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect endangered wildlife." says PEER 
Board Member Frank Buono, who was formerly an NPS Assistant Superintendent in 
the California Desert.  "BLM at Eagle Mountain is failing to comply with what 
it must do, and we are putting them on notice to do it now, or face a federal 

A copy of the Notice of Intent to sue Secretary Norton is available by
contacting Daniel Patterson or Donna Charpied

*** end ***

Daniel R. Patterson
Desert Ecologist
Center for Biological Diversity

POB 493  Idyllwild California  92549 USA
909.659.6053 x 306 tel / 659.2484 fax
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