Joshua Tree's Landfill: Battle Not Over
Earlier this fall I wrote about a federal judge's decision to reject a proposed land swap that would have allowed for one of the country's largest landfills to be set up next to Joshua Tree National Park.
Unfortunately, I now hear that the company behind the landfill plans to appeal that ruling.
Back in September U.S. District Judge Robert J. Timlin ruled
that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management erred when it approved the proposed land
exchange, which would have cleared the way for a massive dump surrounded on three sides by Joshua Tree. He said, in part, that the BLM had
not accurately calculated the value of public lands.
While the BLM had determined that the 3,942 acres of land involved in the swap was worth only between $79 and $104 per acre, for a total of nearly $410,000, the company that wanted to buy the property was ready to sell it to the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County for $41 million.
Judge Timlin also ruled that the BLM had not truly determined whether the land swap, which as designed would create a dump that would take in 20,000 tons of garbage every day for the next 117 years, was in the public interest.
The judge also held that an environmental impact statement conducted for the project failed to demonstrate the need for the dump, analyze a good range of alternatives, or fully take into consideration the dump's impact on bighorn sheep and the desert ecosystem.
But now the Land Letter, a news service that follows environmental issues, says Kaiser Ventures/Mine Reclamation Corp., which is behind the land-swap-and-sell effort, plans to appeal Judge Timlin's ruling. BLM officials have not decided yet if they will appeal.
Park advocates checking to see if the land in question can be returned to Joshua Tree, as it was removed from the park in the 1950s -- when Joshua Tree was a national monument -- to allow for mining. At the time it supposedly was agreed the land would revert to the park once mining ceased.