Feds Act to Protect Joshua Tree National Park From Massive Landfill Project


Joshua Tree National Park.  (Photo credit: Sherry Goldberg, NRDC)

Last week, after hearing from more than 100,000 people from all over the country, including thousands of NRDC members and activists, the Obama Administration took action to protect iconic Joshua Tree National Park in southeast California from the harmful effects of what would be the largest garbage dump in the country.

It turns out people didn’t think it was a good idea to trash one of our nation's premier nature destinations.  Millions of people come to Joshua Tree every year to experience world-class rock climbing, gaze at the spectacular desert sky, and gape at the otherworldly landscape.  For more than twenty years, though, folks who love this desert jewel have been fending off an enormous garbage dump that would devastate the park's fragile desert ecosystem. The mammoth Eagle Mountain landfill, to be built on almost 3,500 acres of federal land surrounded on three sides by the park, would turn Joshua Tree into nothing more than a receptacle for millions of tons of waste, mostly from Los Angeles County.

Enter desert protection superheroes Donna and Larry Charpied, the jojoba farming husband-and-wife team that fought this project tooth and nail from the start.  And won.  In true David vs. Goliath style, the Charpieds beat the landfill developer in federal court at both the district court and appellate levels.


Donna and Larry Charpied.  (Photo source: LaRonna Jojoba Company)

Unable to take no for an answer, the developer has appealed yet again to the U.S. Supreme Court.  At the lower court levels, the federal government had supported the developer’s appeals.  This time, though, the Charpieds spearheaded a fast and furious outreach campaign involving NRDC and CREDO Action, the activism arm of CREDO Mobile, that generated messages from more than 100,000 people imploring Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to stand up for Joshua Tree National Park and put this litigation to rest once and for all.  Last Friday, our efforts paid off when the Interior Department reversed its longstanding position and filed a brief opposing the Supreme Court’s grant of certiorari.

Maybe Secretary Salazar would have done the right thing anyway, but we couldn’t leave it to chance.  When that many people make their voices heard about a special place like Joshua Tree that means so much to them, it’s hard to deny that those voices made a real difference.

We hope the Supreme Court will agree with the Interior Department and refuse to hear the case, which would put an end to resource-sapping litigation that has gone on way too long.  That still won’t end this fight, but the overwhelming outpouring of support for Joshua Tree in the last couple of weeks has reassured me that we can and will defeat this project in the end.