Conservation, Civil Rights Groups Sue to Preserve Historic African-American Site

Allensworth State Park Threatened by Mega-Dairies, Stench from More than 12,000 Cattle
LOS ANGELES (April 19, 2007) – The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is filing suit today against the Tulare County Board of Supervisors in order to block board approval of a plan to locate 12,000 head of cattle directly adjacent to one of California’s leading landmarks honoring African-American history. The two massive dairies blessed by the county over the objections of civil rights and environmental organizations would generate nearly 16 million pounds of manure a year, and more than 10,000 gallons of contaminated wastewater each day.

The lawsuit charges the Tulare County Board of Supervisors with violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) when the Board approved the mega-dairy permit without adequate environmental review of the impacts the massive facilities would have on Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park and neighboring communities.
“Imagine the fumes wafting off of 16 million pounds of manure each year,” said NRDC Environmental Justice attorney Tim Grabiel. “The Board of Supervisors’ decision to allow these facilities next to the state park is a slap in the face to African Americans and everyone else who cares about the rich cultural heritage of this state.  The construction of these giant facilities would undermine years of revitalization and preservation efforts, and spoil the park and visitor experience for everyone.”
Founded in 1970, the renowned Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park, in California’s Central Valley, is a 1,000-acre re-creation of the homes, shops, school and church where as many as 300 families once lived in the only California town founded populated, financed and governed by African-Americans.
Since 2000, California State Parks has invested more than $13 million restoring and preserving the Valley’s original African-American settlement. Unique in the state park system, it has become an obligatory stop for families and scholars interested in African-American history, welcoming several thousands of visitors annually.
Concerned about the waste and the odors, flies and dust emanating from the gigantic facilities, government agencies, civil rights and environmental justice organizations have been fighting the proposed installations all along.  The threat of groundwater contamination, in an area where water is scarce, is also another reason for concern.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of a significant legislative victory.  Assembly Bill (AB) 576, which would create a buffer zone around Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park to protect it and the neighboring community of Allensworth from mega-dairies, was approved by the Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee yesterday (April 18th) on a 9-3 vote.
“We simply cannot allow a local government in Tulare County to destroy this unique state park,” said NRDC Senior Attorney Joel Reynolds. “If we allow this state park to be taken, no state park anywhere in California can be assured of protection.  Our state parklands belong to all of us.”