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For Immediate Release, June 7, 2012

Contact:  Lisa Belenky, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 436- 9682, (415) 385-5694 (cell),
David Lamfrom, National Parks Conservation Association, (760) 957-7887, (760) 219-4916 (cell),
Kim Floyd, Sierra Club, (760) 680-9479

Legal Settlement Between Feds, County, Conservationists Will Curb Road Threat to
Mojave National Preserve

BARSTOW, Calif.— Ending five years of settlement negotiations, parties to a lawsuit involving Revised Statute 2477 road claims in California’s Mojave National Preserve filed an agreement today that protects species and fragile desert lands while recognizing claims to some roads that have long been used to cross the Mojave Desert. The settlement between the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, San Bernardino County and three conservation groups balances the county’s interest in public access while protecting sensitive desert lands.

“This settlement will help protect the preserve’s fragile desert resources, including Joshua tree forests, desert tortoise habitat, the ‘singing’ Kelso Dunes and several areas important to bighorn sheep,” said Lisa Belenky of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The settlement recognizes some of the county’s road claims while protecting the preserve from future claims.”

Under the settlement, the county’s right-of-way claims on two roads bordering the preserve on public lands will be recognized limited to their existing footprints; both were paved, two-lane highways used for cross-desert travel before 1976. The county’s claims to eight other roads within the preserve will be recognized in exchange for the county’s agreement to relinquish those claims and all other claims to roads in the preserve to the federal government, consolidating federal management. The county withdrew its claim to two short rights-of-way providing access to I-15.

“We strongly support consolidating management authority in the National Park Service which will ensure that the world-class biological and cultural resources of the Mojave National Preserve will be protected while the settlement also acknowledges that these paved and graded roads have long been used to provide public access to the preserve and across the Mojave desert,” said David Lamfrom, California desert senior program manager at National Parks Conservation Association.

The Mojave National Preserve, located in California’s Mojave Desert, covers 1.6 million acres of fragile desert. It was established in 1994 with passage of the California Desert Protection Act and is home to more than 2,500 native species, of which approximately 100 are considered imperiled.

“The sweeping vistas and dark night sky in the preserve will be safeguarded — an important conservation goal as development pressures mount in the Southern California deserts,” said Kim Floyd, conservation chair for the San Gorgonio Chapter of the Sierra Club.

The three conservation groups that joined the lawsuit as intervenors and are parties to the settlement are the National Parks Conservation Association, Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club.

In related news, a federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit by Inyo County that claimed roads in Death Valley National Park.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 350,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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