For Immediate Release, January 8, 2015
Review Sought on Mine Threatening Wildlife, Irreplaceable Cultural Sites in Mojave Desert
RIDGECREST, Calif.— A coalition of environmental groups today filed a formal request for the Bureau of Land Management’s state director to review the agency’s decision to allow exploratory drilling in biologically and culturally important areas in the El Paso Mountains, in California’s Mojave Desert. The Dragonfly Placer mining project, the groups say, will hurt imperiled wildlife in Red Rock Canyon State Park and the Last Chance Canyon Area of Critical Environmental Concern, established to protect significant cultural sites.
“The wildlife and irreplaceable cultural sites in these areas deserve better than an industrialized mining operation,” said Ileene Anderson, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Red Rock Canyon State Park and the Last Chance Canyon are special and important places. Unfortunately the BLM opened these areas to exploratory drilling without ever addressing the harm it’ll do to the landscape, wildlife and rare plants that call these mountains home.”
Red Rock Canyon and Last Chance Canyon in the El Paso Mountains are home to numerous rare and endangered species, including the state and federally protected threatened desert tortoise and the state-threatened Mohave ground squirrel. The proposed project also occurs in a designated “raptor conservation area” — which was established to conserve long-standing nest sites for golden eagles and prairie falcons. These canyon areas are also refugia for numerous imperiled bat species, including Townsend’s big-eared bats, which are a candidate for California Endangered Species Act protection. The area is crucial for American Indian cultural practices and documented as sacred geography on file with the Native American Heritage Commission.
"The sensitive wildlife and irreplaceable archaeological treasures on these lands deserve the highest level of protection, not open pit, cyanide-laced mines,” said Karen Schambach of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. “That's the likely result if this decision isn't overturned."
“This mining proposal would violate the purpose and goals of protection for this very unique area. The overall negative impacts to both natural and cultural resources would be devastating,” said Terry Frewin, chair of the Sierra Club California/Nevada Desert Committee.
The groups filing the request are the Center for Biological Diversity, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the California/Nevada Regional Conservation Desert Committee of the Sierra Club and Desert Survivors.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 800,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.