Friday, September 23, 2005

Stanford Wins One for the Mojave Desert Tortoise

Debbie Sivas, Director of the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic, and her students and staff won a major victory in National Parks Conservation Association's legal battle against development of the world's largest garbage dump adjacent to Joshua Tree National Park in California's fragile Mojave Desert.  Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had agreed to exchange nearly 4,000 acres of federal public land against national park wilderness lands to a private mining company for the purpose of creating an enormous solid waste landfill, in return for scattered desert lands elsewhere in the Mojave.  The exchanged lands provide important buffer habitat for dozens of species, including the endangered big horn sheep and desert tortoise.  The proposed landfill would accept up to 20,000 tons per day of trash from Southern California's densely populated coastal communities.  Students drafted comments on the proposal, appealed the BLM decision to the IBLA, and ultimately filed suit, arguing that the federal government did not obtain fair market value for the exchanged lands, and that the environmental review for the project was so narrowly constrained that it failed to evaluate other management options for these federal lands, especially its preservation as an important buffer for wildlife and wilderness protection.  In a September 20, 2005 decision, the district court found that BLM's decision was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and in violation of the FLPMA and NEPA. (HT Lawrence Marshall (Stanford), Warren Binford (Willamette), and lawclinic list).

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