MOJAVE DESERT, CA — Today, the Center for Biological Diversity, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Citizens for Mojave National Park and the Desert Tortoise Council petitioned the Secretary of the Interior to govern hunting in the Mojave National Preserve of California. Congress established the Preserve in 1994 but the National Park Service (NPS) has yet to ensure that hunting in the Preserve conforms to law and agency policy.
Congress authorized hunting in the Preserve and gave the NPS the authority to regulate it. The citizens’ petition seeks only that the NPS regulate hunting to minimize harm to desert tortoise and other wildlife, and protect the public.
“This is not about stopping hunting, it’s about the Bush Administration not taking the needed steps to ensure hunting in the Preserve is responsibly managed, just like everything else” explains Daniel Patterson, a desert ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity who formerly worked with BLM in the Mojave NP area. “Secretary Norton should be doing this on her own to protect the public interest, but she isn’t, so we’ve put the petition in front of her today to move her in the right direction.”
According to Dan Meyer, counsel for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility: “No one is seeking to stop hunting. Hunting is a legitimate recreational opportunity in the Preserve. But, PEER and the other groups want hunting to be compatible with other activities and legal mandates in the Preserve. That can only happen when the NPS ends its passive behavior and regulates hunting.”
In June 2001 the NPS promised to regulate hunting and limit it to big game animals and upland game birds. The promise is in the park’s general management plan that took the NPS seven years to produce. But since the plan’s adoption, the NPS has taken no action to live up to its word.
Peter Burk, Barstow resident and President of Citizens For Mojave National Park, remarks “One of the reasons for this petition is that we want the NPS to start taking its legal responsibility in managing hunting in the Mojave National Preserve.” He adds, “Ever since the Preserve was founded in 1994, the NPS has deferred to the State Dept. of Fish and Game, whose main concern is maximized hunting. The main purpose of National Park Service is to protect natural resources, including wildlife. So our petition seeks to move the NPS to do what Congress has instructed them to do.”
The NPS possesses the power to adopt special rules for hunting. NPS Management Policies, adopted under the laws that govern the national parks, require that Mojave National Preserve have special rules for hunting. The obligations under the Endangered Species Act also place an affirmative responsibility on the NPS to limit hunting.
“The Desert Tortoise Council believes that maximum protection of the desert tortoise at the Mojave National Preserve can only be achieved with full implementation of the 1994 Desert Tortoise Recovery Plan. Hunting should be restricted to big game and upland birds. Casual discharge of weapons should be prohibited throughout this fragile and sensitive area,” said Marc D. Graff, spokesman for the Desert Tortoise Council.