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Washington, DC — The National Park Service has abruptly reversed course
and blocked installation of artificial water systems in California’s Mojave
National Preserve, according to a letter from the park superintendent released
today by Public Employees For Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Center
for Biological Diversity. Last month the two groups filed a federal lawsuit to
stop the artificial watering plan on the grounds that it harmed native wildlife
and violated Park Service policy.

Yesterday, on April 5, 2005, Mary Martin, Superintendent of the Mojave National
Preserve, sent a letter to the California Department of Fish and Game, which

“[T]he National Park Service is withdrawing the approval, set forth
in our letter of January 21, 2005, for the California Department of Fish and
Game to convert four ranching well developments in Mojave National Preserve
into wildlife watering devices…Upon further review, the National Park
Service has determined that additional NEPA [National Environmental Policy
Act] compliance is desirable before a decision is made…”

Ironically, the position taken by Martin this week reflects the same stance
that she had communicated in a June 17, 2002 memo to Paul Hoffman, a former
Dick Cheney aide serving as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior for Fish,
Wildlife and Parks. Hoffman, however, disregarded Martin’s concerns and
ordered her to set up artificial water sources (called “guzzlers”)
in order to enhance “coyote and varmint hunting,” according to an
email he sent to a sportsmen’s group.

“This is a classic example of a Bush Administration appointee inappropriately
intervening to countermand wildlife professionals for political reasons,”
stated PEER Board member Frank Buono, the former assistant superintendent at
Mojave NP, noting that Hoffman, a former Dick Cheney aide, has no biological
training. “Paul Hoffman should be fired for incompetence.”

The Mojave National Preserve covers 1.6 million acres of desert and is home
to more than 2,500 native species of which approximately 100 are considered
imperiled. The two groups pointed to the opinions of more than 50 wildlife experts
that the guzzlers would threaten desert wildlife, particularly the desert tortoise,
the flagship species of the Mojave Preserve.

“Superintendent Martin did the right thing to follow the law and involve
the public,” said Daniel R. Patterson, Desert Ecologist with the Center
for Biological Diversity. “More guzzlers would harm native desert wildlife,
and violate an agreement Interior made to keep these wells capped. There are
already many natural waters and guzzlers on the Mojave National Preserve, which
should be managed as a natural area, not a game farm.”

“Mojave National Preserve must obey the long-established policies of
the National Park Service which mandate that artificial water sources for wildlife
may be provided only in extreme conditions; conditions hardly evident at Mojave,”
Buono concluded.


the memo from the Mojave National Preserve Superintendent rescinding approval
of guzzlers

out more about the guzzler controversy and see the PEER/Center for Biological
Diversity complaint

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