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Army expansion threatens wildlife, hearings this week in Riverside and Pasadena

by Daniel Patterson, Desert Ecologist, Center fo Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2002 at 7:05 PM

Army tanks threaten to wipe out the desert tortoise, rare plants and 110,000 acres of public land. Come to hearings to oppose Ft. Irwin expansion: Riverside 1/17 and Pasadena 1/19.



Contact: Daniel Patterson, Desert Ecologist 520.623.5252 x 306

RIVERSIDE -- After conservationists repeatedly requested, the Army will be holding two additional scoping meetings on the Fort Irwin Expansion proposal this week in Riverside and Pasadena.

Tank training expansion would put the future of the West Mojave desert tortoises in doubt and would likely lead to extinction of the endangered Lane Mountain milkvetch, a species for which the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) are currently seeking critical habitat protection; see http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/press/CA-Plants-11-15-01.html

The Center has offered to work with the Army to develop a "American Natural Security" alternative that will better protect the desert environment, while providing for continued military readiness. This alternative was presented to the Army by Daniel Patterson, CBD Desert Ecologist, at an earlier scoping hearing Nov. 29 in Barstow.

Cornerstones of the Natural Security alternative include:

- Implementation of the Blue Ribbon Panel recommendations http://www.tortoise.org/wmp/ftirwin5.html

- Avoidance of training on designated critical habitat for desert tortoise, the UTM 90 lands, and future designated Lane Mtn. milkvetch critical habitat.

- Detailed consideration of the rapidly decreasing populations of tortoises in the western Mojave desert, and how base expansion could affect tortoise survival and recovery in the west Mojave.

- A detailed analysis of increased use of combat simulators.

- Clean up of the Leach Lake area to increase training acres within the existing base by 90,000 acres.

- An independent military strategy review of the future need for force-on-force tank battles.

- An independent analysis of potential economic losses that the Barstow area would face from loss of 110,000 acres of public recreation lands.

- An independent analysis of harmful health affects of increased air pollution and dust from moving tank training closer to Barstow; and a detailed analysis of how dust pollution affects plants and therefore the entire ecosystem.

- How Ft. Irwin and 29 Palms USMC base can better coordinate to share already existing bases (between the Army and Marines, DoD already has 1.4M acres in the Mojave for this type of training.)

- A full and independent environmental justice analysis.

The meetings are January 17 in Riverside at the Riverside Convention Center and January 19 at the Pasadena Convention Center.

Monica Bond, CBD Staff Biologist, will represent the Center for Biological Diversity at the Riverside hearing on Thursday.

For more info on the proposed expansion, please visit: www.tortoise.org

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