| CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY
NEWS RELEASE: for immediate release Thursday, August 5, 2004
CONSERVATION GROUPS CHALLENGE PALM SPRINGS URBAN SPRAWL PROJECT THREATENING BIGHORN SHEEPContact:
Wayne Brechtel, Attorney for plaintiffs 858.755.6604
Daniel R. Patterson, Ecologist, Center 520.906.2159
PALM SPRINGS -- The Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit today challenging the City of Palm Springs' approval of the Palm Hills Specific Plan. The Specific Plan paves the way for urban sprawl development of a 1,204 acre site in the Santa Rosa Mountains that is a collection of undeveloped hillsides, canyons and valleys which have been designated critical habitat for the endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep. The property sits above the City of Palm Springs and provides open space for the community and a place of refuge for those who wish to escape the ever-expanding urban sprawl in the Coachella Valley. The Palm Hills Specific Plan seeks to transform this natural Sonoran desert landscape into yet another resort community that would include a hotel, golf course, timeshares and luxury homes as a first phase and an undefined amount of additional development in the future. The development would severely impact bighorn sheep by not only destroying designated critical and essential habitat for this imperiled species, but by also further constraining the ability of bighorn to travel between remaining habitat areas, including the San Jacinto Mountains to the north.
"Harm to the endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep is not even in disputed by the City, which conceded in its environmental findings that the Palm Hills project would significantly impact bighorn sheep. Yet, the City Council chose development over species protection and voted to approve the project in spite of the harm it would cause," said Wayne Brechtel, attorney for plaintiffs.
Daniel R. Patterson, Ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity added "This huge urban sprawl project is clearly inconsistent with the Peninsular bighorn Recovery Plan which calls for the preservation of critical habitat if bighorn are to survive and recover. It also violates the spirit of an August 3 federal court ruling which ordered the US Fish and Wildlife Service to manage critical habitat for endangered species recovery, not just survival." He adds, "Common sense and quality of life concerns for wildlife and people say development should stay within the existing urbanized areas, not sprawl in to the mountains."
The 1998 federal listing of Peninsular bighorn as an endangered species cited residential and commercial development, which has diminished the habitat of the Peninsular bighorn, as major factors pushing the bighorn toward extinction. This lawsuit aims to stop this massive development in the Santa Rosa Mountains and is an important part of the Sierra Club and Center campaign to protect the land and wildlife of California's deserts.
The citizens' lawsuit also challenges other deficiencies in the environmental review of the project, including its failure to fully define, analyze and mitigate the entire project, to consider the projects growth inducing, traffic, water and other impacts, and to consider a reasonable range of alternatives. Finally, the plaintiffs assert that the specific plan is unlawful because it lacks standards and criteria by which development would proceed and natural resources would be conserved, as required by state law.
Contact Terry Kilpatrick at 858.755.6604 for a copy of the complaint.