Building Support for Protection

by Wendy Schneider, Executive Director of Friends of the Inyo

Friends of the Inyo is working to protect southern Inyo County from a highly destructive proposed mining exploration project on Conglomerate Mesa. As of this writing, the draft EIS release is expected in late summer or autumn of 2024. Friends of the Inyo (FOI) has been working with the local Indigenous community and many other stakeholders to strongly oppose this proposed project.

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The Lone Pine Paiute Shoshone Tribe and the Big Pine Paiute Tribe have both adopted resolutions opposing the project. We expect three other area Tribes will formally oppose the project in the coming months. Further, FOI has met with Sen. Padilla's public lands staff person, Sarah Swig, who indicated that the Senator would formally oppose the project as well.

 

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View from Conglomerate Mesa Peak, looking south towards Maturango Peak.

Photo by Ken Etzel

To build support for protection, the Conglomerate Mesa coalition commissioned a series of four short videos that highlight the values of the area. The second video was released online on June 5th, and it provides a general update on the mining threat. The video can be viewed here.1 The first video, Joshua Trees in Conglomerate Mesa,2 was released on May 8th. Other recent activities in support of the campaign include that of Jaime Wolters and Jared Naimark, who walked along the currently proposed access road to understand the terrain and potential impact of a new road. Lynn Boulton and Jaime Wolters spent a weekend (June 1-2) scouting a potential alternative access route south of the Mesa that the BLM may include in the EIS. Lynn and Jaime hiked the old Newmont trail and flew a drone along the length of the route to get a sense of the impacts it would have.

Red-tailed hawks nesting in a Joshua Tree on Lee Flat

Photo by Jaime Lopez Wolters

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Friends of the Inyo is also working to permanently protect 160,000 acres in southern Inyo County, which includes Conglomerate Mesa. At this time, efforts are focused on understanding and implementing the priorities of the area's Indigenous community. Specifically, FOI is working with Indigenous partners to put together an Indigenous Desert Health Summit in September. The goal of this event will be to bring together Indigenous community members to talk about threats and solutions at a landscape level. The Summit agenda will include a Mining 101 presentation, and a panel to discuss permanent protections.

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Conglomerate Mesa towers over a Joshua tree forest and an apricot mallow super bloom

Photo by Jaime Lopez Wolters

An unexpected and exciting development occurred on May 26 when FOI staff persons Allison Weber, Joseph Miller, and Jaime Wolters met with Rep. Kevin Kiley at FOI’s Bishop office. The meeting went well. Indeed, he indicated that he would support a permanent protection campaign that had the support of the Indigenous community and was focused on protecting Tribal ancestral lands. Senator Padilla has previously indicated that he would support a permanent protection effort that included Indigenous support.

Western fence lizard on Conglomerate Mesa, living in the path of proposed mining road

Photo by Jaime Lopez Wolters

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