The Mesquite Regional Landfill is located in the Sonoran Desert between Highway 78 and the adjacent Mesquite Gold Mine. Much of the habitat on this land has already been disturbed by years of gravel and gold mining, and the area is considered low quality habitat for desert tortoises. Although the tortoise population is low, they do live in the area and must be protected from harm and harassment. Many conservation steps have been and are being taken to protect desert tortoises, their habitat and other wildlife in the area.
During the landfill permitting process in the mid-1990’s, requirements were established to protect the habitat and sensitive species that could be affected by the project. The primary species of concern was the desert tortoise, a threatened species listed under the Endangered Species Act. To offset potential impacts to 3,657 acres of low quality desert tortoise habitat to be developed, approximately 3,670 acres of high quality habitat in the Chuckwalla Bench Area of Critical Environmental Concern was purchased and given to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The Chuckwalla Bench is an area in Imperial and Riverside Counties that has a high density of desert tortoises. The management of this land is considered critical for the recovery of the desert tortoise population, and the transfer of this land to government ownership assures long-term protection of this critical habi-tat. Another three hundred acres in the Chuckwalla Bench and an endowment were given to the California Department of Fish & Game (CDFG) to mitigate landfill development impacts to desert wash plant communities. CDFG was also given funds to construct two small, sustainable water sources for the wildlife that lives in and near the Chuckwalla Bench. One endangered bird species, the Yuma clapper rail, and one endangered fish, the desert pupfish, have habitat near the Union Pacific train tracks that pass along the eastern shore of the Salton Sea. Because municipal solid waste will be transported to the landfill using this rail line, procedures must be prepared to minimize impact to these species and their habitat in the unlikely event of a solid waste spill or derailment in this area.
It is the policy of the Mesquite Regional Landfill to comply with all regulations and establish procedures that conserve native habitats and wildlife communities as much as practical. For example, areas to be developed will remain native habitat until development is necessary. Since the landfill will be built in stages, much of the site will be undisturbed for many years. Also, construction disturbance is limited to the minimum acreage necessary. Baselines have been established before and during construction. Monitoring will continue to assess if any ecological changes occur during operation and to ensure that tortoise conservation measures are effective. Regular meetings are held with the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service, BLM and CDFG to discuss compliance and development. Proper conservation of the environment will be an ongoing practice throughout the 100-year life of the project. The Mesquite Regional Landfill is committed to being a good steward of the land in Imperial County.