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Category: Native Americans

Donation fund created after theft and destruction of petroglyphs

A donation fund has been established following the theft and destruction of petroglyphs at a site north of Bishop.

At least four prominent petroglyphs were taken from the site, which is protected under the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

A fifth petroglyph was defaced with deep saw cuts on three sides and a sixth was removed and broken during the theft. Dozens more were scarred by hammer strikes and saw cuts.

Federal archeologists described the thefts as the worst act of vandalism ever at the 750,000 acres of public land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management field office in Bishop.

Donors should specify how they want their money used: a petroglyphs vandalism reward fund,  interpretive programs showing how the damage has affected the site, an “adopt a camera” program for surveillance of the site, or stewardship training and volunteer opportunities at the site.

Donations can be mailed to the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Assn., a nonprofit dedicated to assisting the BLM’s Bishop Field Office in educational, historical and scientific activities. Donations should be mailed to the ESIA at 190 E. Yaney St., Bishop, CA 93514.

Those interested in donating may also call the association at 760-873-2411.

The BLM and the Paiute tribe are offering $2,000 in reward money for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individuals responsible for damaging the petroglyphs.

BLM Bishop Field Office Manager Bernadette Lovato said, “The panels that were taken are irreplaceable. Our top priority is to recover them intact.”

Anyone with information can contact Melody Stehwien at 760-937-0301, or Eric Keefer at 760-937-0657, both at the BLM Bishop Field Office.

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Pechanga tribe buys land, ending Riverside County quarry dispute

Proposed Liberty Quarry site

Through seven years of disputes, a proposed rock quarry in Riverside County has been called a job creator, an economy killer, an environmental disaster and even a creation site.

The debate ended Thursday, when the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians agreed to purchase 354 acres of the site for $3 million and pay developer Granite Construction $17.35 million to end the dispute.

The site "is our people’s place of creation…. It is the Luiseño Garden of Eden, Dome of the Rock and Wailing Wall," said Pechanga tribal Chairman Mark Macarro.

Under the agreement, Granite Construction cannot own or operate a quarry within a 90-square-mile zone centered on the property for 23 years. The tribe has agreed to help the developer identify alternative sites for a quarry.

The 414-acre quarry was proposed in 2005 and would have produced about 200 million tons of concrete over several decades. More than two-thirds of the rock mined would have supplied San Diego County, where mining permits are harder to obtain.

Liberty Quarry, as it was called, pitted city leaders, residents and environmentalists against county government and unions in a bitter battle that packed public meetings and jammed politicians’ phone lines.

Temecula officials said the mining would have polluted that city’s air, plugged its freeways and hurt the tourism industry without providing benefits to citizens. The city’s hills are dotted with wineries that lure more than 500,000 visitors a year.

Additionally, Pechanga leaders said the proposed site sits atop what they call Pu’éska Mountain, part of a range where tribal legends say life was created.

But supporters said the project would have created hundreds of blue-collar jobs, contribute millions of dollars to sales tax revenue and cut the distance that trucks would have to travel to construction sites.

The Riverside County Planning Commission initially rejected the project in February, but the county Board of Supervisors certified the project’s environmental impact report in May and recently voted to fast-track the quarry’s review.

The project’s longtime opponents breathed a sigh of relief at Thursday’s news. Temecula Mayor Chuck Washington said he was ecstatic.

“To be honest, it feels a little bit like Christmas,” Washington said.

Granite Construction’s President and Chief Executive James H. Roberts said the company remains "committed to Western Riverside and San Diego counties" and wants to grow its business there. But spokeswoman Karie Reuther said they haven’t identified any potential new locations.

In a speech delivered from atop a parking structure at Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, Macarro said the tribe has no plans for the land beyond preservation

"From our Luiseño cultural standpoint, the area holds tremendous potential to learn and recover even more of our history and culture. There is arguably no more pristine land in the Temecula Valley than Pu’éska Mountain," he said.

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Photo: Rays of sun drop down over a boulder–strewn mountain that was the proposed site of Liberty Quarry. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Quarry proposal near Temecula resurfaces with county vote

Liberty quarry
The Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to adopt a fast-track permitting system, a measure originally intended to speed up reconsideration of a massive rock quarry near Temecula that was rejected  this year.

The company proposing the controversial open-pit rock mine last week submitted a revised application for the quarry, reducing the size and volunteering to pay a new fee that would raise millions in revenue for the county.

The supervisors voted 3-2 to begin drafting a new fast-track permitting procedure for surface mines and other major developments. The proposal, which initially applied only to mines, is expected to come back before the board in late August.

The Liberty Quarry, proposed by Granite Construction of Watsonville, met with strong opposition from Temecula and the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians.

The firm wanted to develop a 414-acre rock quarry operation on a mountain that looms over Interstate 15. It would have mined about 270 million tons of granite from the mountain over the next 75 years, supplying concrete and asphalt to fast-growing northern San Diego County and southwest Riverside County. The company’s latest proposal reduced the life of the mine to 50 years and lowered the amount of granite to be mined.

Temecula Councilwoman Maryann Edwards criticized Supervisor John Benoit, who wrote the fast-track measure, saying he was doing the bidding of Granite Construction, one of his major campaign contributors. Benoit dismissed the criticism, saying the contributions totalled less than $7,000.

Edwards also criticized the board for considering the measure, saying that Riverside was no longer Southern California's dumping ground with only "meth labs and chicken slaughter houses.” Like the rest of the Temecula City Council, Edwards said dust and increased pollution from the quarry would threaten the health of residents and devastate wineries and other economic foundations of southwest Riverside County.

“I’m embarrassed for this body and the county I call home," she told the supervisors before the vote.

Mark Macarro, chairman of the Pechanga Band of Mission Indians, told the supervisors that the mountain that Granite wants to mine is part of a range where Luiseño people believe life was created. He urged the board to reject the fast-track proposal.

Supervisor John Tavaglione was the swing vote on the five-member board. In February, he joined supervisors Jeff Stone of Temecula and Bob Buster of Riverside in voting against the quarry. On Tuesday, he joined Benoit of Indio and Supervisor Marion Ashley of Perris in favoring the fast-track process.

Tavaglione bristled at the suggestion that campaign contributions, or politics, influenced his vote. He did say, however, that he was “threatened” politically when the quarry came up for a vote earlier in the year, but did not disclose who tried to pressure him. He said his only priority is creating jobs in a county leveled by the recession.

Tavaglione, a Republican from Riverside, is running for the House of Representatives against Democrat Mark Takano.

During the hearing, Stone suggested that quarry supporters wanted the supervisors to reconsider the proposed mine before Tavaglione would leave for Washington, if elected. Stone said mine supporters feared that Gov. Jerry Brown, who would choose Tavaglione's successor, would appoint a supervisor less likely to support the quarry.

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Photo: Karie Ruther and Gary Nolan of Granite Construction Co. at the proposed site of the Liberty Quarry, beside Interstate 15 near Temecula. Credit: Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times

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