A Sigh of Relief for a Sacred Space: Conglomerate Mesa
Conglomerate Mesa and the Inyo Rock Daisy Are Safe—For Now
By Amina Sharma
Today, the little Inyo rock daisy and the other plants of Conglomerate Mesa are breathing a sigh of relief, says Botanist Maria Jesus. After a long campaign to prevent K2 Gold Corp from mining the area, the company has decided to indefinitely suspend drilling operations. We cheer this development! It is a victory for the plants, animals, and people who depend on Conglomerate Mesa.
Conglomerate Mesa, near Death Valley National Park in Inyo County, supports sensitive plant species. As Jesus wrote for CNPS, “Here, narrow endemics like the Inyo rock daisy (Perityle inyoensis) abound, but are nearly impossible to find just a few miles away. A surprisingly large number of rare plant species, like the diminutive Badger Flat threadplant (Nemacladus inyoensis) and the robust Shockley’s prickleleaf (Hecastocleis shockleyi), have long thrived in this extreme desert environment.”
The remote area is home to countless other plants, animals, and microorganisms. Its ancient geologic features helped scientists understand the history of the west coast. Conglomerate Mesa comprises the ancestral lands and traditional territories of the Timbisha Shoshone and Paiute Shoshone Tribes and is used by Tribes for traditional cultural purposes, including hunting and pinyon nut gathering.
Unfortunately, Conglomerate Mesa is also home to low-grade gold ore. This interested Canadian mining corporation, K2 Gold, which wanted to explore the area via a massive cyanide heap-leach gold mine.
“I am grateful to all those who helped us show the BLM that Conglomerate Mesa is such a vital habitat for plants that it warranted the highest level of environmental analysis,” Maria Jesus said in a press release. “Conglomerate Mesa is their home and this special habitat cannot be replaced once it’s destroyed.” Maria Jesus works with the California Botanical Garden and is a former CNPS student advisor.
In 2016, Conglomerate Mesa was designated as part of the National Landscape Conservation System for its unique cultural and biological values. That same year, part of Conglomerate Mesa was also designated as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern, one of the highest conservation designations on BLM-managed land. Yet, the area is still vulnerable to drilling operations from other companies. Permanent protection of this public land under California’s 30×30 plan is an important next step in the effort to ensure Conglomerate Mesa and the surrounding Joshua tree-studded lands are here for generations to come.