NEW MOJAVE DESERT CROSS AWAITS
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT RULING

Dispute in the Desert

The north end of the Mojave National Preserve is located about five miles southwest of Primm, Nevada. The preserve occupies a wide swath of remote Mojave Desert land in southeastern California, covering over 3000 square miles, largely between Interstate 40 and Interstate 15.

The preserve, which is U.S. National Park, was established in 1994 with the U.S. Congresses passage of the California Desert Protection Act. The area was previously known as the East Mojave National Scenic Area.

The Mojave National Preserve is home to a variety of wildlife including the Mojave tortoise, desert big horn sheep, mountain lions, coyotes, jackrabbits, side–blotched lizard, and the western diamondback rattlesnake. Joshua Tree forests occupy parts of the preserve.

Interesting But Remote Desert Terrain

The preserve also features interesting geographical features such as the Kelso Dunes, the Marl Mountains, the Clark Mountains, the Ivanpah Mountains, Hole–in–the–Wall canyon, and volcanic formations such as the Cinder Cone Lava Beds and the Cima Dome. Four–wheel drive vehicles can access the preserve via the Mojave Road. The ghost town of Kelso is also in the preserve.

The preserve has made the national news of late due to a Supreme Court ruling involving the Mojave Memorial Cross. The original cross was erected in 1934 as a tribute to those killed in World War I, about seven feet in height. It is located on a granite outcropping on Sunrise Rock adjacent to the Cima Road. It is six miles north of Cima, California and twelve miles south of Interstate 15 in the north central part of the preserve. Volunteers have maintained the cross.

The Legal Battle

The presence of the cross on public land gave rise to the legal case of Salazar v. Buono, which rose all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. On April 28, 2010, the high court ruled that the presence of the cross on public land did not violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution regarding the separation of church and state.

The ruling was that the cross could stand. However, the high court remanded the case to a district court to determine whether the boards with written messages that had covered the cross could be removed.

On May 10, 2010, it was discovered that the cross had been stolen the previous night. The thieves used bolt cutters to remove the pipe–metal cross from its foundation. A $25,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those that committed the theft. The Veterans of Foreign Wars has promised to rebuild the memorial. They are awaiting approval from the U.S. Department of Justice to replace the cross.