Eblast February 14, 2018

  • DOI announces intent to reopen DRECP
  • Missing in Action: SB Co. Renewable Energy Conservation Element

 

Dear MBCA Members and Supporters,

 

Last week we received disheartening news: the Department of Interior (DOI) announced plans to amend the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) to provide for more utility scale renewable energy development and mining access, while diminishing conservation measures in its Land Use Plan Amendment (LUPA).  For Samy Roth’s Desert Sun article, Trump administration opens millions of acres up to mining, click here. See more news stories and links at MBCA’s News Update on this topic.

 

MBCA joins our conservation partners in opposing this DRECP review. As citizens we have spent countless hours since 2012 participating in both the San Bernardino County renewable energy processes and the DRECP, communicating our concerns about the potential adverse social, recreational, economic and environmental impacts of utility scale renewable energy on our rural, unincorporated communities and public lands.

 

We are once again at a crossroads in terms of comprehensive planning for the development of renewable energy. MBCA is circulating a petition to urge San Bernardino County Supervisors to strengthen renewable energy policies in San Bernardino County by requesting they make a comment during the DRECP scoping period that reflects the values of their constituents. 

 

Our Supervisors should protect our communities and our natural resources and make it clear to Department of Interior that there should be no decrease in conservation areas or increase in utility scale renewable energy development on our public lands. We are working to get our elected officials to make comments opposing the DRECP review – Congressman Cook will be approached, as well as our County Supervisors.

 

Currently, there are a number of proposed renewable energy projects that are subject to County jurisdiction that would fundamentally erode the quality of life in our rural, unincorporated communities. We firmly believe the County has the right and obligation to comment on this federal process because additional renewable energy development on federal land will have an impact on air quality, water resources, economic development, recreation, wildlife habitat and the physical health of citizens.

 

On Tuesday, February 13th several Morongo Basin Conservation Association Board of Directors spoke via live video link from teleconferencing room in the County Government Center in Joshua Tree. Their comments urged Supervisors:

 

Re. DRECP:

  • To act swiftly to submit a comment during the DRECP scoping period that reflects the values of your constituents and makes it clear to Department of Interior (DOI) that the September 2016 DRECP LUPA Record of Decision should stand as is and there should be no further changes to the allocations of conservation, recreational or renewable energy designations in this comprehensive plan.

 

Re. San Bernardino RECE (Renewable Energy Conservation Element):

  • To act immediately to send Renewable Energy Policy 4.10 and RE 4.10.1, 4.10.2 and 4.10.3 to the County Planning Commission and to adopt these measures as they were presented on August 8, 2017. Here is the original language we support. These measures provide the best means of protection against utility scale renewable energy projects that would fundamentally harm the fabric of our communities. This suite of policies is essential in prohibiting utility scale renewable energy projects under the County’s jurisdiction that would create adverse impacts on our unincorporated communities’ quality of life or economic development.

 

What can you do?

* From this page on MBCA’s website you can print and/or download a letter to County Supervisors to both support the original language of RE Element section 4.10 and to request that the Supervisors oppose reopening the DRECP. Use the letter as presented or personalize your comments.

 

* Attend BLM Scoping meeting to state opposition to reopening DRECP.

WHEN: Thursday, March 1, 2018; 6:00 – 8:00pm

WHERE: Joshua Tree Community Center – 6171 Sunburst Ave., JT

(see Note below for additional details.)

 

* Sign the petition at the MBCA table outside Joshua Tree Health Food store during the Saturday Farmers Market.

 

* Join MBCA directors to reiterate these points during public comment period at the upcoming meetings of Supervisors to include your valuable voice as a voting constituent.

 

WHERE & WHEN: JT Burke Govt. Center: March 13, March 20 - 10:00am.

 

Note: Written comments should be sent to the BLM-California State Director, 2800 Cottage Way, Rm W-1623, Sacramento, CA 95825, or electronically to: BLM_CA_DRECP@blm.gov. All comments will be accepted in writing for 45 days after the publication of the notice in the Federal Register or 15 days after the last public meeting, whichever is later. Website: https://www.blm.gov/california/drecp

 

(MBCA’s suggested deadline to submit comments to BLM: March 21, 2018.

The petition for your signature at the Farmers market includes a request to extend the 45-day comment period. We’ll inform you if the comment period extension is accepted.)

 

2018 MBCA Annual Business Meeting and Program

We had a great annual business meeting last Saturday. Here is a brief review. Thanks to all of you who attended and contributed. Special thanks to Jill Giegerich for her presentation: Introduction to Arid Lands Permaculture. We all left with a good sense of the principles of permaculture. Jill is an inspiration for cultivating a deeper appreciation and understanding of the forces of nature to inform our actions to design and nurture our landscapes.

 

Membership: Time to renew

2018 dues are due! It’s easy to initiate a membership or renew online. Your membership provides a reduced price of $5 for the upcoming April 28-29 Desert-Wise Landscape Tour.

 

Ruth Denison Environmental Conservation Scholarship

The 2018 – 2019 Ruth Denison Environmental Conservation Scholarship application period has opened.  Applicants must be a 2018 graduating Morongo Basin high school senior with a minimum GPA of 3.25 who is planning to prepare for employment in careers related to environmental or conservation work. The $500 scholarship will be awarded for the 2018-19 academic year. If you know someone who is eligible, please help us spread the word!

 

Sincerely,

Sarah Kennington, MBCA President

 

Your 2017 MBCA Board

David Fick, Vice President                       Steve Bardwell, Treasurer   

Marina West, Recording Secretary           Pat Flanagan, Director

Meg Foley, Director                                  Mike Lipsitz, Director

Ruth Rieman, Director                              Claudia Sall, Director for Events

Seth Shteir, Director                                  Laraine Turk, Director

 

www.mbconservation.org

MBCA advocates for a healthy desert environment

that nurtures the region’s rural character, cultural wealth

and economic well-being.

 

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Resources for RECE and DRECP Comments

The information and links below are intended to assist you in responding to MBCA's February 14 Eblast request to contact the County Board of Supervisors about the County's Renewable Energy and Conservation Element, and about the proposed review of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan / DRECP.  

1. Here is the language in the County's Renewable Energy Element that we urge the Supervisors to retain as originally submitted.

RE Policy 4.10:  Prohibit utility-oriented RE project development on sites that would create adverse impacts on the quality of life or economic development opportunities in existing unincorporated communities.

RE 4.10.1:  Prohibit development of utility-oriented RE projects in the Rural Living Land use districts throughout the County.

RE 4.10.2 Prohibit development of utility- oriented RE projects within the boundaries of existing community plans, which at the time of adoption of this element are the Bloomington, Muscoy, Bear Valley, Crest Forest, Hilltop, Lake Arrowhead, Lytle Creek, Oak Glen, Homestead Valley, Joshua Tree, Lucerne Valley, Morongo Valley, Oak Hills and Phelan/Pinon Hills Community Plan.

RE 4.10.3 Establish exclusion areas in the Development Code regulations for renewable energy development, beginning with the prohibitions in Policies 4.10.1 and 4.10.2 and provide for additional exclusion areas, such as new community plan areas to be designated by amendment to the development code.

2.  Here is a link to the comprehensive Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan - DRECP that was finalized in September 2016 to designate focus areas for large-scale renewable energy development across the Mojave Desert and also conservation lands that should not be available for such development.

3.  Here are two version of a model/sample letter to the Supervisors, in PDF format that you may print and send with your signature, or you can download the letter as a Word document and edit it with your own personalized comments before sending. 

San Bernardino County Supervisors

385 North Arrowhead Avenue

San Bernardino, CA  92415

 

 

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2018 Annual Meeting Review

Sarah__annual_meeting_2018_2.jpg 

An engaged audience of about 40 enjoyed two presentations at MBCA's Annual Meeting on Saturday, February 10 at the Center for Healthy Generations. President Sarah Kennington provided an overview of 2017's main issues and achievements and noted that the Board will be planning some special events for 2019, which will be MBCA's 50th anniversary.  

Jill_permaculture_annual_meeting_2018_2.jpg

Permaculture educator Jill Giegerich provided a comprehensive introduction to the concepts and practices of permaculture that elicited questions and enthusiasm.  Program evaluations indicated a strong interest in finding out more about permaculture.  The evaluation also asked "What do you think MBCA does best?" and we were gratified to read responses like "Stands up for the environment" and "Spreading info from all MB orgs - a one place to learn about all."  

 

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Review of DRECP - Comments Needed

After years of consultation and public input (including hundreds of letters and in-person comments from Morongo Basin residents), the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan carved out 388,000 acres of public land in the Mojave Desert for renewable-energy development and set aside 5 million acres, or 7,812 square miles, for conservation.  Due to the President’s December Executive Order "Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth," the BLM has initiated a 45-day public comment period that began February 2, 2018.  Here is the Federal Register document initiating the comment period and providing details on the areas of inquiry and how to comment.  MBCA will be providing information and suggestions for comments in the near future.  Here are several news articles on the issue; the titles provide a picture of what is at stake:  “Trump administration signals move against California desert protection plan” from the San Francisco Chronicle; “Trump administration takes aim at California desert protection plan” from the Los Angeles Times; “Trump plan could undo preservation of millions of acres of California desert for renewable energy development” from the Riverside Press Enterprise.

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County Report on Section 6/DVCA

At the Monday, January 8 meeting of the Morongo Basin Municipal Advisory Council, County District Services Coordinator Frank Haggard presented a slide show demonstrating the County's plans for the Desert View Conservation Area, known by many residents as Section 6.  This day-use-only area has been overwhelmed with National Park visitors illegally using it as an overflow campground, causing disruption to nearby residents and damage to the property.  The plans include hiking trails, a shade shelter, signage, and parking.  Additional information can be found in this KCDZ news story and in these notes made by a local resident. Residents with questions, comments, or an interest in volunteering to help with this project should call 760.366.8415.

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Eblast January 8, 2018

- MBCA Annual Business Meeting & Program – February 10, 2018

- MBCA’s Palen Solar Project Comment letter

 

Dear MBCA Members and Supporters,

 

Welcome to the New Year! MBCA Directors have already started the countdown to next year. 2019 will be MBCA’s 50th anniversary! We’re proud to remind you that MBCA is the earliest (isn’t that better than oldest?) conservation group in the Morongo Basin, having been incorporated in 1969. We’ll be preparing for what we hope to be a remarkable celebration of the legacy of conservation activism in the Morongo Basin.

 

What else? Honestly I hope that we won’t repeat this year with what some have coined for 2017 - the Year of Comments.  Seems there was a constant drum beat - in practically every E-Blast – with announcements that comments were due to the BLM or County or another decision making entity. Deadline after deadline seemed the routine. I guess it goes with the territory. But, I for one would welcome a break in the consistency of needing to collect myself and alert you for “substantive comments.” We’ll see how that goes!

 

2017 wasn’t an easy year for desert conservation. That’s a huge understatement given the reversal of environmental policy we’ve seen. Mounting pressures from those in Washington working to diminish national monuments, end the Antiquities Act, and starve National Parks for funding. That combined with the dramatic increase in visitation to public lands in the Mojave, along with a steep increase in Park entrance fees just doesn’t seem right. As a MBCA Advisor and others remind us, this is not “normal”! Let’s hope though that it doesn’t become “normal.” Make our New Year’s Resolution: threats to the public lands must STOP!  

 

MBCA as a 501c3 organization cannot endorse a particular candidate for office. We can and will however ask candidates running for office for their positions on protecting public land and similar issues that relate to the MCBA mission. We intend to provide online candidate forums that you may use in evaluating candidates for state, federal and local positions.

 

I applaud the editorial board of the Hi-Desert Star for their New Year Resolutions to Hi-Desert leaders (December 28, 2017). The Our View editorial page column included:  JTNP employees: to refuse to be bullied by climate change deniers into silence over the scientifically–proved phenomenon, which could have a catastrophic impact on the national park and the local economies.

 

MBCA Annual Meeting and Permaculture Program: SAVE THE DATE!

WHEN: Saturday, February 10, 2018

WHERE: Center for Healthy Generations, Yucca Valley

Although MBCA’s Annual Meeting is usually in January, it will be held on February 10 this year. This is when we review for our members and supporters our business and activities of the past year, look to the year ahead, collect membership dues, and present a topical program.

 

Jill Giegerich has generously agreed to lead the program, "Introduction to Permaculture for Arid Lands." 

 

MBCA sends comment on Palen Solar

MBCA sent a comprehensive comment letter to the BLM regarding the Draft Supplemental EIR for the Palen Solar Power Project. We support the No Action Alternative “as the only alternative which will do no harm to the biological and cultural integrity of the landscape.” The detailed examination written by our scientist Board member Pat Flanagan described conflicts involving hydrology, biological resources, visual resources, and air quality. In the document you will find photography and maps that illustrate our position. Once again, Pat’s analysis and insights argue convincingly.

 

MBCA Board: one Director returns from hiatus & one joins in new year

Finally, we are pleased to announce the return of Seth Shteir to the Board. We are also delighted to announce the addition of Mike Lipsitz to the Board. Seth returns to the Basin having accepted a position in External Affairs at the Marine Base. We are fortunate to have him back with us with his invaluable insights into conservation in the Mojave desert. Many of you know Mike from his reporting at Z107.7. He has served as an Advisor to MBCA and now joins us with his many talents in communications and commitment to serve the community. It’s been said – I certainly do – that MBCA has a great board of directors! We are a true team and will continue our work to serve you and to keep the Basin the special place that it is.

 

Yes, 2018 dues are due! It’s easy to initiate a membership or renew online:

http://www.mbconservation.org/join_our_membership_2018

 

 

Cheers,

 

Sincerely,

Sarah Kennington, MBCA President

 

Your 2018 MBCA Board

David Fick, Vice President                          Steve Bardwell, Treasurer  

Marina West, Recording Secretary             Pat Flanagan, Director        

Meg Foley, Director                                     Mike Lipsitz, Director

Claudia Sall, Director for Events                 Ruth Rieman, Director

Laraine Turk, Director                                 Seth Shteir, Director

 

www.mbconservation.org

MBCA advocates for a healthy desert environment

that nurtures the region’s rural character, cultural wealth

and economic well-being.

 

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MBCA Sends Comment on Palen Solar

MBCA sent a comprehensive comment letter to the Bureau of Land Management regarding the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Palen Solar Power Project.  We support the No Action Alternative "as the only alternative which will do no harm to the biological and cultural integrity of the landscape."  The detailed examination written by our scientist Board member Pat Flanagan describes conflicts involving hydrology, biological resources, cultural resources, visual resources, and air quality.  In the document you will find photos and maps that illustrate our position. 
 
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Comment Deadline on Palen Solar is Dec 11

The latest deadline for comments on the Palen Solar Project in Riverside County is December 11.  Here is the BLM webpage explaining the project alternatives.  This BLM press release gives details on how to comment.  We are also providing two already-submitted comment letters to inform you of important issues you should consider in your own comment.  Basin and Range Watch has provided a comprehensive overview of concerns and their letter includes maps and illustrations.  The second comment letter by Alfredo Acosta Figueroa and Patricia Robles is on behalf of La Cuna de Aztlán Sacred Sites Protection Circle, and includes a great deal of information about why this land is sacred to tribal members.  The attachments to the letter by La Cuna de Azlan Sacred Sites Protection Circle provide an extensive exploration and explanation of tribal sacred sites in desert areas that would be affected by the proposed Palen solar plant:  Sacred Sites Attachments Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

 

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Monuments Statement by CDC President

A recent Letter to the Editor by MBCA supporter and California Desert Coalition President April Sall in the Hi Desert Star offers a comprehensive review of the issues surrounding use of the Antiquities Act for designating National Monuments and why Obama's designations should not be altered or overturned. As a Pioneertown native and desert activist, Sall has been a passionate champion for National Monuments in the Mojave Desert for many years.
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Eblast December 2, 2017

-  Community Plans Comment period deadline: Dec.15, 2017
-  National Park fee increase Comment period extended: Dec. 22, 2017
-  Palen Solar Project Comment period deadline: Dec. 11, 2017

Dear MBCA Members and Supporters,

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving with family and friends. We have so much to be thankful for in the Morongo Basin.

The Basin is experiencing growth and more is certain. Along the way, we’ve learned much about working with the County to communicate the concerns of our communities about development that threatens to spoil the characteristics we value. We have the opportunity now to establish more effective measures to serve our communities and protect the natural resources in the Morongo Basin with the San Bernardino County 2018 Countywide Plan.

This MBCA Eblast is devoted to explaining the meaning and status of the Community Plans and why it is so important for you to express concern by submitting a comment by the deadline
.

Deadline to submit Comments on Community Plans: Dec 15, 2017

Countywide Planning
The 2018 Countywide Plan will be the basis for the Development Code and Ordinances that guide County land use decisions and other critical actions. The Countywide Plan carries the force of law and all unincorporated communities in the Morongo Basin are affected.

Given that the Policy Plan component of the 2018 Countywide Plan is not yet available, we are only being asked to comment on the draft Community Plans. The difficulty of this is that we do not have knowledge of the policy and development codes that will enforce the goals, vision, and characteristics defined in the Community Plans.

The frustrating and ill-conceived process for revising the 2007 General Plan and Community Plans must be acknowledged! Many Morongo Basin and Lucerne Valley residents have voiced concerns that the policies in the existing Community Plans are being completely eliminated or replaced by what the County admits are really only “Suggested Action Plans.”

Our Position
MBCA, together with MDLT/ Mojave Desert Land Trust, LVEDA / Lucerne
Valley Economic Development Association, and HVCC / Homestead Valley
Community Council contend (and this has been acknowledged by the
County) that the draft Community Plans are essentially Suggested Action
Plans. As such the Community Plans do not meet the requirements of the
State of California for them to be adopted directly into the County General Plan. The Community Plans – not Suggested Action Plans - must be incorporated into the Countywide Plan to ensure they have legal standing under CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act)!

It is important that County Planning staff hear our concerns that they are eliminating policy from our Community Plans. Suggested Action Plans are not Community Plans. Real Community Plans must be adopted into the Countywide Plan.

Actions identified in plans have suggested Community advocates lead the various Actions. Many of these suggestions are simply off-base. Hypothetical organizations are imagined to form to meet anticipated needs and in other cases, existing organizations are nominated inappropriately. Other organizations with long-standing roles in serving the community have been overlooked.

For example, in the case of Joshua Tree, the Chamber of Commerce is named in numerous Actions – however, the Chamber was never contacted to explore the feasibility of their championing these responsibilities. With a paid staff of one at the JT Chamber, the County should have known that was a “pie in the sky” solution. The Joshua Tree National Park Association was a second organization mentioned – however, taking on community service of this nature is not within their mission. In the Pioneertown Plan a couple of the organizations are listed that haven’t functioned for years. The County cannot assume the community will  - or even can - undertake the Actions in the Plans. It is beyond unreasonable. These communities are “severely economically distressed” and lack the infrastructure and resources to assume responsibility for the Actions listed.

The County cannot shirk the need to provide the leadership and governance – planning and implementation - required. We understand that community residents have vital roles in the fabric of their neighborhoods and community organizations. The rural desert communities are vibrant and resilient. But, they cannot be expected to take on the roles outlined in these Plans as presented. LVEDA’s comments document Action by Action how the community has worked in substantive ways to address egregious developments with County staff – particularly renewable energy in rural residential areas –and efforts have not been successful. What guarantee is there that these Action Plans will provide them with the protections they have clearly proactively called for over recent years?

Residents in Joshua Tree have also protested the Action Plan approach.
The community largely advocates building on the 2007 Joshua Tree Community Plan to revise it with the knowledge of developments that have surfaced since it was first written and to give it additional specificity.

The Community Plans are intended “to guide local expectations for County services and set a clear direction for the future of each unincorporated community.”  They are to “provide planning and implementation guidance for communities as they pursue their own unique lifestyle choices and goals.” The Suggested Action Plans fall short of these stated goals and threaten to leave desert communities without adequate tools for support and enforcement from the County.

Specific Communities
The current Community Plan Continuum is described by Land Use Services as a new system of community planning. It is to include a hierarchy of plan-types that reflect levels of housing, commercial and industrial businesses, schools, library, recreational facilities, and the religious and civic organizations available in the particular community. Plan-types run from the more developed communities’ Detailed Plans and scale down to Framework Plans, Foundation Plans, and Fundamental Plans.

MBCA holds that every community must have the protections of a Detailed Plan, regardless of the services, extent of the built environment, and organizations present. Don’t sell Pioneertown and Homestead Valley Communities, the Morongo Valley, and Wonder Valley short!

We suggest that your comments address environmental and economic concerns affecting your community specifically, as well as the wider Basin.
Including:
  • climate change
  • ecological concerns – wildlife corridors, species protections
  • renewable energy
  • natural resources – water, soils, air, open space & scenic qualities
  • population growth
  • growth of tourism
  • dark skies
  • traffic and transportation
  • county services – health and welfare
Pick the issue or two issues that you are particularly passionate about or concern you most. Use the links in the Resources listed below to view Planning Documents on the County’s website. These will be helpful to review and identify the scope of issues facing desert communities.

Read and Comment on your Community Plan by clicking links below:

Joshua Tree
 – Draft Detailed Community Plan (aka Suggested Action Plan) and the 2007 Joshua Tree Community Plan

Pioneertown Communities
 (Gamma Gulch, Pioneertown, Pipes Canyon, Rimrock) – Foundation Plan.

Homestead Valley Communities
 (Flamingo Heights, Johnson Valley, Landers, Yucca Mesa) - Framework Plan.

Morongo Valley
 - Framework Plan.

Wonder Valley
 – “The County is preparing your webpage.”

Resources
Use these links to view Planning Documents on the County’s website. These will be helpful to review and identify the scope of issues facing desert communities.
   (or just the Development Code PDF)

Also, here are two support documents created by MBCA Director Pat Flanagan:
A compilation of the Actions suggested in the Joshua Tree Detailed Community Plan (aka Suggested Action Plan) that illustrates the unrealistic list of the draft Plan’s suggested projects and actions.

A sample result from utilizing keyword searches of County documents
 to find references to your specific issues and concerns (for example “scenic”).

Where to send Comments:
Either:
  • online: through the link associated with your draft Community Plan (link above) or;
  • e-mail or snail mail to:
         Jerry L. Blum, Countywide Plan Coordinator
         County of San Bernardino
         Land Use Services Department
         385 North Arrowhead Avenue, 1st floor San Bernardino, CA. 92415-0110

         CountywidePlan@lus.sbcounty.gov

         (include your signature, printed, name, street address)

Two more issues briefly….

EXTENDED Comment period: fee increase to JTNP
Deadline is December 22, 2017 to submit comments to: NPCA.org/fees 

Also call our elected official in D.C., Representative Paul Cook
(760/247-1815) and County Supervisor, James Ramos (909/387-4855) – urge them to oppose the entrance fee increase and support the National Park Service Legacy Act!

Palen PV Solar Project Comment period
Deadline to submit comments: December 11, 2017

Read MBCA’s response to Palen Supplemental DEIS, Sept. 13, 2016 that addresses air quality impacts from location sited on Sand Transport Corridor and lack of AQMD regional monitoring for fugitive dust / PM10-2.5:

In closing
Wow – there’s always something isn’t there! It is more important than ever for us to maintain our resolve! If not now: maybe never. If not us: who? The residents in the Basin have shown remarkable sensitivity, intelligence, and willingness to defend the values of our communities. Don’t let up! Let local and national representatives know who we are and what we’re prepared to defend! 

Cheers,

Sincerely,
Sarah Kennington, MBCA President

Your 2017 MBCA Board
David Fick, Vice President                         Steve Bardwell, Treasurer
Marina West, Recording Secretary              Pat Flanagan, Director
Meg Foley, Director                                   Ruth Rieman, Director
Claudia Sall, Director for Events                 Seth Shteir, Director
Laraine Turk, Director
MBCA advocates for a healthy desert environment that nurtures the region’s rural character, cultural wealth and economic well-being.
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