Eblast: April 13, 2024

  • Register Soon for the 2024 Desert Wise Living Landscape Tour
  • Program 4 STR Impact Study update
  • Light Trespass Ordinance update
  • Support Distributed Rooftop Solar
  • Industrial Scale Renewable Energy Developments

Register soon for the 2024 Desert Wise Living Landscape Tour!
The 13th annual Desert-Wise Landscape Tour is scheduled for Sunday, April 21, between 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM. Five home sites and one demonstration garden located across the Morongo Basin will be open for the tour.

Each site provides a unique perspective on desert-wise landscaping that is both creative and water-conscious, including native and other drought-tolerant plants along with innovative and attractive landscape elements and art. Two sites in particular feature a large variety of wildflowers incorporated into the landscape.

New features this year include the opportunity for visitors to create a small art project at one site, to take home a liquid soil enhancement at another, and to receive free cuttings and seeds at a third site. 

Registration is easy at mbconservation.org. Registration for MBCA members is $10, while non-members are $15 each, with options to purchase membership and registration together.  

A digital Tour Guide with descriptions and directions will be provided to online registrants, with printed copies available on the day of the Tour. On April 21, late registration will be available at Mojave Desert Land Trust headquarters between 9 AM and Noon only.

Update on Program 4 STR Impact Study
Following MBCA’s comprehensive letter in response to the Program 4 Report commissioned by the County, there have been no further actions by the County on this important issue. While other jurisdictions have taken steps to acknowledge and address the effects of a surfeit of STRs in specific communities, San Bernardino County has yet to complete the study that is a condition of the acceptance of the Housing Element by the State Department of Housing and Community Development. MBCA has written this letter to the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) expressing our concerns. While the vacation home rental market appears to be collapsing, with rentals lying dormant or offered at a discounted rate, Short Term Rental permits are still being granted within the county. A recent episode of PBS SoCal Earth Matters explores the many sides of the vacation rental industry and the importance of treading lightly on our precious and fragile desert. The filmmakers attended our 2023 annual meeting ‘Gimme Shelter: Seeking Housing Solutions for the Morongo Basin’ and it appears were inspired by our position on the effects STRs are having on our communities. Unfortunately, the issues  within this video produced by MBCA in 2022 on the subject have yet to be addressed.

Light Trespass Ordinance update
With the San Bernardino County Light Trespass Ordinance now in effect, all exterior lighting in the unincorporated desert and mountain communities must comply with the ordinance. We have been informed the County intends to undertake a media campaign to increase awareness about the new ordinance. In the meantime, we have been encouraged by our Third District Supervisor Dawn Rowe to contact her Joshua Tree field representative with the address or Assessor’s Parcel Number of a potential infraction. Rowe’s office will follow up by sending an information sheet about the ordinance to the property owner. The identity of those making the assertion/complaint will not be revealed. Additionally, we recommend filing a complaint with code enforcement to begin the process of addressing non-compliant lighting.

The contact information for Supervisor Rowe’s field representative, Glen Harris, is: 760-366-1488, email: [email protected].

San Bernardino County code enforcement can be reached here .

Support Distributed Rooftop Solar
Over the past year the California Public Utilities Commission has taken actions that have reduced by nearly 80% the installation of rooftop solar throughout the State with a corresponding loss of nearly 17,000 jobs. These actions include the adoption of Net Energy Metering 3.0 that dramatically reduced the payback for excess solar power delivered to the grid, and the elimination of benefits accrued to properties with multiple electric meters with on-site solar systems. We support the Solar Rights Alliance who provide extensive information on efforts to push-back against reducing distributed solar. We encourage our members and supporters to review the many efforts underway to push back and to encourage your elected representative to get rooftop solar going again!

30x30 and Renewable Energy Developments
The flip side of distributed rooftop solar as described above is the development of industrial scale renewable energy systems. Both are needed to address the climate emergency. The State and Federal Governments have committed to a goal of conserving 30% of lands and waters by the year 2030. This coupled with the imperative to adopt a clean, fossil-fuel-free energy system is being addressed with a proposed amendment to the federal 2012 Western Solar Plan that covers renewable energy development in 6 western states. The Preliminary Environmental Review Statement (PEIS) for this amendment would expand the area to include 11 of the Western States. The purpose is for the … Secretary of the Interior to “review siting and permitting processes on public lands” with a goal of increasing “renewable energy production on those lands . . . while ensuring robust protection for our lands, waters, and biodiversity and creating good jobs.”

MBCA supports the efforts for renewable energy development that respects and acknowledges the value of intact ecosystems and their importance in this warming climate. Towards that end we are in support of Alternative 5 of the PEIS that would limit development to disturbed lands within proximity of transmission capability. This alternative would provide for 8.4 million acres of land to be considered for developing 700,000 acres of renewable energy projects. This 700,000 is the acreage (utilizing existing technology) required to develop the anticipated amount of renewably generated electricity to satisfy future energy needs. We encourage comments on this proposal prior to the deadline of April 18, 2024.

Several utility scale solar developments are being proposed in the City of Twentynine Palms by Company E-Solar. MBCA has written a letter with scoping comments for the proposed 184-acre development. If the City of Twentynine Palms does not allow this industrial scale solar project, per current code restrictions, the developer has stated they will utilize the exception allowed by AB 205 to have the California Energy Commission become the lead agency for this project for CEQA. See this slide show presented by Frazier Haney at our annual meeting describing how AB205 might be employed.

MBCA board members were active participants in the Inland Desert Working Group (IDWG) and were strong advocates for the desert as a component of the 30x30 effort being directed by the Department of Natural Resources. The IDWG submitted this compelling paper on the role of the desert in sequestering carbon and supporting the bio-diversity needed for life. MBCA strongly supports the recommendations of the report: Leave the Intact Desert Undisturbed and Implement a Distributed, Renewably Generated Electrical Infrastructure.

We look forward to seeing you in person at one of 6 sites featured on this year’s Desert Wise Living Landscape Tour on  April 21! Register here!

Steve Bardwell
Your MBCA Board:

Steve Bardwell, President
Stacy Doolittle, Vice President
Laraine Turk, Secretary
Bob Wold, Treasurer  
Kerrie Aley, Director
David Fick, Director

Pat Flanagan, Director
Brian Hammer, Director
Janet Johnston, Director
Sarah Kennington, Director
Arch McCulloch, Director
Allan Songer, Director

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