EBlast April 20, 2020

  • Earth Day
  • 50th Anniversary Commemorative book distribution
  • Desert Wise Living Landscape Tour 2020 postponed
  • MBCA and social media initiative
  • Ruth Denison Environmental Scholarship: 2020 recipient
  • OHV enforcement in the Basin: the Sheriff’s report
  • Protecting our dark night sky
  • Advancing protection for Joshua trees
  • Mountain lions to be considered for protection
  • Eagle Crest pumped storage update
  • Morongo Basin health care capability vs COVID-19


It’s Earth Day!
This is an Earth Day like no other. Not with the usual community gatherings and festivity, but at home giving us the opportunity to contemplate things like the condition of our planet Earth. This is time to think about our responsibility, impacts, and better ways moving forward to heal and regenerate.  What better way to commemorate Earth Day?!

While humans around the world are suffering, Mother Earth will be benefit from social distancing as we stick close to home, limit travel, and in the process significantly reduce pre-COVID-19 levels of our carbon footprint – if there is one, it’s a silver lining to this pandemic. I suggest an Earth Day resolution for 2020: work to keep that footprint closer to present levels as possible when we return to “normal.”

MBCA Directors have maintained the monthly Board meetings by conducting virtual gatherings since March. While it takes some getting used to, we’re pleased to know this reduces MBCA’s organizational carbon footprint. Considering the miles we put on our vehicles driving in from the ends of the Basin – Morongo Valley to 29 Palms and all the way to Lucerne Valley for new Director Brian Hammer –  we’re really saving on fossil fuel by virtual participation. As great as it is to see one another, carbon-saving by more frequent virtual meetings is a factor that we will consider when we “get to the other side” of this pandemic.

Our Board agenda remains full with issues focusing on the pending San Bernardino Countywide Plan, increasing air quality monitoring, renewable energy and other development projects impacting the environment including Cadiz, Eagle Mountain and others. Rest assured that we are not asleep at the wheel!

50th Anniversary Commemorative book
Copies of MBCA’s 50th Anniversary Commemorative book Celebrating the Past: Envisioning the Future were distributed to everyone attending MBCA’s Annual Meeting in January. We have also mailed copies to individuals who maintain an active MBCA membership, and are in the process of tracking down mailing addresses to get copies to those of you who have been active volunteers and otherwise contributed to MBCA’s mission.

Creating the content and design of this Commemorative book was a labor of love many were involved in. The valuable contributions of the MBCA organization, stories of individual Morongo Basin activists, and chronicles of the many campaigns are impressively documented. As MBCA often works behind the scenes, this book successfully demonstrates the breadth of effort and commitment to the MBCA mission over the past 50 years. Thanks to those who worked to produce this valuable record of achievement! We hope our members and supporters learn from it and find it as rewarding as we did in its creation. If you have not received the book and are not yet a MBCA member, we invite you to sign up for a membership and a copy will be on its way to you! You can join via MBCA’s membership page.

Desert Wise Living Landscape Tour 2020 postponed
Our signature event of the year since 2011 - the Desert-Wise Living Landscape Tour - was all but “ready to roll” when the need for COVID social distancing was realized. After months of careful planning, recruiting sites and hosts, and designing the brochure (luckily it didn’t go to the printer!), we realized the need to cancel the popular event. Hopefully most of the effort can be recouped at a later date. Thanks to the DWL Tour planning committee members and those who volunteered to host visitors at your site. We’ll call on you again when we can conduct it safely.

MBCA and social media initiative
We continue to advance MBCA’s educational outreach and communications. While mbconservation.org remains the cornerstone of that effort, we have recently widened our reach to include social media platforms Facebook and Instagram. We are assisted in this with the talents of two Basin residents, Stacy Doolittle and Aimee Buyea. Please visit these sites for updates on MBCA activities and perhaps a bit of inspiration! Having a social media presence is intended to spread the word of our good work to a new audience and add to the number of members and supporters. We are excited to consider new ways to work in this new arena.

Ruth Denison Environmental Conservation Scholarship
We are delighted to announce the 2020-2021 recipient of MBCA’s Ruth Denison scholarship award, Anwyn “Annie” Hilderbrand, of Yucca Valley High School. After a record including Principals Honor Roll for four years and a stellar record of leadership at her high school and in the community, Annie plans to begin her studies at Copper Mountain College with a major in Environmental studies. After receiving a degree in Environmental Science, she plans to return to the Morongo Basin in a career to educate youth about the importance of being stewards of the environment. Congratulations Annie! We wish you great success and look forward to your contributions.

To learn more about Ruth Denison, whom we honor with this scholarship, and to see the previous years’ recipients, click to MBCA’s Ruth Denison Scholarship History page.

Supporting Basin Youth
MBCA has a history of providing financial support to Yucca Valley High School’s Ecology class. We recently made a contribution to instructor Cindy Zacks for the purchase of tents for her students’ camping field trips.

OHV enforcement in the Basin
We applaud the Basin Sheriff Department’s continued commitment to strengthen their off-highway-vehicle enforcement team. The recently appointed Morongo Basin Sheriff, Lucas Niles, reported that the OHV team made 300 contacts in the first weekend of April. Resources, staffing levels and the amount of work overall that goes into the program has increased “a lot over the last few years” with the receipt of grant money from the state of California. He expects the team to increase efforts soon to patrol illegal OHV hotspots. Niles encourages the public to continue working with the department to make reports: call (760) 366-4175 or email [email protected]. For more on recent OHV news, see our latest News Update on this topic.

Protecting our dark night sky
MBCA Board members on the Third District Dark Sky Committee have been working with the County of San Bernardino Land Use Services to craft an ordinance that will regulate exterior lighting and offer protection to our precious dark night sky. The draft of the ordinance requires that all exterior light sources be fully shielded to prohibit light trespass onto neighboring properties. Fully shielded light fixtures serve to minimize glare and to improve health and safety while conserving our dark night sky. We will keep you apprised of the status of this important measure.

Advancing protection for Joshua Trees
On April 13, 2020, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recommended that the iconic Joshua tree move toward protection under the State of California’s Endangered Species Act. Joshua trees have been under threat from climate change, urban sprawl and other development within their range. Here is the Fish and Wildlife Staff summary of this issue. For more information, read MBCA’s recent News Update, which contains links to several media stories. MBCA will continue to follow this issue.

Mountain lions to be considered for protection
Another important decision by CDFW in their remote meeting of April 16, 2020 was the unanimous vote that listing of an evolutionarily significant unit of mountain lions may be warranted. This commences a one-year status review by the CDFW. MBCA sent a letter of support for this designation and we are very pleased to see this action by the Commission.

Eagle Crest pumped storage update
The proposal to utilize the now closed Eagle Mountain mine excavations as a site for a pumped storage electrical generating project is on hold after the California State legislature defeated SB-772 in 2019. This ill-conceived project would pump and poison 20,000 acre feet (!!!) of water from the desert aquifer to fill the pits of the former mine and subsequently utilize 1,500 acre feet/year during operation. MBCA is monitoring a proposed bill, AB-2255 (Susan Eggman, 13th district San Joaquin Valley) that will be used as a vehicle to enable this project. For more background, go to the links in MBCA’s March update on the Eagle Crest project.

Morongo Basin health care capability vs COVID-19
On March 23, 2020 MBCA signed onto an email to various elected officials, healthcare providers, school officials and others expressing concerns for the capacity of our healthcare system in the Morongo Basin to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Hi-Desert Medical Center, The Morongo Basin Healthcare District, and Third District San Bernardino County Supervisors have issued public statements regarding the Pandemic. As of this writing, we are pleased to see that the curve appears to be flattening!

We hope this e-blast finds you well and safe!


Steve Bardwell

Your MBCA Board:

Steve Bardwell, President

David Fick, Vice President

Laraine Turk, Secretary

Marina West, Treasurer  

Pat Flanagan, Director

Meg Foley, Director

Brian Hammer, Director

Janet Johnston, Director

Sarah Kennington, Director

Mike Lipsitz, Director

Arch McCulloch, Director

Ruth Rieman, Director


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