EBlast June 8, 2020

  • Desert Wise Living Landscape Tour 2020 goes virtual !
  • Petition to list Yucca brevifolia as a threatened species.
  • A week of Invasive Species Lunchtime Webinars.
  • Opposition to Yellow Pine Solar Project
  • Action on Eagle Crest Pumping Opposition.
  • Funding Mojave Trails Acquisition
  • Environmental Justice in Lucerne Valley.
  • Opposition to Habitat Conservation Fund Budget Trailer Bill.
  • Support for AB3030 For Land and Water Conservation.
  • Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease found in the Morongo Basin.
  • Ruth Denison 2020 Environmental scholarship recipient.

Dear MBCA Members and Supporters,

Desert Wise Living Landscape Tour 2020 goes virtual!
In lieu of the in-person DWL Tour we had planned and subsequently cancelled due to the pandemic, MBCA is working with a professional producer, photographers and editors to create a very special virtual tour! Five sites were chosen from 10 landscapes originally planned to mark the 10th year of the Tour. The sites represent a cross section of the various regions within the Basin from lower to higher elevations, and demonstrate the Desert Wise use of resources in residential landscaping and energy that the Tour heralds. The virtual Tour, featuring video, still photography, and interviews with the site owners, will be released in the near future. Please stay tuned and we will notify you as the videos are released!

Petition to list Yucca brevifolia as threatened species
MBCA encourages you to write the California Fish and Game Commission (CFGC) to express support for a petition to list the western Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) as a threatened species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The petition is on the CFGC agenda for June 25, 2020. The Comment Deadline is June 11, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. for letters to be included within the printed information to be given to each of the Commissioners for the June 25 hearing. Comment letters should begin with your position, something like. “Re: Strong support for Western Joshua Tree petition”. Include your name, address and contact.

The Commission staff summary presents extensive documentation of the petition for the listing, and these background and talking points describe the issues being considered.

Written comments may be e-mailed to [email protected] or hard copies mailed to:  
California Fish and Game Commission
President Eric Sklar
P.O. Box 944209
Sacramento, CA 94244-2090

Given the strong opposition for listing that has been expressed by the Town of Yucca Valley, our County desert supervisors, and the local gateway realtors, it is important for the Commission to hear support for the listing. The Commission’s June 24-25 Agenda notes that this item (#27) may be continued to the August meeting, so there may be additional opportunities for comment, but we strongly encourage you to send your letter by the June 11 deadline for maximum effect.

Receipt of a 90-day evaluation report for the petition to list the desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii ) as threatened or endangered is also on the June 24-25 agenda (#20). The staff has recommended this item also be continued to the August meeting of the Commission. The habitat of the desert tortoise overlaps that of the western Joshua tree and with these two species being considered for listing is evidence of the concern for the health of the special Joshua tree woodland ecosystem.

A week of Invasive Species Lunchtime webinars
The University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Division will offer a free noontime webinar daily June 8 through June 12, with a focus on invasive species. While these are not desert-specific webinars, the topic of invasive plant and animal issues is of great concern and threat to the Mojave Desert. Go to this page to learn more and to sign up.

Monday, June 8 - How to hike without spreading weeds
Tuesday, June 9 - Using detection dogs to keep islands free of invasive mammals
Wednesday, June 10 - Using eDNA to learn how invasive species alter whole ecosystems
Thursday, June 11 - Making the Los Angeles River more "exotic"
Friday, June 12 - The weird and wild world of plant pathogens

MBCA joins opposition to Yellow Pine solar project
The proposed Yellow-Pine Solar Project is another very large-scale solar project that would be inappropriately sited on BLM land in the Mojave Desert. It is being fast-tracked without consideration of the Covid-19 pandemic and many other flawed rationales. MBCA has joined seven other concerned organizations to send a detailed and fact-filled document refuting the validity of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Details can be found in the Yellow-Pine Solar Project letter signed by MBCA, Basin and Range Watch, Western Watersheds Project, Sierra Club California and Nevada Desert Committee, Desert Survivors, The Summertree Institute, and Shoshone Village.

MBCA's Action on Eagle Crest Pumping Opposition
In January 2020, MBCA sent a letter opposing state legislative action that would have enhanced the prospects for the Eagle Crest Pumped Storage Project on the border of Joshua Tree National Park. Chief among our concerns is the inevitable overdraft of underground aquifers in the area and for the Park, with dire consequences for the flora and fauna. MBCA also joined a coalition of 24 organizations spearheaded by the National Parks Conservation Association, to oppose amendments to the related legislation, State Bill AB2255 that adds to the "stacked deck" for furthering the Eagle Crest project. Most recently on May 6, MBCA signed onto a new coalition letter opposing another related piece of legislation, State Bill AB2736. The letter concisely reiterates the reasons to oppose the project. While pumped storage can assist with California's energy future, the letter notes that "other pumped storage projects are more viable and economical," and this legislation seems to be a "ratepayer-funded bailout of the failing project." As of this writing, we are pleased to report that AB2736 failed to be approved by the Appropriations Committee - delivering a setback to the effort to move this project forward.

MBCA Urges Funding for Mojave Trails Acquisition
MBCA has forwarded a letter of support to U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and California Bureau of Land Management Director Karen Mouritsen for the BLM to acquire Land and Water Conservation Fund resources for purchasing lands within the Mojave Trails National Monument. The LWCF provides grants for federal-state partnerships for conservation and public recreation projects. The 6,213 acres of interest in the Mojave Trails National Monument contain cultural sites and are part of important habitat linkages.

Sign-on for Environmental Justice in Lucerne Valley
The latest solar energy project proposed for Lucerne Valley has generated a groundswell of concern and opposition. In a letter to the California State Lands Commission signed by MBCA along with 16 other groups and more than 50 individuals, the case is built against Aurora Solar LLC, aka Stagecoach Solar, a 3,600-acre utility scale development. According to the Lands Commission's own Environmental Justice Policy, the effects on this disadvantaged community with a significant population of older and health-compromised individuals would violate the agency's policy. The letter supports California's renewable energy goals, but provides detailed analysis and maps that illustrate why permitting the Stagecoach Solar project in Lucerne Valley would be damaging to the community.

MBCA opposes Habitat Conservation Fund Budget Trailer Bill
Along with over 40 environmental conservation organizations, MBCA has signed onto two letters in opposition to the proposed budget trailer bill that would reinstate the July 2020 sunset date for the Habitat Conservation Fund (HCF). This sunset would end critical funding for local park districts, state agencies, and crucial habitat conservation programs at the Wildlife Conservation Board. The proposal is a retreat from the administration’s and legislature’s commitment to stable, ongoing support for conservation, biodiversity and public access to parks.

MBCA Supports AB3030 For Land and Water Conservation
MBCA was pleased to sign-on to a letter in support of improved protections for California’s unparalleled bio-diversity with creation of a state policy that sets a goal to protect at least 30 percent of the land base and waters in California and 30 percent of the ocean waters off the coast of California by 2030 (30 x 30). AB3030 objectives are to protect biodiversity, increase climate resilience, promote collaboration, increase opportunities to sequester carbon through natural measures, and enhance public access for all people in the state. A specific emphasis on increasing access for communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities is included within this bill.

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease found in the Morongo Basin
First observed here in California in May 2020, the highly contagious Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHDV2) was found to be the cause of death of a black-tailed jackrabbit in Yucca Valley. To learn more about this disease with important recommendations for reporting and handling sick animals, see the attached flyer.

RHDV2 is not known to affect humans, livestock or pets other than rabbits. Being HIGHLY contagious between rabbits, CDFW requests that should one find a carcass that shows no sign of traumatic injury, to file a report utilizing the form referenced within the flyer above. The carcass should either be double bagged and disposed of in the trash or single bagged and buried at least 24” deep. This promises to deal a severe blow to the rabbit population…(sigh!).

Ruth Denison 2020 Environmental scholarship recipient
Anwyn “Annie” Hilderbrand, recipient of MBCA’s 2020 Ruth Denison scholarship award, has been appointed the 2020-2021 Student Representative to the Copper Mountain College Foundation Board of Directors. Annie is pursuing an education in environmental science at CMC. Says Annie:  “My life goal is to work in environmental conservation in order to preserve the national park system for future generations.” Congratulations Annie!

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.

MBCA is continuing to track the many issues impacting on the quality of life and the environment here in the Morongo Basin and throughout the Mojave Desert. The beauty, variety, and fragility of this special place needs our voices and our commitment to insure its vitality and protection. As evidenced by the many letters MBCA is invited to sign onto, our opinion is held in high regard. Your own individual public comment letters and membership in MBCA add even more strength to our reputation. Thank you all for your continued efforts and support!

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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