EBlast August 3, 2020

Desert Wise Living Landscape Desert Tour 2020 goes virtual!

Petition to list yucca brevifolia as a threatened species

Opposition to Eagle Crest pumped storage project

Reject nomination of William Pendley to head BLM

Daggett Solar Energy project update

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease in the Morongo Basin

Complete the 2020 Census

Support MBCA through Amazon Smile

 

Desert Wise Living Landscape Tour 2020 goes virtual!
The 10th annual Desert Wise Landscaping tour is nearly ready to view. The final cut is now being edited and music added. We are extremely pleased with the quality of the production and are excited to share the work with you, our members and supporters. We plan to release the 5 Virtual Tour videos very soon. The announcement will be made via email and also on our Facebook and Instagram sites. We are most appreciative of the hard work of our producer Stacy Doolittle, photographer/director/editor Heather Sommerfield and drone photographer Austin Ahlborg. Please stay tuned and we will notify you when they are released!

Petition to list yucca brevifolia as threatened species
The California Fish and Game Commission will consider a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity to list the western Joshua tree as a threatened species at their meeting on August 20. There continue to be hyperbolic predictions of the dire consequences of granting this species status as threatened. MBCA has written a letter in support of the listing and we are continuing to track this issue. We urge you to write to the Commission expressing support for the listing. The deadline for receipt of letters is this Thursday, August 6. Should the Commission vote in favor of granting candidate status for consideration as threatened, a one-year period will commence during which a thorough study will be undertaken. A final determination regarding threatened status will be made subsequent to this study. During the one-year period the Joshua tree would be provided protection as if it were an threatened species.

Relative to the exaggerated concerns expressed by some Yucca Valley officials and residents predicting dire consequences for development if the designation is given, there is a proven method to create the right balance of native species protection and careful community development. Creating a Natural Community Conservation Plan has helped other California communities, including the Coachella Valley, create such a balance. Take the example of the ongoing wastewater treatment system project in Yucca Valley, which was granted a Mitigated Negative Declaration for construction. Should the designation of threatened be granted to the Joshua tree, an application for an ‘incidental take permit’ would be required to comply with CEQA. Granting of an incidental take permit for every project involving the removal or transplanting of a Joshua tree would be unwieldy, expensive and time consuming. For these reasons we support the creation of a Natural Community Conservation Plan. This landscape level plan would provide a framework for development and establish a mechanism for streamlined compliance with CEQA. A successful example of such a landscape-level plan can be found in the Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan.

A hastily drafted Assembly Bill 235 authored by state assembly member Chad Mayes in opposition to the Joshua tree listing would change the basis upon which the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) is founded: from a purely science based approach to include economic considerations. As of this writing the bill, apparently drafted to facilitate the on-going Town of Yucca Valley wastewater treatment system, does not appear to have the needed support for passage, however we continue to monitor its progress.

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

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 local support for the listing. Written comments (due August 6) may be e-mailed to fgc@fgc.ca.gov or hard copies mailed to: 

California Fish and Game Commission
President Eric Sklar
P.O. Box 944209
Sacramento, CA 94244-2090

If you can’t send written comments by the deadline, consider making oral comments at the August 20 Zoom meeting. Typically comments are limited to three minutes. However, with the amount of interest in this issue, time may be limited to one or two minutes so structure your comments accordingly.

Opposition to Eagle Crest pumped storage project
The latest attempt to facilitate the construction of this inappropriate project is state assembly bill AB1720, another gut-and-amend bill. Through four bills over the past three years, the Florida-based NextEra Corporation has attempted to pass controversial legislation to force procurement of its project since it has failed to compete in the open marketplace and state regulators have not identified a need for it. I am pleased to report that AB1720 has, as of this writing, failed to garner adequate support to move forward. The Eagle Crest pumped storage project, if constructed, would utilize billions of gallons of precious water pumped from the desert aquifer to fill the pits of the now shuttered Eagle Mountain mine.

Reject nomination of William Pendley to head BLM
MBCA has signed onto a letter, along with over 300 environmental organizations, in opposition to the nomination of William Perry Pendley to head the Bureau of Land Management. The appointment of this individual would be disastrous for the protection and support of our public lands!

Daggett Solar Energy project update
The lawsuit contesting this massive solar energy project has been settled. The Petitioner, Newberry Community Services District, has agreed to a Settlement Agreement and Release of Claims. MBCA provided comments in opposition to the certification of the EIR for this project contending that the visual impacts, air quality impacts, effects on the biological resources, wildlife corridors, avian resources, and social and environmental impacts of the project were not properly considered. MBCA is disappointed in the settlement and the concessions made that do not adequately address the concerns we raised.

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease in the Morongo Basin
The highly contagious Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHDV2) has been confirmed in the deaths of more rabbits in our area. To learn more about this disease with important recommendations for reporting and handling sick animals, see the online flyer.

RHDV2 is not known to be contagious to humans, livestock, pets or wildlife other than rabbits. Being HIGHLY contagious between rabbits, California Department of Fish and Wildlife requests that should you 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. Many more rabbits are anticipated to die from this virus and is sure to affect the diet of coyotes, bobcats and foxes due to a loss of their primary source of protein.

Complete the 2020 Census
With all that is demanding our attention during these difficult times, please do not neglect to complete the 2020 census form. This may be accomplished either online, by mail or by phone. Log onto United States Census 2020 for information on how to easily complete the simple form.

Support MBCA through Amazon Smile
Purchases through the Amazon Smile program can help support MBCA! Please select MBCA as the non-profit recipient by typing in Morongo Basin Conservation and then selecting Morongo Basin Conservation Association. Every small amount adds up to help support our mission! Thank you!

As of this writing the Apple Fire is continuing to burn in the San Bernardino Mountains devastating more habitat with the commensurate health effects for all life. This, and the ongoing effects of climate change emphasize the importance of MBCA’s mission to advocate for the healthy desert.

I hope this e-blast finds you healthy and safe!

Sincerely,

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

 

Add your reaction Share

More News on the Proposed Joshua Tree Listing

This Los Angeles Times article highlights and summarizes the conflict locally and at the state level about listing the Joshua Tree as a threatened species in California. Assemblymember Chad Mayes is reported to have filed a "hastily crafted emergency bill" to make it easier to "take" threatened or endangered species when economic development or infrastructure is at issue.
Add your reaction Share

MBCA Joins Broad Coalition Opposing Eagle Crest Pumped Storage Project

MBCA is one of 27 diverse non-profit groups opposing any further consideration of the Eagle Crest Pumped Storage Project in this June 23rd letter to Governor Newsom and the co-chairs of the recently created Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery. Following three failed legislative efforts to seek bailout and authorization for its proposed Eagle Crest Pumped Storage Project, Next Era is now seeking consideration from the Task Force. Attached to the Coalition letter is a similar request signed by the California Municipal Utilities Association, Southern California Public Power Authority, and Northern California Power Agency. Prior coalition letters of opposition to this project signed by MBCA in April and May are also included in the document.
 
Add your reaction Share

MBCA Supports Listing the Joshua Tree as Threatened

Read MBCA's letter to the California Fish & Game Commission supporting the listing of Yucca brevifolia, the western Joshua tree, as a threatened species. For background see our recent News Update on the topic and the second item in the June 8 EBlast.
Add your reaction Share

EBlast June 8, 2020

MBCA_Sticker_Final_Transparent.png

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 fgc@fgc.ca.gov 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!

Sincerely,
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

 

Add your reaction Share

Comments on Joshua Trees as a California Threatened Species Due June 11

On April 16 MBCA published a News Update about the requested listing of the Western Joshua tree as a threatened species in California. The petition was presented in October 2019 by the Center for Biological Diversity. In April 2020 the state's Department of Fish and Wildlife agreed that the information provided warranted the listing and referred their opinion to the California Fish and Game Commission. The Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the recommendation on June 25. If they agree, a yearlong review would begin and the trees would be protected during the review. We ask readers to review this very comprehensive Background and Talking Points document and submit comments in favor of the threatened species listing by the deadline of June 11. Send comments via email to fgc@fgc.ca.gov. 
Add your reaction Share

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 letter signed by 24 organizations, spearheaded by the National Parks Conservation Association, to oppose amendments to the related legislation, AB2255, that adds to the "stacked deck" for furthering the Eagle Crest project. And most recently, on May 6, MBCA signed on to a new coalition letter opposing another related piece of legislation, 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." 
Add your reaction Share

MBCA Joins Opposition to Yellow-Pine Solar Project

The proposed Yellow-Pine Solar Project is another large-scale project inappropriately sited on BLM land in the Mojave Desert, and being fast-tracked without consideration of the COVID-19 pandemic and with many other flawed rationales. MBCA has joined six other concerned organizations to send a fact-filled document refuting the validity of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Among the statements in the letter supported with references and illustrations are these:
  • The Purpose and Need are Faulty.
  • The Proposed Action, Alternative, and Environmental Consequences Analysis Is Inadequate.
  • More Alternatives, Alternative Locations, and Distributed Generation Alternatives Need To Be Analyzed.
  • No Mitigation Measures Are Provided For Significant Impacts To The Environment.
  • Rare Plants Will Be Harmed.
  • Eagles May Be Impacted.
  • Burrowing Owls Will Be Significantly Impacted. 


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, and Shoshone Village.

Add your reaction Share

MBCA Urges Funding for Mojave Trails Acquisition

MBCA has forwarded a letter of support to U.S. Interior Secretary 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 LCWF 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.
Add your reaction Share

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.

Add your reaction Share