Plant Spotlight: Ocotillo

ocotillo, blooming
Photo by Chris Hunkeler from Carlsbad, California, USA,  <>, via Wikimedia Commons
Ocotillo is a native plant that creates structure and height in our Morongo Basin landscapes. Ocotillo means "little torch" in Spanish, probably inspired by the orange red flowers at the plant's tips. The plant can grow up to 15 feet tall and wide. It prefers full sun and likes our heat.
Fouquieria splendens, or ocotillo, for much of the year appears to be an arrangement of large spiny dead sticks, although a closer look reveals that the canes are partly green. Either through irrigation or rain, water makes the plant come to life with small green leaves all over the stems.
Tips about growing and irrigating these plants varies widely. Morongo Basin writer Maureen Gilmer notes that getting them started in your yard can be "devilishly difficult." She recommends buying them potted instead of bare root for best growing success.
ocotillo with blooms
Ocotillo in Landers, CA. Photo by Marina Chavez
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MBCA Participates in Solar Rights Rally

7-20-22_MBCA_and_Solar_Rights.jpegMBCA President Steve Bardwell (l) and Director Arch McCulloch (r) participated in the Solar Rights Rally held in Cathedral City on July 20. They are pictured here with Solar Rights Alliance Executive Director Dave Rosenfeld. The rally was one in a statewide series to "sound the alarm about the utilities' solar tax and call on Governor Gavin Newsom to keep solar affordable for middle- and working-class families."
Around 50 people participated on a 110-degree day. 
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Eblast July 20, 2022

  • Desert Wise Virtual Landscape videos released
  • Planning Commission to vote on Housing Element
  • Industrial Scale Renewable Energy Threats to the Desert
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Position: MBCA's Statement on Short-Term Rentals

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MBCA Comments to County on Revised Housing Element

San Bernardino County's June draft version of their state-required Housing Element contained some changes in direct response to the outpouring of public concerns about excessive Short Term Rentals in unincorporated Desert and Mountain areas of the County. MBCA has scrutinized the latest draft and sent a detailed comment letter thanking the County for some useful changes and pointing out the need for additional revisions. For a history of the ongoing County housing issues, see our News posts of June 9 (MBCA comment letter)June 9 (combined letter with Center for Biological Diversity), and June 15 (report on Supervisors' meeting). This Desert Sun article contains a good overview of the situation.  
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Plant Spotlight: Red Yucca

A non-native grass-like plant that does particularly well in the Morongo Basin is red yucca, or Hesperaloe  parviflora. Its grassy evergreen leaves provide interest during all seasons, with plants having a purple cast in the winter cold. 
red yucca plant with flowers
Creative Commons photo by Fritz Hochstätter
As a native of the Mexican Chihuahuan Desert, red yucca can withstand our high temperatures.  The deep rose-pink blooms usually start in June and last for a long time, provided the plant is regularly watered. The bloom spike can reach 5 feet in mature plants. If watered irregularly, it will either not bloom or the blooms will be few. 
This is a low-maintenance plant beloved by hummingbirds!
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Letter: MBCA Comments June 2022 San Bernardino County Draft Housing Element

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Decision on Listing Joshua Trees as Threatened is Postponed

At their June 15 meeting, the four members of the California Fish and Game Commission were split on decisions relating to the status of the Western Joshua tree. Their tie votes of 2-2 applied both to a motion to list the tree as threatened and a motion to continue the decision to the August meeting, with a recommendation to develop a recovery and conservation plan. With no decision on the Joshua tree's status, it continues to be protected in “candidate” status. The topic was continued until the October meeting of the Commission. This Desert Sun article provides a comprehensive summary of the presentations, arguments, and actions taken at the meeting. Additional information and links to the recording of the meeting can be found in this email from the group
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Mixed Results from Supervisors' Action on Short Term Rentals

MBCA President Steve Bardwell addresses Supervisors at June 14 meeting. Photo by Stacy Doolittle

At their June 14 meeting, the San Bernardino County Supervisors voted to place a 45-day moratorium on new short-term rental (STR) permits in unincorporated areas of the County via this Urgency Ordinance. During this time the County is expected to initiate studies about housing issues caused by the excessive number of STRs. The Board also voted to prohibit transfer of STR permits with home sales and limited STR ownership to 2 per person. Third District Supervisor Dawn Rowe was instrumental in championing these actions.

The Supervisors also voted on revisions to the existing Short Term Rental Ordinance forwarded by the Planning Commission. Supervisor Rowe made a motion to limit corporate and LLC ownership of STRs, but was unable to get a second on her motion to move it to a vote. MBCA along with other speakers emphasized the need to gather data and analyze the effect of STRs and housing needs at the local level incorporating input from the local community. This as the supervisors emphasized that the STR ordinance is a ‘living’ ordinance that should be expected to be revised over time.

There was some recognition by the Supervisors that any analysis could require more than 45 days of study. County Counsel informed the supervisors that the urgency notice could be extended for 10 months 15 days, and then for an additional year for a two year maximum.

MBCA's Pause Petition sent to the County on June 12 plus an Addendum presented at the meeting on June 14 were signed by a total of 474 people with 136 comments.
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MBCA and Center for Biological Diversity Address the County on STRs

After months of escalating concern about the proliferation of short-term rentals across San Bernardino County, especially in the desert and mountain regions, MBCA joined with the Center for Biological Diversity to ask the County to immediately pause the approval of short-term rentals. The letter also urges a comprehensive study of both STR problems and the growing lack of rental housing availability.
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