Interior Department Reconsidering National Park Fee Increases

Last December, many Morongo Basin and Mojave Desert residents were among the over 100,000 individuals across the country who commented in opposition to extreme fee increases for a number of National Parks including Joshua Tree National Park. Owing to the huge negative response, the Department of the Interior is reevaluating their plan; increased fees are still expected, but in smaller amounts. This Washington Post article provides background and details, including quotations from some impassioned commenters, and here is the local report by radio station KCDZ.

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Update on Cadiz Water Project

The San Gabriel Valley Water District, having been approached to be a customer of Cadiz, Inc.'s proposed water project, declined the opportunity at its Board meeting on Tuesday, March 21.  MBCA has been informing our supporters for several years about the likely harm that will be done to East Mojave ecosystems should the company's plan be completed.  This March 22 Desert Sun article describes the current situation and summarizes the history of the project.  This LA Weekly article that we shared last fall provides a comprehensive look at the Project's history.

You can read MBCA's letter of March 20 to the Board of the San Gabriel Valley Water District, urging against ratification of a contract with the Cadiz Water Project.  

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Eblast March 11, 2018

Morongo Basin Residents Defend the DRECP

Dear MBCA Members and Supporters,

It was a windy and chilly winter weeknight on March 1st… yet there was a fantastic turn out for the BLM-hosted DRECP (Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan) Scoping meeting and the subsequent conservation program in Joshua Tree. Every seat was occupied and a standing-room-only crowd filled the JT Community Center to capacity with as many as 200 attending. It was the strong response needed to demonstrate the Morongo Basin public’s support of conservation protections in the DRECP!

Thanks to all who were there. For those of you who were unable to attend, MBCA sponsored video documentation of the conservation program. Click here:  “Morongo Basin Residents / Defend DRECP Desert Plan”

The conservation panel was moderated by Chris Clarke, National Park Conservation Association. Panelists April Sall, California Desert Coalition, Kate Hoit, Vet Voice Foundation, & Frazier Haney, Mojave Desert Land Trust reviewed Department of Interior’s proposed amendment to the DRECP, and answered questions for making substantive comments. David Lamfrom, National Park Conservation Association, made eloquent closing remarks. Following the panel, a court recorder was provided for audience members’ oral responses to be submitted as comments to the DRECP Scoping.

The Basin community wants more, not less, public land protected from development. How do we communicate this with substantive comments to the Federal Administration?

There is a consensus that we don’t want to jeopardize the conservation lands achieved in the long 8-year DRECP process. Some voices at the meeting last week expressed the thought that accepting any changes to the Plan could unravel the whole bundle of agreements reached – like pulling at a thread in a knitted sweater. That was the just say “no” or “no change” position. Speakers noted that the process the DRECP established appears to be working. In the two years since the Record of Decision put the Plan into effect, there have been no lawsuits. Give it a chance to truly see how effective it is. This isn’t to say the DRECP is perfect, but let’s work within it before it’s scrapped for who knows what. It is not the conservation community advising the Department of Interior to reopen the DRECP, it is solar and wind energy developers and mining interests.

Another perspective contends that it’s not a question of whether the Administration will open up the DRECP, but when. This represents the position: if we don’t take a seat at the table, we won’t get dinner. The conservation community should weigh in with specifics on issues we’ve discovered since the implementation of the DRECP to identify where the Plan needs improvement and why. For example, issues around the location of Development Focus Areas (DFAs), especially with the increased knowledge of what can go wrong, including ineffective mitigations.

MBCA has been taking the lead, under the leadership of MBCA Director Pat Flanagan, at raising awareness of the unfortunate & irreversible impacts to our rural desert communities of inappropriately sited industrial scale Renewable Energy (RE). In particular, Pat has researched and shared when and where we can identify the effects of wind-borne dust after the delicate desert crust is damaged and native plants removed. Better soil analysis and knowledge to correlate the effects of siting RE along the Mojave Desert’s Sand Transport Paths (STPs) is needed.

Death by Dust!

Is this a social justice issue? Is this the Administration taking revenge on California? Is this a gross disregard for desert ecology and the welfare of desert citizens? I have to say, YES it is!

Here are considerations as you prepare to Comment on the DRECP:

If you are concerned about air quality - Say that!

If you are concerned about effects on wildlife – the desert tortoise, and other species - Say that!

If you are concerned about industrial scale RE overburdening our desert aquifers - Say that!

If you believe that California is on track to meet the 2030 goal established for 50% RE and that sufficient land was set aside for RE development in the DRECP (as does the California Energy Commission) - Say that!

If you have experienced the ill effects of a solar or wind “farm”  (Morongo Basin and Lucerne Valley residents have learned the hard way that their quality of life, and their property values are being destroyed from solar development sited next door to their homes) - Say that!

If you believe that point of use solar – rooftops & shade structures – is the way to go, not scraping intact pristine desert - Say that!

If you are benefiting from the Basin’s tourist economy and see the value of preserving the scenic values of our desert landscapes -

Say that!

If you believe it is critical to respond to climate change by keeping the natural desert landscape intact - Say that!

Say what you feel, you know, you care about! Be “substantive” – tie your concern back to a specific understanding about the DRECP and desert conservation.

If you haven’t already, make your voice heard in two critical ways

BLM: Submit comments against the Administration’s plan to reduce conservation protections achieved in the DRECP by the March 22, 2018 deadline by writing to:

BLM-California State Director
electronically: [email protected]
mail: 2800 Cottage Way, Room W-1623, Sacramento, CA 95825

Include with comments:
Your Name; Affiliation (if applicable); Phone: E-mail; Mailing Address

2. San Bernardino County’s desert Supervisors:

The County will be submitting Scoping comments to BLM. Your voice matters in their decision-making. Call or write to urge them:

  • To demand that there should be no additional land allocation for RE development on public lands in the DRECP.
  • To direct County Land Use Services (LUS) to immediately send RECE polices 4.10, 4.10.1 and 4.10.3 to the Planning Commission and adopt these measures as they stand to protect desert communities against impacts from RE projects.

THIS TUESDAY, March 13, 2018 join MBCA Directors at the Joshua Tree Burke Government videoconference center to make your comments at the Supervisors meting. The open comment period begins at approximately 10:00AM – 11:00AM.

At that time MBCA Directors will present a petition with more than 200 signatures.

To call or write Supervisors:

* James Ramos, Third District Supervisor
(909) 387.4855 / E-mail: [email protected]

* Robert A. Lovingood, Chairman & First District Supervisor
(909) 387.4830 / E-mail: [email protected]

In closing:

The Basin communities, perhaps more than any others, have spoken to defend the desert. We’ve stood up for it during the long 8-year deliberations to craft a DRECP with conservation protections & recreational opportunities, balanced with the demand for energy production, mining, and OHV use. It is unclear exactly how this new battle will play out. But it ain’t over till it’s over!


Sarah Kennington, President
Morongo Basin Conservation Association


Your 2017 MBCA Board

David Fick, Vice President                      Steve Bardwell, Treasurer   
Marina West, Recording Secretary          Pat Flanagan, Director
Meg Foley, Director                                Mike Lipsitz, Director
Ruth Rieman, Director                            Claudia Sall, Director
Seth Shteir, Director                               Laraine Turk, Director

p.s. MBCA’s Desert Wise Living spring Landscape Tour, showcasing the desert lifestyle we are striving to protect through our comments on the DRECP, is in need of volunteer docents to assist during the tour on April 28 and 29. Please contact Cathy Zarakov, our volunteer coordinator at [email protected] if you are interested in spending a half-day outdoors with our generous garden hosts and always enthusiastic visitors. In return for your time you will receive a complementary pass to attend the tour.

p.p.s. Our thanks to Bob Stephenson / ProVideo for his professional support in making the March 1st video documentation possible.

MBCA advocates for a healthy desert environment
that nurtures the region’s rural character, cultural wealth
and economic well-being.


For more information, news, and links on the proposed amendment to DRECP:

MBCA’s News Update Review of DRECP Comments Needed – Feb 4, 2018 (with pertinent links to BLM, Federal Register, news articles)

Mojave Desert Blog Trump planning to Hand Over Desert Wildlands to Industry – February 1, 2018

Desert Sun In stunning reversal, Trump could open California desert to more solar and wind farms, by Sammy Roth – March 2, 1018


Desert Sun Joshua Tree cries foul as Trump targets California desert for energy projects, by Sammy Roth – March 5, 2018



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Spreading the word about fugitive dust

MBCA Director Pat Flanagan has become recognized as an authority on the issues of dust pollution and sand transport paths in the Morongo Basin and others areas of the Mojave Desert.  In a followup to her recent presentation to the Morongo Basin Municipal Advisory Council, she was the key presenter at the February meeting of the Lucerne Valley/Johnson Valley Municipal Advisory Council about the issue, as reported in this article in the Victor Valley Daily Press. Pat's PowerPoint presentation on Sand Transport Paths contains a detailed explanation of the issue and its ramifications related to renewable energy development. Additionally, there is a segment at the end of the presentation explaining why MBCA and others are requesting that the County reinstate language in the Renewable Energy Conservation Element of the General Plan regarding renewable energy developments in rural communities.

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Eblast February 14, 2018

  • DOI Announces Intent to Reopen DRECP
  • Missing in Action: SB Co. Renewable Energy Conservation Element

Dear MBCA Members and Supporters,

Last week we received disheartening news: the Department of Interior (DOI) announced plans to amend the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) to provide for more utility scale renewable energy development and mining access, while diminishing conservation measures in its Land Use Plan Amendment (LUPA).  For Samy Roth’s Desert Sun article, Trump administration opens millions of acres up to mining, click here. See more news stories and links at MBCA’s News Update on this topic.

MBCA joins our conservation partners in opposing this DRECP review. As citizens we have spent countless hours since 2012 participating in both the San Bernardino County renewable energy processes and the DRECP, communicating our concerns about the potential adverse social, recreational, economic and environmental impacts of utility scale renewable energy on our rural, unincorporated communities and public lands.

We are once again at a crossroads in terms of comprehensive planning for the development of renewable energy. MBCA is circulating a petition to urge San Bernardino County Supervisors to strengthen renewable energy policies in San Bernardino County by requesting they make a comment during the DRECP scoping period that reflects the values of their constituents.

Our Supervisors should protect our communities and our natural resources and make it clear to Department of Interior that there should be no decrease in conservation areas or increase in utility scale renewable energy development on our public lands. We are working to get our elected officials to make comments opposing the DRECP review – Congressman Cook will be approached, as well as our County Supervisors.

Currently, there are a number of proposed renewable energy projects that are subject to County jurisdiction that would fundamentally erode the quality of life in our rural, unincorporated communities. We firmly believe the County has the right and obligation to comment on this federal process because additional renewable energy development on federal land will have an impact on air quality, water resources, economic development, recreation, wildlife habitat and the physical health of citizens.

On Tuesday, February 13th several Morongo Basin Conservation Association Board of Directors spoke via live video link from teleconferencing room in the County Government Center in Joshua Tree. Their comments urged Supervisors:


  • To act swiftly to submit a comment during the DRECP scoping period that reflects the values of your constituents and makes it clear to Department of Interior (DOI) that the September 2016 DRECP LUPA Record of Decision should stand as is and there should be no further changes to the allocations of conservation, recreational or renewable energy designations in this comprehensive plan.

Re. San Bernardino RECE (Renewable Energy Conservation Element):

  • To act immediately to send Renewable Energy Policy 4.10 and RE 4.10.1, 4.10.2 and 4.10.3 to the County Planning Commission and to adopt these measures as they were presented on August 8, 2017. Here is the original language we support. These measures provide the best means of protection against utility scale renewable energy projects that would fundamentally harm the fabric of our communities. This suite of policies is essential in prohibiting utility scale renewable energy projects under the County’s jurisdiction that would create adverse impacts on our unincorporated communities’ quality of life or economic development.

    What can you do?

* From this page on MBCA’s website you can print and/or download a letter to County Supervisors to both support the original language of RE Element section 4.10 and to request that the Supervisors oppose reopening the DRECP. Use the letter as presented or personalize your comments.

* Attend BLM Scoping meeting to state opposition to reopening DRECP.

WHEN: Thursday, March 1, 2018; 6:00 – 8:00pm
WHERE: Joshua Tree Community Center – 6171 Sunburst Ave., JT
(see Note below for additional details.)

* Sign the petition at the MBCA table outside Joshua Tree Health Food store during the Saturday Farmers Market.

* Join MBCA directors to reiterate these points during public comment period at the upcoming meetings of Supervisors to include your valuable voice as a voting constituent.

WHERE & WHEN: JT Burke Govt. Center: March 13, March 20 - 10:00am.

Note: Written comments should be sent to the BLM-California State Director, 2800 Cottage Way, Rm W-1623, Sacramento, CA 95825, or electronically to: [email protected]. All comments will be accepted in writing for 45 days after the publication of the notice in the Federal Register or 15 days after the last public meeting, whichever is later. Website:

(MBCA’s suggested deadline to submit comments to BLM: March 21, 2018.

The petition for your signature at the Farmers market includes a request to extend the 45-day comment period. We’ll inform you if the comment period extension is accepted.)

2018 MBCA Annual Business Meeting and Program

We had a great annual business meeting last Saturday. Here is a brief review. Thanks to all of you who attended and contributed. Special thanks to Jill Giegerich for her presentation: Introduction to Arid Lands Permaculture. We all left with a good sense of the principles of permaculture. Jill is an inspiration for cultivating a deeper appreciation and understanding of the forces of nature to inform our actions to design and nurture our landscapes.

Membership: Time to renew

2018 dues are due! It’s easy to initiate a membership or renew online. Your membership provides a reduced price of $5 for the upcoming April 28-29 Desert-Wise Landscape Tour.

Ruth Denison Environmental Conservation Scholarship

The 2018 – 2019 Ruth Denison Environmental Conservation Scholarship application period has opened.  Applicants must be a 2018 graduating Morongo Basin high school senior with a minimum GPA of 3.25 who is planning to prepare for employment in careers related to environmental or conservation work. The $500 scholarship will be awarded for the 2018-19 academic year. If you know someone who is eligible, please help us spread the word!


Sarah Kennington, MBCA President


Your 2017 MBCA Board

David Fick, Vice President                       Steve Bardwell, Treasurer
Marina West, Recording Secretary           Pat Flanagan, Director
Meg Foley, Director                                  Mike Lipsitz, Director
Ruth Rieman, Director                              Claudia Sall, Director for Events
Seth Shteir, Director                                  Laraine Turk, Director

MBCA advocates for a healthy desert environment
that nurtures the region’s rural character, cultural wealth
and economic well-being.


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Resources for RECE and DRECP Comments

The information and links below are intended to assist you in responding to MBCA's February 14 Eblast request to contact the County Board of Supervisors about the County's Renewable Energy and Conservation Element, and about the proposed review of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan / DRECP.  

1. Here is the language in the County's Renewable Energy Element that we urge the Supervisors to retain as originally submitted.

RE Policy 4.10:  Prohibit utility-oriented RE project development on sites that would create adverse impacts on the quality of life or economic development opportunities in existing unincorporated communities.

RE 4.10.1:  Prohibit development of utility-oriented RE projects in the Rural Living Land use districts throughout the County.

RE 4.10.2 Prohibit development of utility- oriented RE projects within the boundaries of existing community plans, which at the time of adoption of this element are the Bloomington, Muscoy, Bear Valley, Crest Forest, Hilltop, Lake Arrowhead, Lytle Creek, Oak Glen, Homestead Valley, Joshua Tree, Lucerne Valley, Morongo Valley, Oak Hills and Phelan/Pinon Hills Community Plan.

RE 4.10.3 Establish exclusion areas in the Development Code regulations for renewable energy development, beginning with the prohibitions in Policies 4.10.1 and 4.10.2 and provide for additional exclusion areas, such as new community plan areas to be designated by amendment to the development code.

2.  Here is a link to the comprehensive Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan - DRECP that was finalized in September 2016 to designate focus areas for large-scale renewable energy development across the Mojave Desert and also conservation lands that should not be available for such development.

3.  Here are two version of a model/sample letter to the Supervisors, in PDF format that you may print and send with your signature, or you can download the letter as a Word document and edit it with your own personalized comments before sending. 

San Bernardino County Supervisors

385 North Arrowhead Avenue

San Bernardino, CA  92415



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2018 Annual Meeting Review


An engaged audience of about 40 enjoyed two presentations at MBCA's Annual Meeting on Saturday, February 10 at the Center for Healthy Generations. President Sarah Kennington provided an overview of 2017's main issues and achievements and noted that the Board will be planning some special events for 2019, which will be MBCA's 50th anniversary.  


Permaculture educator Jill Giegerich provided a comprehensive introduction to the concepts and practices of permaculture that elicited questions and enthusiasm.  Program evaluations indicated a strong interest in finding out more about permaculture.  The evaluation also asked "What do you think MBCA does best?" and we were gratified to read responses like "Stands up for the environment" and "Spreading info from all MB orgs - a one place to learn about all."  


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Review of DRECP - Comments Needed

After years of consultation and public input (including hundreds of letters and in-person comments from Morongo Basin residents), the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan carved out 388,000 acres of public land in the Mojave Desert for renewable-energy development and set aside 5 million acres, or 7,812 square miles, for conservation.  Due to the President’s December Executive Order "Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth," the BLM has initiated a 45-day public comment period that began February 2, 2018.  Here is the Federal Register document initiating the comment period and providing details on the areas of inquiry and how to comment.  MBCA will be providing information and suggestions for comments in the near future.  Here are several news articles on the issue; the titles provide a picture of what is at stake:  “Trump administration signals move against California desert protection plan” from the San Francisco Chronicle; “Trump administration takes aim at California desert protection plan” from the Los Angeles Times; “Trump plan could undo preservation of millions of acres of California desert for renewable energy development” from the Riverside Press Enterprise.

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County Report on Section 6/DVCA

At the Monday, January 8 meeting of the Morongo Basin Municipal Advisory Council, County District Services Coordinator Frank Haggard presented a slide show demonstrating the County's plans for the Desert View Conservation Area, known by many residents as Section 6.  This day-use-only area has been overwhelmed with National Park visitors illegally using it as an overflow campground, causing disruption to nearby residents and damage to the property.  The plans include hiking trails, a shade shelter, signage, and parking.  Additional information can be found in this KCDZ news story and in these notes made by a local resident. Residents with questions, comments, or an interest in volunteering to help with this project should call 760.366.8415.

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Eblast January 8, 2018

MBCA Annual Business Meeting & Program – February 10, 2018
MBCA’s Palen Solar Project Comment letter

Dear MBCA Members and Supporters,

Welcome to the New Year! MBCA Directors have already started the countdown to next year. 2019 will be MBCA’s 50th anniversary! We’re proud to remind you that MBCA is the earliest (isn’t that better than oldest?) conservation group in the Morongo Basin, having been incorporated in 1969. We’ll be preparing for what we hope to be a remarkable celebration of the legacy of conservation activism in the Morongo Basin.

What else? Honestly I hope that we won’t repeat this year with what some have coined for 2017 - the Year of Comments.  Seems there was a constant drum beat - in practically every E-Blast – with announcements that comments were due to the BLM or County or another decision making entity. Deadline after deadline seemed the routine. I guess it goes with the territory. But, I for one would welcome a break in the consistency of needing to collect myself and alert you for “substantive comments.” We’ll see how that goes!

2017 wasn’t an easy year for desert conservation. That’s a huge understatement given the reversal of environmental policy we’ve seen. Mounting pressures from those in Washington working to diminish national monuments, end the Antiquities Act, and starve National Parks for funding. That combined with the dramatic increase in visitation to public lands in the Mojave, along with a steep increase in Park entrance fees just doesn’t seem right. As a MBCA Advisor and others remind us, this is not “normal”! Let’s hope though that it doesn’t become “normal.” Make our New Year’s Resolution: threats to the public lands must STOP!

MBCA as a 501c3 organization cannot endorse a particular candidate for office. We can and will however ask candidates running for office for their positions on protecting public land and similar issues that relate to the MCBA mission. We intend to provide online candidate forums that you may use in evaluating candidates for state, federal and local positions.

I applaud the editorial board of the Hi-Desert Star for their New Year Resolutions to Hi-Desert leaders (December 28, 2017). The Our View editorial page column included:  JTNP employees: to refuse to be bullied by climate change deniers into silence over the scientifically–proved phenomenon, which could have a catastrophic impact on the national park and the local economies.

MBCA Annual Meeting and Permaculture Program: SAVE THE DATE!

WHEN: Saturday, February 10, 2018
WHERE: Center for Healthy Generations, Yucca Valley

Although MBCA’s Annual Meeting is usually in January, it will be held on February 10 this year. This is when we review for our members and supporters our business and activities of the past year, look to the year ahead, collect membership dues, and present a topical program.

Jill Giegerich has generously agreed to lead the program, "Introduction to Permaculture for Arid Lands." 

MBCA sends comment on Palen Solar

MBCA sent a comprehensive comment letter to the BLM regarding the Draft Supplemental EIR for the Palen Solar Power Project. We support the No Action Alternative “as the only alternative which will do no harm to the biological and cultural integrity of the landscape.” The detailed examination written by our scientist Board member Pat Flanagan described conflicts involving hydrology, biological resources, visual resources, and air quality. In the document you will find photography and maps that illustrate our position. Once again, Pat’s analysis and insights argue convincingly.

MBCA Board: one Director returns from hiatus & one joins in new year

Finally, we are pleased to announce the return of Seth Shteir to the Board. We are also delighted to announce the addition of Mike Lipsitz to the Board. Seth returns to the Basin having accepted a position in External Affairs at the Marine Base. We are fortunate to have him back with us with his invaluable insights into conservation in the Mojave desert. Many of you know Mike from his reporting at Z107.7. He has served as an Advisor to MBCA and now joins us with his many talents in communications and commitment to serve the community. It’s been said – I certainly do – that MBCA has a great board of directors! We are a true team and will continue our work to serve you and to keep the Basin the special place that it is.

Yes, 2018 dues are due! It’s easy to initiate a membership or renew online:



Sarah Kennington, MBCA President


Your 2018 MBCA Board

David Fick, Vice President                          Steve Bardwell, Treasurer
Marina West, Recording Secretary             Pat Flanagan, Director
Meg Foley, Director                                     Mike Lipsitz, Director
Claudia Sall, Director for Events                 Ruth Rieman, Director
Laraine Turk, Director                                 Seth Shteir, Director

MBCA advocates for a healthy desert environment
that nurtures the region’s rural character, cultural wealth
and economic well-being.


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