EBlast June 8, 2020

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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

 

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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. 
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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.

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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

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.

 

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Hi-Desert Water District Seeks Comments on its Mitigated Negative Declaration

As part of its Sewer Collection System Project for Yucca Valley, the Hi-Desert Water District must file a Mitigated Negative Declaration describing what environmental disturbance will occur in Phases II and III of the project and how the consequences will be mitigated. Here is the Water District's Draft MND webpage that includes an overview of the process and all the relevant documents. Comments must be submitted by May 31, 2020.
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MBCA Signs 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 and 16 other groups and more than 50 individuals, the case is built against Aurora Solar LLC, a 3600-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 Aurora Solar project in Lucerne Valley would be damaging to the community.
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EBlast April 20, 2020

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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 morongo@sbcsd.org. 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!

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

 

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