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 
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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." 
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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.
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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.

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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


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 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 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!


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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Morongo Basin and JTNP OHV News

Two news stories about OHV patrolling related to the Morongo Basin appeared recently. The Hi Desert Star reported that Lucas Niles, recently promoted to Captain of the Morongo Basin Station of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's office, "plans to continue to strengthen the department's off-highway-vehicle enforcement team." Through grant funding they have added a vehicle focused on patrolling illegal OHV hotspots and have increased staffing levels.

The Desert Sun reported that Joshua Tree National Park has applied for $120,000 in grant funding from a new program of the California State Parks focused on OHV issues on public lands. For more details on this new state program, including a link for providing public feedback, see this Desert Sun article, which also elaborates on the King of the Hammers event and Riverside County OHV issues. (For an easier read of the lengthy online article, here is a text-only version.)
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