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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Joshua Trees May Be Designated Threatened in California

Holey_Joshua_Tree.jpegLast fall the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned California to list the western Joshua tree as a threatened species under California's Endangered Species Act. On April 13 the state's Department of Fish and Wildlife agreed. The Department's Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the recommendation in June. You can find thorough coverage of the story on local radio KCDZ, on the Mojave Watch blog, and in the Desert Sun and Los Angeles Times online newspapers.
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MBCA Supports Stronger Mountain Lion Protection

MBCA has sent a letter to the California Fish and Game Commission recommending a review of the status of mountain lion populations in the Southern California and Central Coast mountain areas. There are genetic connections between those beleaguered populations and lions known to be in Joshua Tree National Park. Such a review should lead to listing those mountain lions as "threatened" under the California Endangered Species Act.
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MBCA comments on proposed changes to NEPA

The National Environmental Policy Act has been a critical tool in defending the health and welfare of our Mojave Desert and its residents. The current Administration has proposed changes to NEPA regulations that decimate these protections. MBCA has submitted a comment letter against these changes that references local experiences with NEPA and its relationship to our mission to "advocate for the healthy desert." In addition, MBCA has signed on to a letter representing 328 organizations and tribal nations that comprehensively defines the value of NEPA and reasons for rejection of the proposed changes.
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Pumped Storage at Eagle Mountain and Related Issues

A comprehensive article about the Eagle Mountain pumped storage project and similar projects in other areas of the country was published by the Los Angeles Times. MBCA has had continuing concerns about the use of the old Eagle Mountain mine for many years, especially as it relates to the environmental health of Joshua Tree National Park (which is noted in the article). To review past MBCA News Updates related to Eagle Mountain, go to MBCA's Search page and type in "Eagle" or "Eagle Mountain" and you'll find several dozen links to past relevant MBCA News and EBlasts. 
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Annual Meeting Video Now Available

A full video recording of MBCA's 2020 Annual Meeting focused on Sustainable Tourism is now available on YouTube. Below you will find a time stamp list for the major sections of the meeting. (Video by Bob Stephenson, Pro Video, Yucca Valley)

0:00:00    Opening

0:01:15    Blessing by Sean Milanovich, Vice President, Native American Land Conservancy (Cahuilla [Agua Caliente Band])

0:08:10    Opening remarks by MBCA President Steve Bardwell

0:27:25    Sustainable Tourism remarks by Joshua Tree National Park Superintendent David Smith

0:45:35    Sustainable Tourism remarks by Associate Director California Deserts for the National Parks Conservation Association Chris Clarke

0:57:35    Audience questions moderated by MBCA Secretary Laraine Turk

1:01:00    Presentation on efforts to designate Highway 247/Old Woman Springs Road as a State Scenic Highway by Sarah Kennington, MBCA Board member

1:52:10    Launch of MBCA's commemorative 50th anniversary book, Celebrating the Past: Envisioning the Future and acknowledgements

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MBCA Comments on Crimson Solar, Riverside County

MBCA has added its voice of opposition to the Crimson Solar project in Riverside County. A detailed analysis of and comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Report by our colleagues at Basin and Range Watch and Western Watersheds Project resulted in this conclusion:

"The BLM should select the No Action Alternative for the Crimson Solar Project. The project is not complete in planning. The BLM has not chosen or decided on adequate mitigation yet. The project's storage plan is full of flaws. California is overgenerating large-scale solar energy. It is not worth the risk to special status species, and to degrade so many resources on lands considered so sacred to Native Americans - especially when the project technology is so speculative."

Read the entire comment letter for all the details. 
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Desert Sun Reports on MBCA's Annual Meeting

Many of the important messages delivered about sustainable tourism by MBCA's Annual Meeting keynote speakers David Smith and Chris Clarke are noted in reporter Sean Newell's January 25 Desert Sun article "Amid an increase in Joshua Tree-area visitors, conservationists talk 'sustainable tourism.'" We encourage readers to share the article widely, as part of the suggestion expressed by Chris Clarke: "Clarke mentioned that if only 10 percent of the annual park visitors became active in advocating for the desert, roughly 300,000 people could become involved."  

Also read local radio station KCDZ 107.7FM's coverage of the event.

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EBlast January 13, 2020

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Attend MBCA annual meeting Saturday January 25 2020!

Daggett Solar Power Facility Update

Survey regarding Solar Energy Development in Southern California

BLM seeking nominations for Resource Advisory Councils

 

Attend MBCA annual meeting January 25 2020!

This year’s annual meeting will mark the beginning of MBCA’s 51st year of advocacy for the healthy desert! The theme this year is ‘Sustainable Tourism,’ a topic that vital to our desert and to Joshua Tree National Park that has seen an explosion of visitation over the last several years. We all love our desert and value the National Park, but the increased visitation has consequences of concern for the Park and our Morongo Basin communities.We are pleased to announce keynote presentations by two highly respected voices for protecting our desert: David Smith, superintendent of Joshua Tree National Park, and Chris Clarke, the California Desert Associate Director at the National Parks Conservation Association.

Also during the meeting we are so pleased to be able to distribute our just-published book to every attendee: Celebrating the Past – Envisioning the Future. This 68-page book documents the 50 years of environmental and community activism by MBCA and recognizes the many people that have guided MBCA, and continue to do so.

The Morongo Basin is home to many groups and organizations that work to protect the desert environment for the benefit of us all. Some of these organizations will be in attendance with information about their work, including: the Mojave Desert Land Trust, The Wildlands Conservancy, Joshua Tree National Park Association, The California Native Plant Society – Mojave Chapter, The SummerTree Institute, The California Desert Coalition, and Sky’s the Limit Observatory and Nature Center.  We will be serving refreshments and a light vegetarian lunch. In the interest of sustainability we are striving to make this a zero-waste event and we encourage attendees to bring their own drinking vessel and utensils, although we will have glasses and utensils available.

When: 
Saturday, January 25, 2020 10:00am to 1:00pm

Where:
The Yucca Room
Yucca Valley Community Center
57090 Twentynine Palms Highway
Yucca Valley, CA 92284

Annual Meeting 2020 Press Release

Daggett Solar Power Facility Update

On December 10, 2019, The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve the construction of this massive 3,500-acre development within the rural communities of Daggett and Newberry Springs. MBCA spoke to the Supervisors and contended that there are deficiencies within the Environmental Impact Report as well as unacknowledged impacts on the residents within the neighboring communities. (Read our May 2019 news story that includes a link to the comprehensive MBCA comment letter.) The Newberry Springs Community Services District and the Friends of Newberry Springs have now filed a lawsuit against the County within the allowed 30-day period.

The basis of the lawsuit is clearly and thoroughly described within the filings, and among other issues challenges the approval that the development complies with San Bernardino County’s Development Code, Chapter 84.29 Renewable Energy Generation Facilities. This code was adopted within the last 5 years and was crafted to specifically address the effects of inappropriate industrial scale developments within our rural communities. The approval of the Daggett Solar Power Facility by the Board is a clear warning that in spite of our declaring a victory with the passage of Section 4.10 of the Renewable Energy and Conservation Element of the County Wide Plan, the rural communities of San Bernardino are not safe from the many deleterious effects and the scourge of industrial scale renewable energy developments.

Survey regarding Solar Energy Development in Southern California

And now on to the perfect segue: please take the opportunity to complete this online survey about your opinion on the development of solar within Southern California. This survey is being conducted by Jennifer Bernstein, a lecturer in Geographic Information and Science Technology at the University of Southern California. Some of the issues raised by the approval of the Daggett project are included within this survey. This is an opportunity to have your voice considered.

BLM seeking nominations for Resource Advisory Councils NEPA changes

The Bureau of Land Management is seeking nominations for Resource Advisory Councils (RAC), including the California Desert District RAC. These Councils “provide advice and recommendations to the BLM on land use planning and management of the national System of Public Lands within their geographic areas.Nominations are due Feb 24, 2020. Here is the Federal Register Notice or go directly to the RAC application.

I’m looking forward to seeing you at our upcoming meeting, where we will also welcome two new Directors, Janet Johnston and Arch McCulloch.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year and perfection in 2020!

Steve Bardwell

Your MBCA Board:

Steve Bardwell, President                         Pat Flanagan, Director       
David Fick, Vice President                         Meg Foley, Director
Laraine Turk, Recording Secretary             Janet Johnston, Director
Marina West, Treasurer                             Mike Lipsitz, Director 
Sarah Kennington, Past President              Arch McCulloch, Director
                                                               Ruth Rieman, Director

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Desert Large-Scale Solar Projects Update

For a review of the status of large-scale solar projects at the start of 2020, read the Desert Sun's January 3 story "Solar surges in California Desert." It summarizes the ongoing issues of large-scale vs. rooftop solar, environmental and endangered species concerns, and includes a list of current projects and their status.
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