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

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.

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

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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EBlast December 8, 2019


Appeal of Daggett Solar Power Facility to be heard by Board of Supervisors Tuesday December 10

Fish and Game Commission to consider listing of Joshua Tree as a threatened or endangered species

MBCA monthly Board Meeting venue change

Hold the date for or annual meeting January 25, 2020

Appeal of Daggett Solar Power Facility to be heard by Board of Supervisors Tuesday December 10

On September 19, 2019 the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for this massive, 5-1/2 square mile solar energy development, was certified by the San Bernardino County Planning Commission. Subsequently the Newberry Community Services District appealed this decision and the appeal is to be considered by the Board of Supervisors at their upcoming meeting.

MBCA submitted a letter, and directors presented oral comments in opposition to the certification. This project is proposed to be located within the disadvantaged rural communities of Daggett and Newberry Springs. MBCA contends, among other things, that the EIR has not considered the Social and Environmental Justice impacts on the residents that are adjacent to and surround this development.

The effects, both short term and over the life of the project, of grading and compacting half a million cubic yards of soil have not been adequately evaluated within the EIR. We believe the downwind residents will likely be subject to increased levels of PM10 and PM2.5 pollution that are very unhealthful to any sensitive receptors. The conditions of approval have no mandates for establishing any air quality baseline data within this specific area of our desert. The soil types within the development area are not suitable for compaction and are within a sand transport path, or linear dune, and are subject to contributing to wind blown dust and sand. The EIR instead relies on regional air quality evaluation that utilizes air monitors upwind (to the west!) of the project.

The EIR failed to address and account for the approximately 50% of intact desert containing native plants such as ancient creosote (as old as 4000 years!), salt bush and caliche that would be destroyed, releasing their sequestered carbon and eliminating their ability to continue to perform this service to the environment. The EIR has failed to recognize the important wildlife corridor that serves to connect the regions north of the I-15 and I-40 to – ultimately - Joshua Tree to the south. MBCA has been advocating for the inclusion of recognized wildlife corridors within County maps to preserve and respect these important highways for the planet’s ever-increasingly stressed species.

MBCA believes the findings justifying the approval of this project are false and that this development will in fact produce adverse effects on the surrounding communities.

MBCA recognizes that there is a critical need to eliminate carbon based electrical generation; however, the analysis utilized in evaluating projects towards this end must also reflect the urgency of climate change and the value of the intact environment that we are striving to protect. MBCA continues to advocate for distributed electrical generation on rooftops within the built environment proximate to the point of use. While portions of this Daggett site may be appropriate for industrial scale renewable energy development, the EIR has not presented a thorough scientifically defensible and complete evaluation of the effects of this development.

December 10, 2019 at 10am
The item number for this issue is #55 on the official agenda . (Click on the agenda number to see the supporting documents). Of particular interest is the PowerPoint prepared by the appellant.


 Video conferencing of the meeting will be available in Joshua Tree at the Bob Burke Government Center at 63665 Twentynine Palms Highway Joshua Tree, CA 92252 and at the Jerry Lewis High Desert Government Center 15900 Smoke Tree Street, Hesperia 92345.

The Supervisors will be meeting at:
San Bernardino County Government Center
Covington Chambers, 1st floor
385 N Arrowhead Ave
San Bernardino, CA 92415
United States

Fish and Game Commission to consider listing of Joshua Tree as a threatened or endangered species

As some of you are aware, The California State Fish and Game Commission is set to receive a petition to list the Western Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia) as a threatened or endangered species. The agenda for the Commission hearing has been revised to add a consent item for a 30-day extension to review this item. This listing would be of significant importance to our desert environment where the Joshua Tree is under stress from the effects of climate change. I encourage MBCA supporters to follow the proceedings of this very important Commission where decisions are regularly considered that reflect our reaction to, and efforts to adapt to the rapidly changing climate and environment.

MBCA Monthly Board Meeting Venue Change

The venue for the December meeting of the Board of Directors has been changed from our usual Town of Yucca Valley meeting room to the Center for Healthy Generations on a one-time basis:

Thursday December 12, 2019
5:00 – 7:00 pm
The Center for Healthy Generations
57121 Sunnyslope Dr.
Yucca Valley, CA 92284

Our meetings are open and we welcome your attendance as we discuss and address the many important issues we must consider in advocating for the healthy desert!

Hold the date for our annual meeting January 25, 2020

Please mark your calendars and hold the date for our annual meeting. This will mark the 50th anniversary of MBCA and we will be celebrating this milestone with the publication of a book of our past accomplishments and our plans for the future!

Hoping your Holiday Season helps to brings you joy and happiness and the opportunity to get outdoors and experience our beautiful desert!

Steve Bardwell

Your MBCA Board:

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





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