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.
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.
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.
The latest deadline for comments on the Palen Solar Project in Riverside County is December 11. Here is the BLM webpage explaining the project alternatives. This BLM press release gives details on how to comment. We are also providing two already-submitted comment letters to inform you of important issues you should consider in your own comment. Basin and Range Watch has provided a comprehensive overview of concerns and their letter includes maps and illustrations. The second comment letter by Alfredo Acosta Figueroa and Patricia Robles is on behalf of La Cuna de Aztlán Sacred Sites Protection Circle, and includes a great deal of information about why this land is sacred to tribal members. The attachments to the letter by La Cuna de Azlan Sacred Sites Protection Circle provide an extensive exploration and explanation of tribal sacred sites in desert areas that would be affected by the proposed Palen solar plant: Sacred Sites Attachments Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.
Dear MBCA Members and Supporters,
I hope you had a great Thanksgiving with family and friends. We have so much to be thankful for in the Morongo Basin.
The Basin is experiencing growth and more is certain. Along the way, we’ve learned much about working with the County to communicate the concerns of our communities about development that threatens to spoil the characteristics we value. We have the opportunity now to establish more effective measures to serve our communities and protect the natural resources in the Morongo Basin with the San Bernardino County 2018 Countywide Plan.
This MBCA Eblast is devoted to explaining the meaning and status of the Community Plans and why it is so important for you to express concern by submitting a comment by the deadline.
Deadline to submit Comments on Community Plans: Dec 15, 2017
Given that the Policy Plan component of the 2018 Countywide Plan is not yet available, we are only being asked to comment on the draft Community Plans. The difficulty of this is that we do not have knowledge of the policy and development codes that will enforce the goals, vision, and characteristics defined in the Community Plans.
The frustrating and ill-conceived process for revising the 2007 General Plan and Community Plans must be acknowledged! Many Morongo Basin and Lucerne Valley residents have voiced concerns that the policies in the existing Community Plans are being completely eliminated or replaced by what the County admits are really only “Suggested Action Plans.”
It is important that County Planning staff hear our concerns that they are eliminating policy from our Community Plans. Suggested Action Plans are not Community Plans. Real Community Plans must be adopted into the Countywide Plan.
Actions identified in plans have suggested Community advocates lead the various Actions. Many of these suggestions are simply off-base. Hypothetical organizations are imagined to form to meet anticipated needs and in other cases, existing organizations are nominated inappropriately. Other organizations with long-standing roles in serving the community have been overlooked.
For example, in the case of Joshua Tree, the Chamber of Commerce is named in numerous Actions – however, the Chamber was never contacted to explore the feasibility of their championing these responsibilities. With a paid staff of one at the JT Chamber, the County should have known that was a “pie in the sky” solution. The Joshua Tree National Park Association was a second organization mentioned – however, taking on community service of this nature is not within their mission. In the Pioneertown Plan a couple of the organizations are listed that haven’t functioned for years. The County cannot assume the community will - or even can - undertake the Actions in the Plans. It is beyond unreasonable. These communities are “severely economically distressed” and lack the infrastructure and resources to assume responsibility for the Actions listed.
The County cannot shirk the need to provide the leadership and governance – planning and implementation - required. We understand that community residents have vital roles in the fabric of their neighborhoods and community organizations. The rural desert communities are vibrant and resilient. But, they cannot be expected to take on the roles outlined in these Plans as presented. LVEDA’s comments document Action by Action how the community has worked in substantive ways to address egregious developments with County staff – particularly renewable energy in rural residential areas –and efforts have not been successful. What guarantee is there that these Action Plans will provide them with the protections they have clearly proactively called for over recent years?
Residents in Joshua Tree have also protested the Action Plan approach.
The Community Plans are intended “to guide local expectations for County services and set a clear direction for the future of each unincorporated community.” They are to “provide planning and implementation guidance for communities as they pursue their own unique lifestyle choices and goals.” The Suggested Action Plans fall short of these stated goals and threaten to leave desert communities without adequate tools for support and enforcement from the County.
MBCA holds that every community must have the protections of a Detailed Plan, regardless of the services, extent of the built environment, and organizations present. Don’t sell Pioneertown and Homestead Valley Communities, the Morongo Valley, and Wonder Valley short!
We suggest that your comments address environmental and economic concerns affecting your community specifically, as well as the wider Basin.
- climate change
- ecological concerns – wildlife corridors, species protections
- renewable energy
- natural resources – water, soils, air, open space & scenic qualities
- population growth
- growth of tourism
- dark skies
- traffic and transportation
- county services – health and welfare
Read and Comment on your Community Plan by clicking links below:
Joshua Tree – Draft Detailed Community Plan (aka Suggested Action Plan) and the 2007 Joshua Tree Community Plan
Pioneertown Communities (Gamma Gulch, Pioneertown, Pipes Canyon, Rimrock) – Foundation Plan.
Homestead Valley Communities (Flamingo Heights, Johnson Valley, Landers, Yucca Mesa) - Framework Plan.
Morongo Valley - Framework Plan.
Wonder Valley – “The County is preparing your webpage.”
Lucerne Valley - summary of key elements in Lucerne Valley’s 2007 Community Plan and the current Draft Detailed Community Plan (aka Suggested Action Plan).
Also, here are two support documents created by MBCA Director Pat Flanagan:
A sample result from utilizing keyword searches of County documents to find references to your specific issues and concerns (for example “scenic”).
Where to send Comments:
- online: through the link associated with your draft Community Plan (link above) or;
- e-mail or snail mail to:
(include your signature, printed, name, street address)
Two more issues briefly….
EXTENDED Comment period: fee increase to JTNP
Also call our elected official in D.C., Representative Paul Cook
Palen PV Solar Project Comment period
Read MBCA’s response to Palen Supplemental DEIS, Sept. 13, 2016 that addresses air quality impacts from location sited on Sand Transport Corridor and lack of AQMD regional monitoring for fugitive dust / PM10-2.5:
Your 2017 MBCA Board
Will Vicent presented an explanation of the state
energy system and the development of ZNE.
You can view this in the PDF slide show
Ron Kliewer's presentation (second half
of the PDF slide show, available below) described
and illustrated many energy-saving
home retrofit projects.
Table displays and representatives from Edison and several organizations that
provide energy retrofit assistance were present, as well as several local
You can view this PDF version of their slide show to see ZNE data and view many photos and illustrations. The first half outlines the history and political development of ZNE - California's Title 24 Residential Energy Code - and the latter half emphasizes retrofitting for energy savings.
Here is a clickable list of the additional resources that are listed on the last page of the Slide Show, with a few additional notes:
DSIRE is the most comprehensive source of information on incentives and policies that support renewables and energy efficiency in the United States. Established in 1995, DSIRE is operated by the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center at N.C. State University and is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Zero Net Energy Case Study Buildings
Power of Zero, Brad Liljequist. This site provides a description of this book on the publisher's site, where it can be purchased. It is also available through other online sources. It does not appear to be currently available in the San Bernardino County Library system.
Net Zero Energy Design, Tom Footman This is the Amazon listing of this book.
Zero Net Energy, New Buildings Institute This site has very comprehensive and current information on ZNE.