Essay Contest Winners 2018

Eleven Landscape Tour participants submitted essays to our Contest this year - 4 more than the previous high of 7 essays! The voting was very close. All the judges were impressed with the quality of all the essays and the clear message of combining conservation with desert beauty. We thank the eleven writers for the time they spent portraying their Tour experience and the value of water-wise landscaping.

See a variety of photos from this year's Tour on our Landscape Tour Review page. (And for information on where to purchase native plants for your own landscape, see MBCA's Native Plant Nurseries page!)

Here are the three prize-winning Landscape Tour Essay Contest winners.  Click their name to read their essay.

1st place - Cynthia Heaton - $200 Unique Garden Center gift certificate
2nd place - Lisa Lafferty - $150 Cactus Mart gift certificate
3rd place - Cynthia Von Halle - $100 Cactus Mart gift certificate

Below are links to the other eight creative and thoughtful essays, in alphabetical order. 

Daniel Brenner
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Denison Scholarship Awarded

Yucca Valley High School senior Morgan Novak was awarded the Ruth Denison Conservation and Environmental Scholarship to apply to her studies beginning in fall 2018 in the Environmental Studies program at Eastern New Mexico State University. In addition to achieving an excellent academic record, Morgan participated in intercollegiate athletics and the Environmental Science Club.  She also volunteered for the Mojave Desert Land Trust, Joshua Tree National Park, and the Pioneertown Mountains Preserve. Congratulations and Good Luck from MBCA, Morgan!

Learn more about Ruth Denison's legacy and the Scholarship on our Denison Scholarship webpage.

Morgan is quoted extensively in this June 2, 2018 article in the Hi Desert Star about the field ecology class at Yucca Valley High School which bolstered her interest in an environmental career. 
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Planning Commission Vote Supports Desert Communities

At their May 24 meeting, in a 4-0 vote, the San Bernardino County Planning Commission supported the original version of Policy 4.10 of the Renewable Energy and Conservation Element of the County General Plan. In August 2017 the County Supervisors had asked for a review of 4.10. After nine months, Land Use Services provided the Commission with a revised version of 4.10 that clearly benefitted developers over desert communities.

Passionate public comments from dozens of desert residents present at the County Government Center, and also at the Joshua Tree and Hesperia videoconferencing sites, lasted about 5 1/2 hours. Another hour-plus of questions to the LUS staff and intense discussion among the Commissioners ended when Commissioner Paul Smith of 29 Palms moved to approve the original version of Policy 4.10 as part of a three-item motion that additionally approved some minor revisions to other parts of the Policy. All four Commissioners present voted in favor.

Update:  Here is the story on KCDZ 107.7 radio newsseveral stories on the Mojave Watch website, and coverage in the Victor Valley Daily Press.

The recommendation from the Commission will be sent forward for consideration by the Board of Supervisors.

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MBCA Urges Freedom from Large Solar in Rural Communities

Will the County of San Bernardino truly stand behind their claims of support for residents of rural communities who have been confronted in recent years with one after another ill-suited development projects?  The answer will become evident at this Thursday’s 9AM Planning Commission Meeting in San Bernardino. The single agenda item is the Renewable Energy Conservation Element (RECE) section 4.10. Read the original version and the staff-recommended revision and see how unprotected the revision leaves us. The original version prohibits large scale renewable energy development in rural desert communities; the revised version simply benefits energy developers.

In MBCA’s May 21, 2018 official comment letter to the Planning Commission, we strongly defend the original version of RECE 4.10. Our rationale is supported by extensive citations from County documents that show how the revised language is in contrast to earlier County stances on development in rural areas.

Show your support with your presence at the Planning Commission Hearing, either in San Bernardino or at one of the two remote videoconferencing sites. 

Other links and details on the videoconferencing sites in Joshua Tree and Hesperia can be found in our May 18 Eblast.

Again, we urge desert residents to attend the meeting in San Bernardino or at the remote videoconference sites in San Bernardino or Hesperia for a show of solidarity against the RECE 4.10 revision by Land Use Services staff.


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Eblast May 18, 2018

SB County RECE 4.10: Planning Commission hearing, THURSDAY, 5/24/18

  • Complimentary MBTA bus transportation from JT – RSVP!

WEMO: comments due Thursday, 6/14/18

Dear MBCA Members and Supporters,

One last reminder about the critically important …
San Bernardino Co. Planning Commission hearing: RECE 4.10
WHEN:  May 24th, 9AM
WHERE:  County Government Center, 385 N. Arrowhead Ave., San Bernardino, CA. 92415 and remote video-conference facilities in Joshua Tree and Hesperia (see below for locations)

Speak up to protect our Communities from utility scale Renewable Energy development in existing community plan areas and Rural Living land use districts!

Advocate for Policy 4.10 as proposed on Aug. 8, 2017! The newly revealed Staff Recommendation for Policy 4.10 opens the door to developers for the industrialization of our communities!

We can make a difference if we show up and speak out! Speakers have 3 minutes to present their comments. To prepare, carefully read the County's recent report on the original and edited versions of RECE 4.10, then review MBCA’s perspective in this summary that opposes the revisions.

Participate remotely from the JT or Hesperia’s video conferencing
WHERE: Burke Government Building, 63665 29 Palms Highway
OR:Jerry Lewis High Desert Government Center, Hesperia
         15900 Smoke Tree St., suite 131

If you cannot attend the PC Hearing, submit written comments to
Linda Mawby, Senior Planner (


The BLM has published the latest draft of the West Mojave Route system (aka WEMO) on March 16, 2018. Public response comments wlll be accepted through June 14th.

There is some good news in Alternative # 2 – many dirt roads in Wonder Valley and other areas have been designated “street legal vehicles only” per many residents’ suggestions!

For a full update, go to this May 17 MBCA News Update with links to the COW (Community ORV Watch) website for insights and recommendations on making substantive comments.

In closing
See you in San Bernardino next Thursday at the Planning Commission hearing or I’ll watch you comment remotely on the video screen there as you make comments from JT or Hesperia. We’ll make a full-report on RECE in the next E-Blast – hopefully with good news!

Sarah Kennington, President
Morongo Basin Conservation Association

Your 2018 MBCA Board
David Fick, Vice President                      Steve Bardwell, Treasurer   
Marina West, Recording Secretary           Pat Flanagan, Director
Meg Foley, Director                                Mike Lipsitz, Director
Ruth Rieman, Director                            Claudia Sall, Director
Seth Shteir, Director                               Laraine Turk, Director 

MBCA advocates for a healthy desert environment
that nurtures the region’s rural character, cultural wealth
and economic well-being.

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WEMO Comments Due June 14

The BLM published the latest draft of the West Mojave Route Network Project (aka WEMO) on March 16, 2018. Public comments on this motorized vehicle management plan will be accepted through June 14. Community ORV Watch has taken the lead in providing a great deal of thoughtful and helpful information to ensure that your comments are substantive and informed - and make a difference. They provide a sample template comment letter but encourage you not only to add your own personalized comments, but also to comment on specific routes that will affect your neighborhood.

For an introduction to the current WEMO plan, view this WEMO PowerPoint presentation (in PDF format) created by Pat Flanagan.

MBCA and COW both urge support of Alternative #2 rather than the BLM's Preferred Alternative #4. The Preferred Alternative #4 designates far too many miles of roads on BLM land bordering desert communities as open for any motorized vehicle usage. In Alternative #2, most of the routes would be limited to street-legal only vehicles, reducing the noise, dust, and damage that often accompany extensive use of off-road vehicles thereby reducing quality of life in nearby neighborhoods.

COW's WEMO page provides excellent and extensive detail and advice on making substantive comments to the BLM. In addition to supporting Alternative #2 over the BLM's Preferred Alternative #4, they will educate you step-by-step on how to decipher the BLM's PDF maps (don't use the online GIS maps-they are not accurate). Explore and then comment on specific routes that you have concerns about. Using the PDF maps provided by BLM (learn how at the COW website) gives you a chance to view the consequences of the proposed plans for your neighborhood.

Don't forget to complete your comments by June 14.

By email to;
By fax with Attn: WMRNP Plan Amendment to 951-697-5299;
By mail to
  Bureau of Land Management,
  California Desert District,
  Attn: WMRNP Plan Amendment,
  22835 Calle San Juan de Los Lagos,
  Moreno Valley, CA 92553  
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EBlast May 11, 2018

Protect our Communities Now
We are not exaggerating

Learn what you need to know and do at the
MAC meeting Monday, May 14 @ 5:30 PM in JT Community Center

WHAT: MAC (Morongo Basin Municipal Advisory Council)
WHEN: Monday, May 14, 2018 - NOTE NEW TIME, 5:30 PM
WHERE: Joshua Tree Community Center – 6171 Sunburst Ave

  • WEMO (BLM West Mojave Routes of Travel)

Yes, it’s back and we are on it. This time around it will be easier to comment. Learn the what, when, and how at the MAC.

  • Renewable Energy and Conservation Element (RECE) Policy 4.10 and subsections

Utility Scale Solar Projects could be in our future –

County Land Use Services has drafted a new ‘Staff Recommended’ Policy 4.10 that could bring large scale solar to the Morongo Basin, Lucerne Valley, Daggett, and Newberry Springs – rural communities with flat terrain and transmission. Read between the Staff Recommended lines here.

Then attend the Planning Commission Hearing,
Thursday, May 24, 9 AM.

The Planning Commission will decide to Prohibit Solar or 
to Allow Solar in rural residential communities.

WHEN: Thursday, May 24th, 9AM
WHERE: County Government Center, 385 N. Arrowhead Ave., San Bernardino, CA. 92415 and also remote videoconference sites in Hesperia and Joshua Tree.

Free bus transportation from Morongo Basin to attend this meeting

MBCA encourages you to attend the hearing in San Bernardino to make the greatest impact. If you would like to reserve a seat on a free bus to this Planning Commission Hearing, email us: You will receive an email with all details when they are known. Generally, there will be a meeting point in the Morongo Basin at about 7AM on May 24, and the return will be approximately 2-3PM.

If you are not able to make the trek to San Bernardino, please participate remotely from the video conferencing center at the Joshua Tree Burke Government Building (63665 29 Palms Highway) or the Jerry Lewis High Desert Government Center in Hesperia (15900 Smoke Tree St., suite 131).

A strong showing for our position is critical! The developers’ interest will undoubtedly be present – community interests must be present to tip the balance. Each public speaker will have 3 minutes to present comments.

Thanks for your attention and participation. We can make a difference – only if we show up and speak out!


Sarah Kennington, President
Morongo Basin Conservation Association

Your 2018 MBCA Board

David Fick, Vice President                      Steve Bardwell, Treasurer   
Marina West, Recording Secretary           Pat Flanagan, Director
Meg Foley, Director                                Mike Lipsitz, Director
Ruth Rieman, Director                            Claudia Sall, Director
Seth Shteir, Director                               Laraine Turk, Director

MBCA advocates for a healthy desert environment
that nurtures the region’s rural character, cultural wealth
and economic well-being.

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Minerva Hoyt Award Event for Pat Flanagan

With dozens of family, friends, and conservation colleagues on hand, MBCA Director Pat Flanagan was presented with the 14th Minvera Hoyt Conservation Award in a ceremony at the Twentynine Palms Inn on Wednesday, May 8. Pat was honored for her decades of service to preserve the health of the Mojave Desert and its communities. MBCA members and supporters know her for the brilliant and detailed science-based public comment letters she prepares on behalf of MBCA to educate decision-makers on the problematic effects of many development projects. Here are a few photos from the event (photo quality isn't great but we thought you'd enjoy Pat's expressions on receiving her special gift!). 

On the Mojave Watch news site, you can click on a YouTube video of the entire 2017 Minerva Hoyt Award Ceremony honoring Pat Flanagan.  It is about 33 minutes long.  Here’s a schedule of the sections within the video:
  • From 0:00 to 8:30, Emcee Jacqueline Guevara welcomes the gathering and introduces representatives of various conservation groups present.
  • From 8:30 to 14:10, Mark Lundquist, representing Supervisor James Ramos, presents a number of awards and gifts to Pat.
  • From 14:10 to 23:24, Pat speaks about some of her favorite desert issues and thanks everyone for coming.
  • From 23:24 to 32:38, Joshua Tree National Park Superintendent David Smith hosts introduces governmental representatives with certificates honoring Pat.
Mark Lundquist, Field Representative for Supervisor James Ramos, presented Pat with the Minerva Hoyt Award and a bag of gifts. She also received commendations from numerous regional government representatives. 

The next 3 photos show Pat receiving the surprise gift of her very own Purple Air sensor. In her recent research Pat has elaborated on the damages to human health caused by dangerous particulates blown into desert areas on existing "sand transport paths" due to scraping of land related to solar development. She has encouraged use of residential air quality monitors like this Purple Air sensor to alert air quality management regulators of this growing problem. She was clearly excited to now have her own sensor!

MBCA is so very grateful for Pat's contributions to MBCA and many other organizations, helping to accomplish improvements to life in the Morongo Basin and the Mojave Desert.  
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MBCA Comments on Daggett Solar Energy Project

MBCA continues to monitor land developments that are potentially harmful to the Mojave Desert, and to make public comments during environmental review processes.  MBCA's recent comments on the Daggett Solar Energy Project - once again carefully researched and documented by Board member Pat Flanagan - have been sent as part of the scoping process for the Daggett Solar Energy Project. Among the nine points of concern described concerns are air quality, scenic views, biological resources, and environmental justice.

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Cadiz Project Threatens Bonanza Spring - New Scientific Study

A new peer-reviewed research study funded by the Mojave Desert Land Trust was published on April 13 in the Journal of Scientific Forensics.  The study concludes that the proposed Cadiz water-mining project would diminish the flow of water in the largest spring in the area - Bonanza Spring - and thus harm the viability of the flora and fauna that rely on it. The news release by the National Parks Conservation Association provides background and details, and KCDZ radio station's report includes a link to the Journal article.  The Desert Sun has also reported on the study.
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