BLM Approves Eagle Crest Pumped Storage Project

On August 1, BLM issued a press release indicating its approval of the Eagle Crest Energy Company's plan for a "pumped storage" project at the former Eagle Mountain Mine near Desert Center. MBCA and many environmental groups and Joshua Tree National Park supporters have opposed the project. Even though it is described as a project that supports renewable energy, damage to the Park's ecological balance seems certain. MBCA's most recent News Update about this issue highlighted the Company's missed construction start deadline.  In his August 1 story on the Eagle Crest project, Sammy Roth of the Desert Sun has included a history of the issues and status of the project and perspectives from both sides.

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Nestle Water Extraction Permit Renewed

Nestle Corporation has been given a 3-year permit to extract water for their "Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water," with new monitoring requirements. This US Forest Service decision came after news stories and lawsuits that began in 2015 brought attention to Nestle's long-expired permit and reports of damage to fragile habitats due to the water extraction. The new monitoring requirements are perceived as inadequate by activists who brought lawsuits against Nestle.  Learn more in Ian James' Desert Sun article "Nestle granted new three-year water permit to keep piping water out of California national forest." 
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Deadline Missed on Eagle Crest Pumping Project Near JTNP

The Desert Sun has reported that construction on the Eagle Crest hydropower plant on the southeastern edge of Joshua Tree National Park did not begin on June 19, a deadline approved as part of its license by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  While the consequences of this missed deadline are not known immediately, National Park Conservation Association representative Chris Clarke expresses the hope that it will result eventually in the area being returned to the National Park. Read his statement and more about the issue in Sammy Roth's June 21 story. (Article link updated 6/22/18 with more information about Congressional action possibilities.)
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MBCA's WEMO Routes Comments to BLM

Thanks once again to Board member Pat Flanagan, MBCA has submitted a researched, detailed, and illustrated comment letter in response to the BLM's request for comments on the Draft West Mojave Route Network Project Land Use Plan Amendment for the California Desert Conservation Area Plan and Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, aka "WEMO."

The areas of most interest to MBCA regarding controlling OHV activity in the Morongo Basin and the Lucerne Valley areas are found within Travel Management Area 3. TMA 3 stretches east and west from south of Apple Valley to Wonder Valley.  The subregions of BLM land are found in Juniper Flats, Rattlesnake Canyon, Sand to Snow National Monument, Joshua Tree, and Wonder Valley.

Specifically, MBCA asks BLM to implement the provisions of Alternative 2 because they "emphasize protection of physical, biological, and heritage resources, while providing for the smallest transportation and travel network focused on through access, and the most limited acreage and forage allocation dedicated to livestock grazing, comparatively." The BLM's preferred Alternative 4 would yield negative consequences to all those important attributes.

You can find maps and information specific to the Morongo Basin's OHV regulations on pages 2&3 of the MBCA comment letter.
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Eblast June 11, 2018

WEMO comments DEADLINE this Thursday, 6/14/18

Dear MBCA Members and Supporters,

Time to get your BLM West Mojave Route system (WEMO) response comments composed and sent by the deadline this Thursday!

There is some good news in Alternative # 2 – many dirt roads in Wonder Valley and other areas have been designated “Street Legal Vehicles Only.” Let the BLM know you support SLO in rural neighborhoods with checker boarded with BLM and private property!

For a full update, go to MBCA's previous news update on this topic, which has links to the COW website for insights and recommendations for making substantive comments.

The Wilderness Society has also posted a website with a form letter that you can use and a link to the BLM for sending comments directly.

This is our chance to assist the BLM in getting it right – to send a very strong message from Basin residents to make our dirt roads STREET LEGAL ONLY for Motorized vehicle use. This will reduce conflicts with OVH’s that we know only too well

If you do not have the time to compose individualized comments, use the COW or Wilderness Society templates. Thanks for your attention to this issue that is core to our quality of life in the Mojave desert.


Sarah Kennington, President

Morongo Basin Conservation Association


Your 2018 MBCA Board

   David Fick, Vice President                        Steve Bardwell, Treasure
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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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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