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 blm_ca_wemo_project@blm.gov;
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: info@mbconservation.org. 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!

Sincerely,

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

www.mbconservation.org

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. 

Mark_and_Pat_award_and_bag.jpg
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!
Pat's_MH_gift_1.1.jpg
Pat's_MH_gift_1.2.jpg
Pat's_MH_gift_1.3.jpg


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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MBCA Director Pat Flanagan Named Minerva Hoyt Award Winner

MBCA Director Pat Flanagan is the 2017 recipient of the prestigious Minerva Hoyt Conservation Award. Background for the award and a list of previous recipients can be found on the Joshua Tree National Park Association's webpage. Many MBCA supporters recognize Pat as the author of dozens of comprehensive comment letters representing the stance of MBCA and our communities on various development and conservation issues. Her comment letters contain eloquent defenses of the need for preserving desert environments and provide in-depth research with science-based and referenced evidence. MBCA is very pleased that this recognition is being made for Pat's stellar contributions to MBCA and the entire desert community over many years. 

Local radio station KCDZ has reported on Pat's award here.

The Minerva Hoyt Award Ceremony will occur in May; MBCA will announce the date and location when confirmed.  We hope many MBCA members and supporters will join us in celebrating Pat!

Pat_F_thoughtful.jpg      Pat_with_mustard.jpg

 

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Interior Department Reconsidering National Park Fee Increases

Last December, many Morongo Basin and Mojave Desert residents were among the over 100,000 individuals across the country who commented in opposition to extreme fee increases for a number of National Parks including Joshua Tree National Park. Owing to the huge negative response, the Department of the Interior is reevaluating their plan; increased fees are still expected, but in smaller amounts. This Washington Post article provides background and details, including quotations from some impassioned commenters, and here is the local report by radio station KCDZ.

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Update on Cadiz Water Project

The San Gabriel Valley Water District, having been approached to be a customer of Cadiz, Inc.'s proposed water project, declined the opportunity at its Board meeting on Tuesday, March 21.  MBCA has been informing our supporters for several years about the likely harm that will be done to East Mojave ecosystems should the company's plan be completed.  This March 22 Desert Sun article describes the current situation and summarizes the history of the project.  This LA Weekly article that we shared last fall provides a comprehensive look at the Project's history.

You can read MBCA's letter of March 20 to the Board of the San Gabriel Valley Water District, urging against ratification of a contract with the Cadiz Water Project.  

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Eblast March 11, 2018

Morongo Basin Residents Defend the DRECP

Dear MBCA Members and Supporters,

It was a windy and chilly winter weeknight on March 1st… yet there was a fantastic turn out for the BLM-hosted DRECP (Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan) Scoping meeting and the subsequent conservation program in Joshua Tree. Every seat was occupied and a standing-room-only crowd filled the JT Community Center to capacity with as many as 200 attending. It was the strong response needed to demonstrate the Morongo Basin public’s support of conservation protections in the DRECP!

Thanks to all who were there. For those of you who were unable to attend, MBCA sponsored video documentation of the conservation program. Click here:  “Morongo Basin Residents / Defend DRECP Desert Plan”

The conservation panel was moderated by Chris Clarke, National Park Conservation Association. Panelists April Sall, California Desert Coalition, Kate Hoit, Vet Voice Foundation, & Frazier Haney, Mojave Desert Land Trust reviewed Department of Interior’s proposed amendment to the DRECP, and answered questions for making substantive comments. David Lamfrom, National Park Conservation Association, made eloquent closing remarks. Following the panel, a court recorder was provided for audience members’ oral responses to be submitted as comments to the DRECP Scoping.

The Basin community wants more, not less, public land protected from development. How do we communicate this with substantive comments to the Federal Administration?

There is a consensus that we don’t want to jeopardize the conservation lands achieved in the long 8-year DRECP process. Some voices at the meeting last week expressed the thought that accepting any changes to the Plan could unravel the whole bundle of agreements reached – like pulling at a thread in a knitted sweater. That was the just say “no” or “no change” position. Speakers noted that the process the DRECP established appears to be working. In the two years since the Record of Decision put the Plan into effect, there have been no lawsuits. Give it a chance to truly see how effective it is. This isn’t to say the DRECP is perfect, but let’s work within it before it’s scrapped for who knows what. It is not the conservation community advising the Department of Interior to reopen the DRECP, it is solar and wind energy developers and mining interests.

Another perspective contends that it’s not a question of whether the Administration will open up the DRECP, but when. This represents the position: if we don’t take a seat at the table, we won’t get dinner. The conservation community should weigh in with specifics on issues we’ve discovered since the implementation of the DRECP to identify where the Plan needs improvement and why. For example, issues around the location of Development Focus Areas (DFAs), especially with the increased knowledge of what can go wrong, including ineffective mitigations.

MBCA has been taking the lead, under the leadership of MBCA Director Pat Flanagan, at raising awareness of the unfortunate & irreversible impacts to our rural desert communities of inappropriately sited industrial scale Renewable Energy (RE). In particular, Pat has researched and shared when and where we can identify the effects of wind-borne dust after the delicate desert crust is damaged and native plants removed. Better soil analysis and knowledge to correlate the effects of siting RE along the Mojave Desert’s Sand Transport Paths (STPs) is needed.

Death by Dust!

Is this a social justice issue? Is this the Administration taking revenge on California? Is this a gross disregard for desert ecology and the welfare of desert citizens? I have to say, YES it is!

Here are considerations as you prepare to Comment on the DRECP:

If you are concerned about air quality - Say that!

If you are concerned about effects on wildlife – the desert tortoise, and other species - Say that!

If you are concerned about industrial scale RE overburdening our desert aquifers - Say that!

If you believe that California is on track to meet the 2030 goal established for 50% RE and that sufficient land was set aside for RE development in the DRECP (as does the California Energy Commission) - Say that!

If you have experienced the ill effects of a solar or wind “farm”  (Morongo Basin and Lucerne Valley residents have learned the hard way that their quality of life, and their property values are being destroyed from solar development sited next door to their homes) - Say that!

If you believe that point of use solar – rooftops & shade structures – is the way to go, not scraping intact pristine desert - Say that!

If you are benefiting from the Basin’s tourist economy and see the value of preserving the scenic values of our desert landscapes -

Say that!

If you believe it is critical to respond to climate change by keeping the natural desert landscape intact - Say that!

Say what you feel, you know, you care about! Be “substantive” – tie your concern back to a specific understanding about the DRECP and desert conservation.

If you haven’t already, make your voice heard in two critical ways


1.
BLM: Submit comments against the Administration’s plan to reduce conservation protections achieved in the DRECP by the March 22, 2018 deadline by writing to:

BLM-California State Director
electronically: BLM_CA_DRECP@blm.gov
mail: 2800 Cottage Way, Room W-1623, Sacramento, CA 95825

Include with comments:
Your Name; Affiliation (if applicable); Phone: E-mail; Mailing Address

2. San Bernardino County’s desert Supervisors:

The County will be submitting Scoping comments to BLM. Your voice matters in their decision-making. Call or write to urge them:

  • To demand that there should be no additional land allocation for RE development on public lands in the DRECP.
  • To direct County Land Use Services (LUS) to immediately send RECE polices 4.10, 4.10.1 and 4.10.3 to the Planning Commission and adopt these measures as they stand to protect desert communities against impacts from RE projects.

THIS TUESDAY, March 13, 2018 join MBCA Directors at the Joshua Tree Burke Government videoconference center to make your comments at the Supervisors meting. The open comment period begins at approximately 10:00AM – 11:00AM.

At that time MBCA Directors will present a petition with more than 200 signatures.

To call or write Supervisors:

* James Ramos, Third District Supervisor
(909) 387.4855 / E-mail: dyoung@cob.sbcounty.gov

* Robert A. Lovingood, Chairman & First District Supervisor
(909) 387.4830 / E-mail: melissa.mcclain@box.sbcounty.gov

In closing:

The Basin communities, perhaps more than any others, have spoken to defend the desert. We’ve stood up for it during the long 8-year deliberations to craft a DRECP with conservation protections & recreational opportunities, balanced with the demand for energy production, mining, and OHV use. It is unclear exactly how this new battle will play out. But it ain’t over till it’s over!

 

Sincerely,
Sarah Kennington, President
Morongo Basin Conservation Association

 

Your 2017 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

p.s. MBCA’s Desert Wise Living spring Landscape Tour, showcasing the desert lifestyle we are striving to protect through our comments on the DRECP, is in need of volunteer docents to assist during the tour on April 28 and 29. Please contact Cathy Zarakov, our volunteer coordinator at czarakov@gmail.com if you are interested in spending a half-day outdoors with our generous garden hosts and always enthusiastic visitors. In return for your time you will receive a complementary pass to attend the tour.

p.p.s. Our thanks to Bob Stephenson / ProVideo for his professional support in making the March 1st video documentation possible.

 

www.mbconservation.org

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

 

For more information, news, and links on the proposed amendment to DRECP:

MBCA’s News Update Review of DRECP Comments Needed – Feb 4, 2018 (with pertinent links to BLM, Federal Register, news articles)

Mojave Desert Blog Trump planning to Hand Over Desert Wildlands to Industry – February 1, 2018

Desert Sun In stunning reversal, Trump could open California desert to more solar and wind farms, by Sammy Roth – March 2, 1018

(https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/environment/2018/02/01/trump-could-open-california-desert-more-solar-and-wind-farms-mining-off-roading/1087021001/)

Desert Sun Joshua Tree cries foul as Trump targets California desert for energy projects, by Sammy Roth – March 5, 2018

(https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/environment/2018/02/01/trump-could-open-california-desert-more-solar-and-wind-farms-mining-off-roading/1087021001/

 

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Spreading the word about fugitive dust

MBCA Director Pat Flanagan has become recognized as an authority on the issues of dust pollution and sand transport paths in the Morongo Basin and others areas of the Mojave Desert.  In a followup to her recent presentation to the Morongo Basin Municipal Advisory Council, she was the key presenter at the February meeting of the Lucerne Valley/Johnson Valley Municipal Advisory Council about the issue, as reported in this article in the Victor Valley Daily Press. Pat's PowerPoint presentation on Sand Transport Paths contains a detailed explanation of the issue and its ramifications related to renewable energy development. Additionally, there is a segment at the end of the presentation explaining why MBCA and others are requesting that the County reinstate language in the Renewable Energy Conservation Element of the General Plan regarding renewable energy developments in rural communities.

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