MBCA joined Lucerne Valley homeowners and Mojave Communities Conservation Collaborative in a letter to protest the "relocation" of the Sienna Solar Project in Lucerne Valley. The letter points out to the San Bernardino County Supervisors how the reapplication of the project is not simply a relocation allowed by regulations, but an expansion that violates the County's Renewable Energy Conservation Element, intended to minimize negative effects and optimize benefits to unincorporated communities.
San Bernardino County determined that a proposed 640-acre “glamping” type camping resort in Flamingo Heights does not require a full Environmental Impact Report. MBCA disagrees strongly and has submitted a letter to the County outlining the many significant environmental impacts unaddressed by the mitigated negative declaration that the project received. In addition to environmental consequences, the project is not compatible with the Homestead Valley Community Action Guide, a document that was developed with local input through the Countywide Plan process. This link provides more details about the project.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has published a status review concluding that Western Joshua trees do not warrant threatened status in California. The ultimate determination is in the hands of the California Fish and Game Commission, which in September 2020 granted the species interim threatened status and implemented guidelines for its protection. The official presentation of the status review by the Department to the Commission is scheduled for April 21; however, the Commission’s vote is not expected until its June 16 meeting. This April 13 press release by the Center for Biological Diversity, which filed a petition that initiated the status review by the Commission, provides background and outlines the expected sequence of forthcoming actions. Additional information can be found in this Los Angeles Times story and the Times' editorial opinion in favor of listing the Joshua tree.
Photo by Stacy Doolittle
In response to the advancement through San Bernardino County's planning process of a proposal for a 106-room hotel project in Wonder Valley, local concerned residents have established a website to inform and engage others in opposition. The development includes a 24/7 restaurant, spa, pool, 205 parking spaces, and other features. Nearby residents are concerned about excessive lighting, dangerous highway conditions and traffic, dust, groundwater levels, wastewater, etc., and feel the project is completely inappropriate for their small, sparsely populated community. The website is StopWonderInn.org.
There is an increasing lack of long term rental housing in the Morongo Basin due in great part to the conversion to short term vacation rentals. (See MBCA's February 3 News post for more background and resources on this.) The Housing Element of the County Wide Plan is updated on an 8-year cycle and is subject to detailed statutory requirements and mandatory review by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). Without notification to the public, San Bernardino County filed a Draft Housing Element in December 2021. They received a reply from HCD stating “revisions will be necessary to comply with State Housing Element Law.” The letter not only mentions the state's consideration of input from MBCA President Steve Bardwell and Board member Janet Johnson (our letter of October 19, 2021), but also provides 13 pages of detail where the report needs revision or does not comply with requirements.
MBCA is among 16 signatories on an April 4 letter to the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The letter expressed an appreciation for the Board's enhanced model of carbon sequestration in the desert (see letter of August 2021). However, the group also expressed concern that the newest model still underestimates the desert's carbon sequestration potential and that CARB should engage in a more comprehensive analysis of current research on desert-centric sequestration systems.
MBCA is among 15 organizations requesting more time to prepare for involvement in hearings concerning water management and related biological resources in the Amargosa Basin. The Basin lies within the Mojave Desert and spreads across two states and four counties, including San Bernardino County. The group recommends that Nevada Department of Water Resources engage with stakeholders to examine potential negative impacts on groundwater for rural communities and on tourism drawn to the area by this unique ecosystem.
MBCA joined Friends of Big Morongo Canyon, Mojave Desert Land Trust, Basin and Range Watch, SummerTree Institute, and The Wildlands Conservancy in a letter to the Bureau of Land Management with serious concerns about the construction of a proposed 196-foot communications tower in Morongo Valley. The letter states "The undersigned individuals/organizations have fought long and hard for the designation of Sand to Snow National Monument and strongly oppose this project and the changing of the VRM (Visual Resource Management) classification." In great detail and with maps and illustrations, the accompanying Public Scoping Comments document from the group points out why "The proposals are not in conformance with the applicable Federal purpose for which the public lands are managed in this area."
MBCA joined with many non-profit environmental and conservation organizations in recently signing comment letters related to California's 30x30 land and water conservation plan. The California Natural Resources Agency published the Draft Pathways Report that will guide the state's implementation of California Governor Newsom's Executive Order N-82-20 calling for conservation of 30% of California’s land and water to be protected by 2030. The draft plan underestimates the value of the desert's carbon sequestration and inaccurately describes the desert's real borders. MBCA joined 22 other organizations in creating an Inland Desert Regional Comment Letter to provide guidance on desert issues. MBCA also joined 61 organizations in a statewide comment letter on the Draft Report.