STOP BLM’S PLAN TO RADICALLY INCREASE ORV TRAFFIC IN JOSHUA TREE

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Above: a wild desert tortoise walking in BLM land in North Joshua Tree. Photo by Stephanie Smith, April 29, 2015.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is proposing to radically increase the amount of land in Joshua Tree (and the rest of the Mojave Desert) available to Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) use.

We do not need any more ORV routes in the desert.

ORV use in the desert harms everyone and everything in the wild desert habitat. “The desert ecosystem is fragile,” says the National Park Service. “Off-road driving and riding creates ruts, upsets delicate drainage patterns, compacts the soil, and leaves visual scars for years. Plants are crushed and uprooted. Wildlife shelters are destroyed, and food and water supplies are altered or obliterated.” The sound disrupts the peace. The motion sends dust into the air, increasing air pollution.

Much of this BLM land has legitimate conservation value. In our area of northern Joshua Tree, BLM land is home to threatened species like the desert tortoise, and provides habitat and foraging opportunity to a wide variety of desert animals, insects and birds. The wildlife needs this land.

In addition: many of the new proposed routes for ORV traffic are in the ‘checkerboard’ area of north Joshua Tree, where small BLM parcels are interspersed with residential lots. Many of the proposed routes are discontinuous, meaning that ORVers will take a route for a few hundred yards, then have to stop, because the next route is accessible only via County road — and ORV use on County roads is illegal. The proposed routes are also near existing residences — private property — which will inevitably encourage (if not cause) accidental ORV use on private property, which of course will cause more conflict between riders and homeowners. The sheriff and the BLM cannot adequately police ORV activity on County roads and open spaces up here now — you add additional routes, between homes, and we’re gonna have a helluva problem on our hands.

The BLM is now taking comments from the public on its proposals, and has laid out very specific criteria about what kinds of comments count as “substantive” for them. Don’t waste your time writing a general comment about ORVs. It won’t do any good. Write a substantive comment. For guidance on how to do this, go here: ORV Watch

Local biologist and Morongo Basin Conservation Association board member Pat Flanagan has researched this issue and written the best comment letter we have seen thus far for the Copper Mountain Mesa and Desert Heights areas of the Morongo Basin. Here it is: WEMO DEIS Comments_MB and Communities (2mb pdf)

If you agree with it, sign on to it. The email address and physical mailing address it should be sent to are in the PDF.

AND/OR: You can sign an excellent letter of comment on this issue, prepared by our friends at the Center for Biological Diversity, here: Stop BLM’s Plan to Double Off-road Traffic in West Mojave

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GREAT NEWS ON STOPPING PROPOSED “ALTA MIRA” GATED COMMUNITY IN JOSHUA TREE

From 107.7 news:

May 21: The Joshua Basin Water District voted to delay issuing a will-serve letter for the 248-unit Alta Mira residential development while emergency water regulations are in effect.

This is great news. The Alta Mira developers have been angling for a “will serve” letter from the JBWD for some time now. They will have difficulty moving their harmful, inappropriate project forward until they have one…and they might not get one for a while because of the ongoing drought emergency that California is experiencing.

Posted in Alta Mira, blight, Joshua Basin Water District, water | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

GREAT NEWS ON STOPPING BIG SOLAR

Great news! Our friends Landers for Responsible Solar have succeeded in their effort to stop a harmful industrial solar field — the “Bowman S-Power Solar Project” — from being built on 35 acres in Landers near Joshua Tree.

The win came through a vote by the County’s Board of Supervisors on an appeal brought by Landers for Responsible Solar. Supervisors Curt Hagman, Robert Lovingood and James Ramos (whose district includes Lander and Joshua Tree) were the majority. Supervisors Josie Gonzales and Janice Rutherford opposed.

Hopefully this decision will set a precedent for how similarly inappropriate, harmful proposals for industrial solar fields in Joshua Tree will be treated by the County in the permitting process. A permit in Landers should never have been granted for the Bowman S-Power project by the County’s Land Use department, or the County’s Planning Commission. Similarly, no permit should be granted to NextEra’s Roy Williams Airport solar field project in Joshua Tree.

Here’s the victory announcement from Landers for Responsible Solar:

Wed., May 6

NEWS FLASH!! Bowman S-Power Solar Project Conclusion –> Project Denied! Our Appeal Upheld!

CONGRATULATIONS!

Residents and other supporters of our appeal of the Bowman S-Power Solar Project in Landers have reason to celebrate as the Board of Supervisors in San Bernardino voted 3 to 2 in favor of our appeal! It is a meaningful victory for all supporters of our petition as Landers neighborhoods will be able to retain their character and the environment will be protected from the harmful effects of large scale solar development. We continue to support distributed (rooftop) solar as the responsible way to pursue renewable energy goals. Today we have much to be thankful for, and want to let our supporters who worked so hard know that their efforts have made a real difference for this community.

Here is a copy of the letter to everyone from Marina West & Richard Lutringer, who led our fight against S-Power:

Greetings Friends and Neighbors,

We are very pleased to inform you that the Board of Supervisors voted in favor of our appeal against S+Power/Mabbett Family Trust!!!! There is a little paperwork to do at the Board meeting of June 2, but the intent of the Supervisors vote was clear.

This was no small effort and I want to thank each and every one of you for your support in sticking to the facts and not emotions. It’s hard to believe but this process started just about 1 year ago. That is a long time.

So, enjoy today!!!

Marina West and Richard Lutringer

Here are some links in the local press covering the story:

http://www.hidesertstar.com/news/article_2a57addc-f3a6-11e4-bacd-8f0b6f184dfe.html

http://www.sbsun.com/government-and-politics/20150505/supervisors-poised-to-reject-landers-solar-plant-proposal


http://www.hidesertstar.com/article_182ff4f6-f3a7-11e4-a4fc-2b32d148a006.html

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[Wed., APRIL 15, 2015 6-9pm] FIGHT THE BLM’S PROPOSAL TO RADICALLY EXPAND OFF-ROAD VEHICLE USE IN JOSHUA TREE

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Above: crushed desert tortoise

The Bureau of Land Management [BLM] is proposing to radically expand the use of BLM land in the Joshua Tree area (and beyond) by Off-Road Vehicle [ORV] riders.

We all know how bad illegal ORV activity is in Joshua Tree.

This BLM proposal would make things much, much worse. If enacted as currently written, this proposal would allow almost all local BLM land to be used as ORV courses.

There would be little to no enforcement of any rules regarding ORV riding.

The result would be distress, devastation and destruction to the precious wilderness and wildlife that our community is embedded within.

Representatives from the BLM are coming to our area this Wednesday night, looking for feedback on this proposal from the public. It is ESSENTIAL that we people of conscience, who know the inherent value of our local wilderness and wildlife, show up and speak our minds on this issue.

Here are the details of the meeting:

Wed., April 15, 2015
6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Yucca Valley Community Center Complex – Yucca Room
57090 Twentynine Palms Highway
Yucca Valley

Here is the BLM’s proposal. This document is lengthy and very technical.

For detailed and informed analysis of this BLM proposal by a local expert, consult biologist Pat Flanagan’s presentation.

For further information on this issue, and on ORV use in the desert in general, check out Community ORV Watch. They do GREAT and ESSENTIAL work.

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LAST MINUTE: Today’s MAC committee meeting re ALTA MIRA, ORVs

Last-minute reminder, fwiw, fyi:

The Land Use Study Committee of the Morongo Basin MAC (Municipal Advisory Committee) will meet in open session today, Thursday, April 9 2pm at the Joshua Tree Community Center, 6151 Sunburst.

Discussion topics:

1) The tabled resolution on the massive, 10-to-20-year-build, 248-unit Alta Mira gated community project (more info)

2) The West Mojave Plan recently released by the Bureau of Land Management, which, if implemented as proposed, would essentially allow ORVs to drive all over the Morongo Basin with impunity (More info)

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[Alta Mira] PRESS COVERAGE OF JOSHUA TREE’S REVULSION FOR GATED COMMUNITY PROPOSAL

From the January 30, 2015 Hi-Desert Star:

Company pushes plan for gated housing near Friendly Hills

Posted: Friday, January 30, 2015 8:11 pm | Updated: 1:18 pm, Wed Feb 4, 2015.

By Jimmy Biggerstaff
Hi-Desert Star

JOSHUA TREE — The Morongo Basin Municipal Advisory Council’s committee on the Alta Mira project got an update Friday on the proposed 248-unit gated community near Friendly Hills Elementary School.

The committee tabled any action on a resolution calling for an environmental impact report on the development. It would be Joshua Tree’s first gated community.

Project proponent John Criste told committee chairman Mark Lindquist and committee members David Fick, Pat Flanagan, Vic Fuller, Janet Johnston and Mike Lipsitz he has talked with Morongo Unified School District administrators about increased traffic at the staggered junction of Alta Loma Drive and Sunny Vista Road. Criste said plans include a 200-foot dedicated right-turn lane for families dropping off students in front of the school.

According to the meeting agenda, the developers have also held discussions with Joshua Basin Water District staff and Center for Biological Diversity representatives about the environmental impacts of the relatively high-density housing project.

“We’ve had some very productive conversations with the Center For Biological Diversity,” Ron Schwartz, a partner in the project, said.

According to a 2009 estimate, the 248 single-family homes would use about 89 acre feet of water per year. Responding to criticisms about water use, Criste told the committee the original plans allowing for up to 200 square feet of grass lawns per home site had been scrapped.

Potential home buyers, Criste, said, would include “empty nester” retirement couples. Schwartz said homes would sell in the $225,000 to $300,000 range.

Fick took issue with the traffic survey. Criste said updated traffic counts were conducted about one year ago.

“They do not know the shopping needs of the Morongo Basin,” Fick alleged. Criste replied that Caltrans had reviewed the results of the study. “Yucca Valley would welcome this project with open arms,” Fick declared, adding, “Joshua Tree would not.”

“We all spent a lot of time on the community plan,” Janet Johnston said. “The county has given it no weight, no credence, no nothing. I think we’ve both been screwed over by the county on that point.”

During public comments, former MAC member Mickey Luckman asked what the project developer’s commitment was to finish the plan. Schwartz said the financial investment was considerable and restated his commitment to the plan.

Jay Babcock, of the activist group “Defend Joshua Tree,” warned the developers about the community’s propensity toward lawsuits, citing the ongoing litigation with Dynamic Development and the county over a proposed Dollar General store in Joshua Tree.

Rebecca Unger, a Joshua Basin Water District director, said she admired the developer’s tenacity, and reminded the developers construction takes a lot of water. The project would require construction of a package wastewater treatment plant similar to the one at Hi-Desert Medical Center. Stormwater retention and detention ponds are planned at the upper and lower ends of the project.

The county’s housing density zoning for the proposed development was “up-zoned” in the early 1980s for up to 4.2 units per acre, an action Fick characterized as a “backroom deal.”

From KCDZ 107.7:

ALTA MIRA DEVELOPERS AND JOSHUA TREE RESIDENTS TALK PAST EACH OTHER AGAIN
By Z107.7 News, on February 2nd, 2015
Back in November, the developers of the 248-unit Alta Mira residential project in Joshua Tree met with a small group of local residents to discuss the project, and encountered resistance and skepticism. This past Friday, the discussion was continued, with a larger group of residents on hand. Reporter Dan Stork says that locals generally scoffed at the developers’ efforts…
John Criste, the planning consultant for the Alta Mira residential project planned for the Friendly Hills area of Joshua Tree, told the ad hoc committee on the project, and about 15 other residents assembled at the County government building in Joshua Tree about recent discussions he’s had with the school district, the water district, the Center for Biological Diversity, and of efforts to manage traffic patterns. He offered the school district a slice of land on Sunny Vista Road, to create a safe entry lane to Friendly Hills Elementary school for parents dropping off students. Criste discussed with the water district hydrology and water infrastructure considerations for the project, and said that a package plant technology similar to that being used at the High Desert Medical Center would be used for waste water treatment. He also said that ongoing discussions with the Center for Biological Diversity about habitat considerations on the project site will soon yield an agreement, but he was not at liberty to provide specifics at this time.
The ad hoc committee members—Mark Lundquist, Mike Lipsitz, David Fick, Pat Flanagan, and Vic Fuller—questioned Criste closely on the methodology of traffic studies he cited, and were skeptical about their adequacy. The committee also questioned Criste about mitigation fees, water infrastructure, the long-term financial viability of Homeowner Association emergency reserves, invasive species patrolling, and landscape planning.
During public comment, most speakers attacked the project on numerous grounds—light pollution, dislike of gated communities, inappropriate zoning, the assumed buyer profile for properties, development density, strain on water resources, and impact on native plants. Claims by Ron Schwartz, who represented investors in the project, about economic benefit for Joshua Tree, were derided. Only one local resident attendee—Julian Gonzalez—disputed other locals’ criticisms of the project.
The ad hoc committee deferred to another meeting whether to recommend a call for a full Environment Impact Report to the Morongo Basin MAC.

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[Action Alert] PROJECT BOBCAT APPEAL FOR LETTERS — AND ATTENDANCE IN SACRAMENTO FEB. 12

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From projectbobcat.org:

Thanks to your efforts along with our partners, the Center for Biological Diversity and other supporters across the state, the Bobcat Protection Act of 2013 was passed by the California legislature just over a year ago. Now we need your help to ensure the bill is implemented to truly protect the state’s bobcats. The California Fish and Game Commission is launching a rulemaking to implement the bill that could result in a complete ban on the commercial trapping of these beautiful animals. But for that to happen, the Commission needs to hear from you.

The Bobcat Protection Act was passed in response to the outrage triggered by the discovery of trappers lining the boundaries of Joshua Tree National Park with cages, luring the animals out the Park, and killing them for their fur. Under the bill, trapping was immediately banned around Joshua Tree and the Commission was directed to implement similar bans around all other parks, monuments and refuges in California. One option the Commission is seriously weighing is a statewide ban on bobcat trapping.

Please take a moment and contact the Fish and Game Commission and let them know you support a complete statewide ban on bobcat trapping. Note that original, personalized letters are the most effective way you can help our effort.

DEADLINE FOR OFFICIAL COMMENT PERIOD

Thursday, January 29, 2015, 5pm

Submit comments to fgc@fgc.ca.gov -or- FAX to: (916) 653-5040

Address comments to Executive Director Sonke Mastrup. Fish and Game Commission, 1416 Ninth Street, Room 1320, Sacramento, CA 95814.

Written comments received at the Commission office by 5:00 p.m. on January 29 will be made available to Commissioners prior to the meeting on Febuary 12, 2015. Comments received by 12 noon on February 6 will be marked late and made available to Commissioners at the meeting. Please also remember to email Project Bobcat at: info@projectbobcat.org a PDF copy of your sent letter.

Sample Letter (NOTE THAT YOUR LETTER IS MOST EFFECTIVE IF YOU PERSONALIZE IT)

RE: Agenda Item 29: Ban Bobcat Trapping Statewide

I urge you to implement the Bobcat Protection Act of 2013 by banning trapping statewide. I am appalled that hundreds of California’s native bobcats are trapped and killed each year for sale of their skins in the international fur trade. Californians overwhelmingly value our wildlife alive, not as commodities to be exploited for the private profit of a handful of trappers. It’s long past time to end the subsidized destruction of our wildlife and instead protect and value them as living members of a healthy ecosystem. Please vote for the alternative of a complete statewide ban on commercial trapping of bobcats.

TALKING POINTS for Statewide Ban:

Let the Commission know that you would like to see bobcat trapping banned for anything other than rehabilitation or research.
There are fewer than 100 commercial trappers “harvesting” bobcats and that taxpayers are essentially subsidizing these commercial trappers.
A statewide ban is simpler and more economical than determining boundaries, methods for describing boundaries, fees, enforcement, and creating documents describing new boundaries and regulations.
State the valuable role of bobcats in ecological system, tourism economy, rodent control, and any reasons for your opposition to the trapping of bobcats for pelts.
Remind the Commission that natural resources and wildlife are public assets, and not for the profit of a few.

Are you available to travel for the Commissioners meeting in Sacramento on Thursday, February 12th, 2015? Please let us know at: info@projectbobcat.org so we can put you in touch with others that are traveling up north for carpooling, sharing hotel accommodations, etc.

Project Bobcat thanks you for your ongoing support!

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