Call to action — Comment on future land policy

Take part in the Environmental Impact Review for San Bernardino County land policy

What’s happening: A public review period is underway for the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on future land use in the new Countywide Plan. This is a chance for everyone to comment on and present environmental information that you believe should be considered in the EIR.

Why get involved: Land needs to be preserved parcel-by-parcel and anyone with a passion for our wildlife linkages, open space and national monuments can show up and let county officials know conservation is a priority.

We are targeting the Countywide plan through what’s called the “Policy plan”. This is the main mechanism for dealing with land use policies and zoning. For any conservation policy to enter the 2018–2028 Countywide plan, it first needs to be outlined in a Policy plan, which will be a legally binding document.

What to do: If you are in Joshua Tree you can go along to the county’s “scoping” meeting at Bob Burke Joshua Tree Government Center, 63665 Twentynine Palms Highway, Joshua Tree on Thursday, October 26th from 9.30am-11.30am.

Otherwise you can comment online anytime before November 20, 2017 here.

What’s at stake: Land use policy and zoning controls underpin nearly every facet of the way a community develops and interacts with private and public lands. If we don’t get this right we are going to continue to see developments that are not in concert with the community’s character, wildlife linkages, and public desert landscapes.

What to say: We’ve drawn up three main talking points.

Talking points — San Bernardino County and Morongo Basin land policy

1. Protected land is currency

We believe that the county’s protected public lands create scenic backdrops to our communities, power a growing tourism and services economy, and provide important open space around military training facilities. We request the County designate specific zoning for conservation lands, national monuments and parks, and wilderness to outline and address how County planning can recognize and help protect these public treasures.

2. Put the “community” back into community plans

In the past, community plans were incorporated directly and formally into the countywide general plan. We are concerned that community plans — which are subject to a great deal of public effort — are not currently expected to be incorporated directly in the Countywide plan. The new “community” plans are not actually community plans according to their formal definition under state law. This makes public input into improved land use policies and zoning very confusing for many county residents. Community plans should be incorporated directly into the policy plan for community specific items.

3. Don’t reinvent the wheel

The county should recognize local conservation plans when considering zoning and land use policy. If we don’t, the edges of communities connected to Joshua Tree National Park and the 29 Palms Marine Corps Base will start to fragment and tatter. The impacts can already be seen along Route 62 where there have been a number of intensive community and development activities.

The draft Joshua Tree community plan has a new “Desert Conservation Plan” and an “Open Space Plan”. But we need to remember that conservation and open space planning in the Morongo Basin has already been the subject of many recent studies, reports, and meetings. For instance, the 2012 Morongo Basin Conservation Priorities Report took five years to complete and, as the last county zoning plan came out in 2007, this will be the first time it can be used as a reference. Officials should recognize wildlife linkages around community using the South Coast Wildlands Missing Linkages project reports as a basis.

We are also concerned about the timing of starting new conservation strategies under a community plan. If a new “Desert Conservation Plan” was launched under the community plan, it would not be complete in time to inform the Countywide Policy plan, meaning the community would miss an opportunity to give meaningful input to the land use policies and zoning in their areas.