EHL sues to protect the endangered San Bernardino kangaroo rat
In August, EHL filed litigation under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) against the City of Rialto to stop the destruction of vital floodplain habitat for the San Bernardino kangaroo rat (SBKR).
Living in and adjacent to active floodplains and washes, the SBKR was emergency listed under the ESA in 1998 following an estimated 95% decline in population from historic levels. Only three important populations remain: along the Santa Ana Wash near Redlands, the San Jacinto River near Hemet, and the Lytle Creek and Cajon Creek confluence area near Rialto. The SBKR needs a natural flood regime to support pioneer and intermediate stage vegetation, as well as mature upland refugia to allow repopulation after heavy floods.
The 8400-unit Lytle Creek Specific Plan has several parts. Consistent with a previous legal settlement agreement, EHL does not oppose “Neighborhood I,” which would not harm the SBKR, nor urge others to do so. However, other portions would pave over 150 acres of essential, occupied SBKR habitat and put miles of levees in Lytle Creek. The hydrology of previously conserved SBKR habitat and planned mitigation areas downstream would be jeopardized. The project can and should be redesigned to avoid the wash. Tellingly, the County of San Bernardino has designated this floodplain as an unbuildable hazard zone, and thus Rialto is now seeking to annex the land and remove this restriction.
EHL is joined in the litigation by Save Lytle Creek Wash, a local citizens group. We are represented by EHL Staff Attorney Michael Fitts as well as the law firm of Chatten-Brown & Carstens.