In July 2011, EHL reached an agreement with the Eastern Municipal Water District providing for additional conservation of floodplain along the San Jacinto River near Hemet.

Living in and adjacent to active floodplains and washes, the San Bernardino kangaroo rat (SBKR) was emergency listed under the ESA in 1998 following the destruction of an estimated 96% of its habitat. The San Jacinto River is one of only three remaining potentially viable populations remaining in the world. The SBKR needs sandy soil and sparse vegetation – as would occur following a flood event – as well as upland “refugia” to allow repopulation after particularly heavy floods.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) approved a 35-acre groundwater recharge basin in the San Jacinto Wash in prime occupied SBKR habitat, erroneously terming it “low value.” EHL and the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society filed a notice of intent to sue under the Endangered Species Act.

After long and constructive discussions with the District, the parties agreed that the District would permanently conserve virtually all its remaining holdings along the River that are of value to the SBKR, markedly adding value to the initial mitigation program. These additional lands total 277 acres. The Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority will manage the lands. EHL was represented by its staff attorney, Michael Fitts.

However, the agreement will only go forward if the permit issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service is finalized. This requires that additional surveys show that all conditions are met, including limits on the number of SBKR that would be trapped and relocated.