EHL was quoted on the loss of the El Toro Conservation Area in Orange County, on our settlement with a water district over the endangered San Bernardino kangaroo rat, and on the new San Diego County General Plan.
On May 17, 2011, the Orange County Register (“The Land deal falls apart — 15 years later”) covered the partial unraveling of the Central-Coastal Natural Community Conservation Plan, the first large scale multiple species habitat plan in the nation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided not to bring this federal land – before the last wildfire home to the highest known densities of California gnatcatchers and coastal cactus wrens – into the reserve system. “What the Service did was throw this land away,” said Dan Silver, head of the Endangered Habitats League and a longtime conservation advocate. “They reneged on their promises and turned their backs on Orange County’s wildlife. It’s a despicable action.”
The Riverside Press-Enterprise reported on the endangered San Bernardino kangaroo rat affecting recharge basins proposed by the Eastern Municipal Water District along the San Jacinto River to resolve tribal water rights issues (“SAN JACINTO: Addressing environmental concerns slows water project,” July 23, 2011). While the article focused on delays experienced by the project, it also featured the settlement reached by EHL and San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society that protected 277 additional acres of habitat for the animal. “The settlement has benefit for both parties,” said Dan Silver, executive director of the Endangered Habitats League, one of the groups that threatened to sue.
The San Bernardino Sun covered accusations by a developer and a local congressman (“Endangered species stalling Rialto development, Baca says,” August 9, 2011) that EHL and a citizens group were trying to entirely stop a development project through litigation in the City of Rialto. Rather, critical habitat areas for the endangered San Bernardino kangaroo rat and other species need protection, as made clear by EHL Staff Attorney Michael Fitts: “We are trying to come up with a solution that protects the environment and accommodates growth.” EHL’s Silver added that, “We believe the project needs to be modified to provide some balance for the protection of species...a natural heritage for the children in Rialto...” The developer also cynically accused EHL and the citizens group of being responsible for closing down a money losing golf course owned by the developer due to his legal fees defending the housing project.
When the San Diego County Board of Supervisors first adopted the General Plan Update, and then immediately set a workshop to consider reopening it to landowner-preferred amendments, EHL’s Silver provided context in reporting by the North County Times (“Sweeping backcountry growth plan adopted,” Aug 3, 2011): He said on Wednesday, however, that the plan “was an enormous step forward.” “The challenge will be to maintain the integrity of the plan going forward," Silver said, adding he was “very concerned” about potentially opening the plan back up on Nov. 9.
In a follow up article in the North County Times (“Emotions continue to boil over backcountry plan,” Aug. 7, 2011), a community activist who assisted EHL in outreach was more blunt: “It's a run around the General Plan,” said Jacqueline Arsivaud of the Elfin Forest/Harmony Grove Town Council. “The whole point of the General Plan is to have closure. To reopen this because some property owners are not happy does seem to fly in the face of good planning principles.”