In October of 2011, in response to EHL litigation, a Superior Court judge ordered the City of Rialto to set aside its approval of massive floodplain development in some of the best remaining habitat for the endangered San Bernardino kangaroo rat (SBKR).

Living in washes and adjacent uplands, 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.

EHL and Save Lyle Creek Wash, a local citizens group, challenged the Lytle Creek Ranch Specific Plan under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The 8400 units of suburban sprawl, superfluous in a region beset by record levels of foreclosure, would have devastated the SBKR.

The Court found numerous violations of law in the project’s Environmental Impact Report. Quickly following the decision, though, the City embarked on a new CEQA process to fix the deficiencies. EHL anticipates a prolonged battle, extending to federal permitting under the Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts.

Staff Attorney Michael Fitts represented EHL and Chatten-Brown & Carstens represented Save Lytle Creek Wash.