A five-mile stretch of the San Jacinto River in western Riverside County will be protected and managed for the benefit of the endangered San Bernardino kangaroo rat (SBKR).

As reported in the Fall 2011 EHL Newsletter, EHL and San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society had reached a settlement with the Eastern Municipal Water District and its partner agencies providing for additional conservation of floodplain habitat above and beyond that required by the US Fish and Wildlife Service for installation of a 35-acre groundwater recharge basin. The basin will be used to restore legally mandated historic water rights to the Soboba Tribe.

After new surveys showed far more animals would be impacted than previously anticipated, the basin was relocated and the additional conservation lands incorporated into a new permit. Connectivity improvements, habitat enhancement, as well as a program to trap and actively translocate affected SBKR to otherwise suitable but sparsely occupied habitat, were other new mitigation measures. Long-term management will be funded by the District and provided by the Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority. 

While the larger number of impacted SBKR most likely reflects a population boom due to a wet winter, losing this high value habitat was nevertheless very difficult. However, we believe that consolidating 532 acres of floodplain and uplands under comprehensive management will form a cornerstone for the survival of this beleaguered species. In addition, it is anticipated that contiguous SBKR habitat will be preserved as a result of permitting for expansion of the Soboba tribal reservation. All parties worked creatively and in good faith to arrive at this solution.