Posted by: Sandy Steinman | March 11, 2022

California Court Rules Against Big Bear Development Over Wildfire Concerns, Harms to Rare Plant

Center from Biological Diversity News Release

Lakeside Homes Would Destroy Federally Threatened Ash Grey Paintbrush

SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY, Calif.— A judge ruled against a controversial development proposed on the north shore of Big Bear Lake over concerns about wildfire evacuation risks and threats to a plant unique to the area.

The Moon Camp development would bring 50 luxury custom-built homes to lakefront property that serves as habitat for successfully breeding bald eagles and rare plants, including the ash-grey paintbrush, a federally threatened species.

The ruling stated that the environmental study for the development was inadequate because it failed to consider wildfire evacuation conditions and did not mitigate the project’s harms to the ash-grey paintbrush and pebble plain habitat. This rare habitat is characterized by clay soil that is home to alpine plants unique to Big Bear Valley.

“It’s so obvious that if you pave over and destroy what makes Big Bear special, it’s no longer special,” said Ileene Anderson, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “I’m grateful the court recognizes that this destructive development would destroy populations of plants found nowhere else in the world and make it more dangerous for residents trying to escape from fire.”

The ruling, in response to a lawsuit by conservation groups, found that the environmental study did not determine if emergency evacuation routes are adequate or if local roads and Highway 38 have the capacity to accommodate the residents and visitors who will have to escape during a wildfire.

In 2020 the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors approved the luxury development on an undeveloped site that is home to San Bernardino flying squirrels and bald eagles, which are a fully protected species under California law.

“We are thrilled that the county’s approval has been overturned. It means the amazing species that use this open forested land — the bald eagles, the flying squirrels and the gorgeous rare plants — can continue thriving on the north shore of Big Bear Lake,” said Sandy Steers, executive director of Friends of Big Bear Valley.

Conservation groups sued the county for violating the California Environmental Quality Act. The conservation groups were represented by the law office of Babak Naficy.


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