For Immediate Release, July 13, 2007
Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (213) 598-1466
Jeff Morgan, Sierra Club, (760) 324-8696
Golf Course Hits the Rough:
Luxury Mega-Resort Denied to Protect Habitat Plan
COACHELLA VALLEY, Calif.— A Riverside county commission rejected a proposal to build a controversial high-end golf course and resort at the expense of wildlife and regional habitat planning. The Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club had filed suit in May to challenge the Palmwood annexation that was approved by the Riverside Local Agency Formation Commission, a regional agency charged with discouraging urban sprawl.
“Palmwood is an ecological and financial disaster,” said Jonathan Evans of the Center for Biological Diversity. “It would have driven a stake through the heart of more than a decade of regional planning.” The annexation would have devastated recognized conservation lands at the heart of a regional habitat plan near Joshua Tree National Park.
Representatives from the Coachella Valley Conservation Commission stated that the Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan could not move forward with Palmwood in place. This habitat plan — in development for more than 10 years — has been supported by local governments, public agencies, developers and environmentalists alike. It attempts to balance development and wildlife protection in one of the fastest-growing areas in the United States.
“This is a wonderful outcome for a difficult situation, and hopefully it will be sustained,” said Jeff Morgan from the Sierra Club. “Wildlife in the area will be fully protected under the Multi-Species Habitat Plan.”
Many speakers at the meeting questioned the truth of the city of Desert Hot Springs’ speculations about the development. Independent financial analysis demonstrated it would be a net drain on money and public services, contrary to the city’s claims.
Analysis conducted by the Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club has demonstrated that the city has repeatedly rushed projects through a shoddy environmental review process in order to fast-track development. The groups have provided comments and filed lawsuits on several other annexations proposed by the city.
“Desert Hot Springs has a pattern and practice of limiting public review and failing to comply with environmental laws,” said Evans. “What the city is doing is illegal. It must be held accountable.”
All this scrutiny may have forced the city to come to the table to join the Habitat Plan it has actively fought in the past. On July 10, 2007 the city voted to enter negotiations with regional planning agencies and Riverside County to become a part of the Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 35,000 members dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
The Sierra Club is a nonprofit conservation organization of over 732,000 members dedicated to exploring, enjoying, and protecting the wild places of the earth.