For Immediate Release, March 11, 2022

Contact:

Ileene Anderson, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 490-0223, ianderson@biologicaldiversity.org
Sandy Steers, Friends of Big Bear Valley, (909) 878-3901, fobbvinfo@gmail.com

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

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.

RSnest_prep_photo_by_Friends_of Big_Bear_Valley_FPWC-hpr
The site of the proposed Moon Camp development can be seen behind a pair of bald eagles known as Jackie and Shadow. Photo credit: Friends of Big Bear Valley. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.