EHL lost “round 2” of CEQA litigation in our effort to save the San Bernardino kangaroo rat (SBKR) from extinction. But it’s hardly over.

Photo: Al Kelley

Development of over 8,400 homes in the Lytle Creek floodplain may be the death knell for the endangered San Bernardino kangaroo rat, whose global presence has been reduced to only three creeks, the Santa Ana Wash near Redlands, the San Jacinto River near Hemet, and the Lytle Creek and Cajon Creek confluence area near Rialto. Its fragile habitat of intermittently flooded washes and adjacent sage scrub-covered uplands has not only been decimated by development – with an estimated decline of 96% – but also altered by upstream dams.

EHL and its local ally, Save Lytle Creek Wash, initially won a court victory that sent the project’s Environmental Impact Report back for more work. However, the revised analysis of alternatives remained blatantly manipulated and biased against environmentally superior outcomes. Even though the judge acknowledged that “circular reasoning” had been employed, we did not prevail when we contested the revised documents at a November hearing. We are considering an appeal, but it is now likely that the project will move into federal and state permitting.

Very importantly, the legal challenges provided us the opportunity to retain a development economist and planner, and we were able to present a financially viable project on a reduced footprint that protects the species. While the City of Rialto and the developer have refused to work collaboratively to date, this information will be central to the upcoming federal and state processes.

EHL and Save Lytle Creek Wash were represented by Michael Fitts, EHL Staff Attorney, and Amy Minteer of Chatten-Brown & Carstens.