Monday, April 04, 2016

CALIFORNIA - Coachella Valley, the Balancing Act

"The plan to balance conservation and development in Coachella Valley" PBS NewsHour 3/30/2016


SUMMARY:  Southern California's tranquil Coachella Valley has long been an environmental battleground.  Home to 27 endangered and threatened species, the valley has also seen enormous population growth, with residents projected to double in the next 20 years.  But a government plan 10 years in the making aims to balance conservationism with urban development.  Special correspondent Cat Wise reports.

CAT WISE (NewsHour):  The views from Chino Canyon high above Palm Springs are grand.  The rocky hillsides are home to the endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep and a number of other species.  But this tranquil canyon has long been an environmental battleground.

NICKIE MCLAUGHLIN, Friends of Palm Springs Mountains:  If the project had been completed, you would have been looking at a 500-room hotel, a five-star resort, and all surrounded by an 18-hole golf course.

CAT WISE:  Nickie McLaughlin heads up a local nonprofit that recently purchased 600 acres of privately owned land in the canyon to prevent that development.

NICKIE MCLAUGHLIN:  There will be nothing here.  It will be preserved as it is in perpetuity.  This was a huge success.

CAT WISE:  The push to save Chino Canyon is part of a much larger environmental conservation effort unfolding in Coachella Valley, a 45-mile stretch of desert dotted with upscale cities like Palm Springs, as well as areas of deep poverty.

The population here is expected to almost double in the next 20 years.  Golf courses and condos butt up against fragile desert ecosystems.

TOM KIRK, Coachella Valley Association of Governments:  In a lot of places throughout this country, we know that we have done development perhaps in a rash and vast way.  In the Coachella Valley, we didn't want to do that.

CAT WISE:  Tom Kirk heads up the local government agency now managing a plan that took more than 10 years to develop and that will be on the books 75 years into the future.

It's called the Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan.  Nearly 2,000-pages long, it is essentially a huge compromise between government agencies, private landowners and developers, scientists, and environmental groups.

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