12 March 2009

Hills for Everyone: News from the Lunatic Fringe?

To many property rights advocates and others who lean (slightly) to the right, Hills for Everyone is an organization that often raises temperatures and blood pressure. Why? Because this group dares to work for preservation of dwindling open space, conservation of diminishing plant resources, the protection of animals, and the maintenance of passive recreation in parklands salvaged from what is left in the Puente Hills-Chino Hills Wildlife Corridor, a region that has seen developers, oil companies and other capitalists make more than their fair share on their investment over decades.

Yes, in a region with 9 million people and overburdened transportation, school, water, trash, and other infrastructure systems and with the worst pollution in these here United States, the audacity to advocate for mitigation of these growing problems truly alarms those who actually believe there is a "free market." The kind of "free market" that has brought about the conditions we are now enjoying in this, the worst economic slump since the Great Depression. A "free market" in which, all too often, the freedom to profit without fear of being held responsible for the consequences, or, more precisely, the acknowledgment thereof, trumps social responsibility.

As one particularly energetic commenter on a blog to which I posted a few offerings opined, "I guess we know where you stand." As if that was a bad thing! Sure, we know where Hills for Everyone stands: denying property owners their fundamental right to use their holdings for profit, no matter the cost, evidently.

At any rate, the Winter 2009 newsletter of the organization is, naturally, devoted significantly to coverage of the November's Freeway Complex Fire, especially its after-effects. One important item that the group has stated in other venues is that, though wildland fires are often beneficial to regenerating soils and new plant growth, "these frequent fires are not natural and they are changing the very nature of our landscape." Cycles of fires are now running closer to five years rather than the much longer periods observed in past decades. Moreover, "fires that are too frequent don't allow young plants to develop . . . seeds . . . [and] non-native vegetation takes over." These latter, supplanting native grasses, "also die off faster in spring . . . and this extends the fire season . . . [as well as] ignite easier and spread fire faster." When accounting for climate change (less snowpack means a longer fire season) and short-sighted land use policy, the consequences are more dangerous incrementally.

Fortunately, not all is bad news! There is an update in the newsletter on the move to eradicate arundo in Carbon Canyon, including a $25,000 commitment from Brea to assist in treating the incredibly invasive reed. As noted last week, a man was spotted spraying some arundo near the old La Vida Mineral Springs resort site, so it appears that at least some work has begun. Also of interest is that the Canyon Crest project continues to be on hold, as previously reported on this blog. Additionally, a massive 3,600 unit project by Aera Energy (a subsidiary of Shell Oil Company) in the eastern Puente Hills above Brea and below Rowland Heights and Diamond Bar has been shelved for nearly a year, as Diamond Bar, never much of a preservation-minded city, has, to its credit, called for a significant redesign. Given the economy, nothing is likely to be proposed for awhile, though we'll see what comes down the pike a few years hence! Meantime, a smaller, 47-unit subdivision, Pacific Heights, in Hacienda Heights/Rowland Heights is now in the Recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Report review stage.

Other new outcomes: a lawsuit filed by HFE against the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) concerning an access road through a portion of Chino Hills State Park to the Van Diemer treatment plant atop the hills overlooking Yorba Linda has been settled, because "we will also be able to expand the State Park to protect many more acres of walnut woodland than will be destroyed by the road." Additionally, a proposal has been deleted to build an entry/exit to an elevated roadway above the massively-congested 91 Freeway (why is making more [and thereby consuming and disposing of more) always the answer to a problem?) that threatened a wildlife corridor between Chino Hills State Park and the Cleveland National Forest to the south. The elevated roadway may still, someday, be built, but at least the corridor appears to be out of harm's way. There are also announcements for a volunteer project to remove barbed from the State Park that trap and harm animals; an Earth Day event at the State Park on 25 April; and other tidbits.

If you tilt towards the center or even a little to the left (without losing your balance), support this worthy group. Check out the link on the right side of the main page of this blog. Send a little money to help support the organization's important work. Help with their volunteer projects. Stay aware about the many threats to the hills that serve as an important buffer in a highly urbanized and congested region. And, consider being, in whatever way possible, an advocate for the last vestiges of open space we have left in this area.

Developers and others have made plenty of money over the many decades of extensive suburbanization in our area. It's only fair to keep a little for open space, wildlife protection, and light recreation. Fair and balanced.

1 comment:

CanyonNative said...

Amen, Paul!