Permanent protection would have required that municipalities and counties work out plans to regulate just how and where Joshua trees could be displaced by development, a tool for sensible planning to allow the trees, the wildlife that depends on those trees, and those aforementioned developers to coexist in the same desert. Predictably, the developers and their allies objected. I suspect that CDFW’s illogical and inconsistent report released in April is a result of pressure from exactly that crowd. Whether people wanted to build a 10,000-acre solar power plant or simply buy, bulldoze, build, and flip a Yucca Valley vacation rental for an owner in the San Gabriel Valley, the cost of treating the desert responsibly was apparently just too much to bear. So, the Joshua trees had to take one for the team.
All is not lost. The final say in whether to protect the western Joshua tree doesn’t lie with the CDFW, but with the California Fish and Game Commission, who will vote June 15 on whether to accept CDFW’s suggestion or to grant the trees permanent protection under California’s Endangered Species Act.