The Joshua Tree Gateway Association of Realtors would like to express its strong opposition to the petition submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity to list the western Joshua tree as a threatened species under the California Endangered Species Act.
We understand and appreciate the effort to defend our iconic flora, but don’t wish to see that done at the expense of our community’s future growth, affordable housing and individual property rights when the Joshua tree already has protection under both federal and state laws. Its placement on the list of threatened species would have significant consequences impacting the future development of raw land and on the housing prices in our communities.
The requirement to relocate Joshua trees before razing a pad of land and for permits to be obtained to relocate, remove or otherwise destroy even dead Joshua trees as part of the California Desert Native Plants Act has existed for quite some time and has high rates of compliance. There is barely a single pad of land within our community without at least one Joshua tree growing there, and the addition of the Joshua tree to the threatened species list would make development of homes or commercial buildings prohibitively expensive due to potential environmental studies that would need to be completed prior to building, and this, in turn, would drive the price of existing housing skyward.
California is already well-documented in its struggle to provide affordable housing to its population. If such a wrench is thrown into the process of building locally — especially for an already-protected plant that also enjoys over 2.34 million acres of protected habitat in Joshua Tree National Park and Mojave National Preserve — our community will no longer be one of the last bastions of affordable housing in our state, and will see its own residents priced out of their own community over time while becoming affordable to only the most well-to-do transplants from urban areas seeking a refuge away from growing population density and their own rising prices.
The Joshua tree is already adequately protected. Adding it to the threatened species list will not increase that protection half as much as it will damage the availability of housing and encroach even further on private property rights of our Basin’s homeowners if the removal or relocation of a Joshua tree becomes cost prohibitive, or possibly even entirely disallowed. We implore members of this community to consider the profound impacts this action would have on the communities that share habitat with the western Joshua tree and encourage you to contact the California Fish and Wildlife Commission to voice your concerns as well.