Yucca Valley Planning Commission Sees 107 Joshua Tree Removal Permits In One Day

Despite a fair chance that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will not list Joshua trees as an endangered species and impose a series of measures to protect them from extinction later this year, there was a mad rush at Yucca Valley Town Hall in recent weeks to obtain permits that would allow local property owners to move or uproot the plants.
There has been considerable palaver and action with regard to Joshua trees in the desert regions of California.
Next month, the California Fish and Game Commission is to hold a hearing at which it is to consider the petition the Center for Biological Diversity made in October 2019 to have the western Joshua tree, which is known scientifically as Yucca brevifolia Engelm, listed as a threatened species.
There has developed among conservationists concern that the tree, which once was ubiquitous in the desert, is seeing its numbers erode at an alarming rate because of climate change, development and other human activities, and wildfire. In many San Bernardino County desert communities for generations, the trees have been eradicated as construction proceeded. Many landowners indiscriminately removed the trees with no sensitivity toward the advancing fragility of the species, and many people still consider state and other governmental regulations that prevent their removal without a permit to be an infringement on their property rights.
To disentangle the red tape involved in the process of obtaining a Joshua tree removal permit, and because sojourning to its offices represented for many people an inconvenience, the California Fish and Game Commission empowered some local jurisdictions with the authority to issue permits for both the removal of the trees as well as their transplanting. Among those governmental entities given the permit-issuing authority was the Town of Yucca Valley.
A hefty fee is required to obtain a permit, and the granting of a permit is by no means guaranteed.
Based on fees determined and set by the state, a permit to relocate a Joshua tree 13.123 feet tall or smaller on developed property costs $175. To remove the same size tree from developed land will cost $525. To relocate a Joshua tree taller than 13.123 feet from developed property costs $700. A Joshua tree that is less than 13.123 feet high growing on undeveloped land can be relocated for $625 and removed for $1,050. Those are permit costs. In addition, the cost of actually relocating a Joshua tree in such a way that it will survive can be quite expensive, as much or more than $1,200 for mature trees. Younger and smaller trees are less expensive to transplant.
Under the arrangement with the Fish and Game Commission, the Town of Yucca Valley’s authority to issue Joshua Tree removal or transplant permits elapsed as of May 10, 2022.
Previously, the town had seen a number of permit applications. Those permits are processed by the town’s planning division, which upon inspection makes a recommendation to the planning commission. The planning commission uses its voting authority to issue the permits.
As the expiration of the town’s permitting authority approached, landowners considering improvements to their property that might impact trees located there began making applications for permits.
Prior to this week, the Yucca Valley Planning Commission had considered and granted 103 permits. At the planning commission meeting on Monday, a whopping 107 permit applications came before commissioners, some of them filed that day.
Reportedly, all 107 permits were granted before the planning commission adjourned Monday evening.

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