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Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Combo hunts for the Lower Owens River Valley

Major development would impact San Jacinto Wildlife Area
Waterfowlers should take note on what’s on the table for a major development by Lewis Homes that could significantly impact the popular San Jacinto Wildlife Area. This refuge has been offering unattached duck and goose hunters excellent hunting opportunities for decades and it’s a close refuge to drive to for many hunters. News of this issue was brought to the attention of Western Outdoor News by avid duck hunter Rick Vega.

ARIAL VIEW OF the San Jacinto Wildlife Area.

The initial alert came by way of an e-mail from the California Rifle and Pistol Association (CRPA) asking that Southern California hunters attend a Riverside County Planning Department meeting on Sept. 6. The release stated, “The San Jacinto Wildlife Refuge is currently being threatened by an encroaching housing development. We need your help to preserve this treasured public land, which has been used by hunters for generations. In addition to being one of the few tracts of public hunting land left in Southern California, the San Jacinto Wildlife Refuge is also home to several threatened and endangered species…hunters were asked to be there to voice their opposition to this housing development and to advocate the preservation of our state’s wildlife.”

Western Outdoor News thought it would be appropriate to go right to the head of those who could be most affected by this pending encroachment. Scott Sewell, Senior Fish Wildlife Habitat Supervisor for the San Jacinto Wildlife Area and a long time friend of this WON’s hunting editor, filed the following position statement this past week.

“The Department of Fish and Wildlife, (CDFW), is concerned with the proposed development that borders the San Jacinto Wildlife Area. We are working diligently to ensure the safety of our wildlife area and minimize the direct and indirect impacts to the area. There are various challenges we face when dealing with proposed projects like this and are doing our best to find a solution that will protect our property, the wildlife that reside there and the activities that take place at SJWA,” stated Sewell.

DIAGRAM OF THE proposed The Villages.

WON then contacted Jeff Volberg, Director of Water Law and Policy, for California Waterfowl. Volberg authored a very detailed letter delivered to the Riverside County Planning Department and also attended the meeting on Sept. 6. When asked for an up to date status report and his comments on the proposed encroachment he offered the following:

“I attended a hearing on September 6 of the Riverside County Planning Commission to take testimony on the Specific Plan for the Villages of Lakeview development proposal. California Waterfowl is opposed to the developer’s proposal that would place new residential housing north of the Ramona Expressway and adjacent to the San Jacinto Wildlife Area. The planning commission staff has proposed that the specific plan adopt Alternative 7, which would not allow residences north of the Expressway, but would allow some commercial office development along with retaining some existing agriculture. This is better than the developer’s proposal, but still will have impacts on the wildlife area. The impacts include bright lights, sound, stray animals, trespass by local residents, and loss of forage from agriculture, among others. California Waterfowl urged the planning commission to insist that the developer work with the Department of Fish & Wildlife, as well as the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, to avoid or mitigate those impacts to the greatest extent possible. The planning commission postponed a final decision on the project until October 4.

Wetlands in California are under attack, from the Klamath Basin to the Salton Sea. The San Jacinto Wildlife Area and Mystic Lake are practically the only wetland areas in Southern California available for waterfowl habitat and hunting, outside of the Salton Sea. California Waterfowl has worked to enhance the waterfowl habitat on both areas, and is passionate about seeing them remain viable into the future.”

Editor’s Note: The following are California Waterfowl’s comments on the Villages of Lakeview project that will lie just south of the San Jacinto Wildlife Area. I have attached a scanned map of Alternative 7, but it came out in greyscale instead of color. If you look online at the Riverside County Planning Commission specific plan for the Villages of Lakeview development, you will find Alternative 7, which contains a color version of the map at page 26 out of 315.

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