The portions of the Inland Empire which include BLM-managed public lands are located primarily in western Riverside County, California, but there are also lands in adjacent counties. The area also includes BLM-managed public lands on Beauty Mountain in northeastern San Diego County, lands along the Santa Ana River Wash in San Bernardino County, and scattered parcels in Los Angeles County. The region in general consists of gently sloping alluvial valleys, influenced by the California coast and separated by rather steep, narrow mountain ranges which trend northwestward.
The valleys and mountains are covered in such vegetation communities as California sycamore, woodland oak and peninsular pinyon woodlands, and coastal sage scrub, chaparral and grassland. It provides habitat for a variety of rare plants and animals like Munz's onion, slender-horned spineflower, least Bell's vireo, Stephen's kangaroo rat, coastal California gnatcatcher, arroyo toad, and possibly Quino checkerspot butterfly. This complex environment has inspired the residents, cities and county agencies of western Riverside County to participate in a collaborative effort to protect the landscape values around them by developing the Riverside County Integrated Planning (RCIP) program, a framework for public policy decisions integrating development, transportation and habitat conservation.
The RCIP includes an ambitious Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan for Western Riverside County that will serve as a multi-species reserve design strategy to mitigate the impacts from future land development projects within the county. The plan would establish a reserve system to protect biodiversity while facilitating development in other parts of Western Riverside County. As a partner, the BLM proposes to provide a portion of the Federal share towards development and implementation of the plan. To ensure that BLM's land management actions are consistent with the goals and objectives of the Western Riverside County Multi-species Habitat Conservation Plan, the Santa Ana Wash Coordinated Management Plan and the North County Multiple Habitat Conservation Plan (San Diego County), BLM is in the process of updating and amending the South Coast Resource Management Plan (1994).
BLM manages public lands which are important to the success of the Western Riverside County plan. In 1996, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service granted a Section 10(a) permit to the Riverside County Habitat Conservation Agency (RCHCA) which established a conservation strategy for the (federally listed as endangered) Stephen's kangaroo rat (SKR), and facilitated new construction on private land in western Riverside County. In that process, seven core reserves for SKR were established by the RCHCA. Under the 1996 Implementation Agreement among BLM, RCHCA, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, and the State of California, BLM committed to manage public lands in core reserves "to conserve, protect, restore, and enhance the SKR and its habitat." This commitment affects public lands on Estelle Mountain (near Lake Mathews), Steele Peak, and the Badlands (most current data suggests the Badlands may not be as important to SKR as previous thought but further assessment is needed.)
The BLM has entered into an "Assembled Land Exchange" with Riverside County and RCHCA to offer up scattered parcels around western Riverside County in exchange for lands owned by RCHCA around Estelle Mountain in western Riverside County. The exchange would consolidate public ownership into a reserve system.
Western Riverside County includes large blocks of private land, of which many are developed or developing. The current population is over 2.5 million people. In Los Angeles, population is even more concentrated with over 10 million people in a similar land area. The BLM-managed public lands also support local communities by facilitating necessary energy rights of way, local sources of sand and gravel, communications sites and other infrastructure needs to support these populations. BLM's goal is to work with local communities, as well as other Federal, State and local agencies and interests, to ensure the public lands are providing the right mix of land uses, while conserving the natural, cultural, scenic, and recreational values that make the area a desirable place to live. Both the need for energy infrastructure and aggregate sources (especially in Los Angeles) have received recent public attention.
A limited amount of archaeological inventory has been conducted in western Riverside County. Large projects conducted by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the US Army Corps of Engineers have provided regional cultural and paleontological overviews of the Domenigoni Valley, Vail Lake, Potrero Creek, and San Bernardino Valley areas. They suggest an area rich in cultural sites such as villages along the rivers, river terraces and possibly near springs. Historic use dates to Spanish exploration, the establishment of missions in southern California during the late 1700's, and later wagon roads and railroad routes. Paleontological assemblages found in the area have included late Pleistocene vertebrate fossils of such animals as mammoth, bison, horse and camel.
O b j e c t i v e s
1. Provide protection and enhancement for biological values, with emphasis on Poppet Flats, Beauty Mountain, Steele Peak and Estelle Mountain.
2. Identify, maintain, and enhance recreational opportunities, responsive to local needs and public visitation to the area.
3. Provide for effective management and protection of cultural and paleontological sites and values.
4. Work with local community leadership and law enforcement agencies to provide for safe visits to public land and to discourage illegal uses.
5. Provide for community infrastructure needs to support Riverside and Los Angeles Counties, with emphasis on energy, communications and mineral materials sites.