| FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 4, 2006
Contact: Adam Keats, Center for Biological Diversity, 415-436-9682 x.304
Proposed Hilton Hotel Threatens Wetlands
City of Big Bear Lake, Calif. – A broad coalition filed suit today to overturn the approval of a hotel development just south of Big Bear Lake, charging that it would destroy fragile wetlands, endangered plant communities and scenic values of the area.
The hotel development, a Hilton Garden Inn, was approved by the Big Bear Lake City Council on July 5 with a height variance that allows it to be approximately ten feet higher than current zoning laws allow. The nearly four-acre property is home to the endangered Bird-footed Checkerbloom, a wetlands plant, as well as Kennedy’s Buckwheat, a “pebble plains plant” that is unique to the San Bernardino Mountains and listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
“The developer was granted a height variance based on the presence of the endangered plants, yet by ignoring the wetlands and pebble plains habitat, these plants face a very uncertain future. The developer gets their cake and gets to eat it, too, while Big Bear Lake loses some very special habitat,” said Ed Wallace of the Big Bear Group of the Sierra Club.
“We’re very concerned about the threat this poses to the two endangered plant communities that are on the site,” said Drew Feldmann, Chapter President of San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society. “The development plan approved by the city doesn’t protect the sensitive wet meadow habitat or the pebble plains habitat that are on the site.”
“In addition to wrecking a very special and rare plant community, this hotel would create a traffic nightmare for that part of Big Bear Lake Boulevard, tax our already stretched-thin water resources, and make it that much harder to evacuate if and when we have another big fire up here,” said Dan Fowlks of Friends of Big Bear Valley.
“This is a terrible location for a hotel of this size. Not only is it in sensitive habitat, but it’s also a big project that is out of character with the neighborhood, blocking lake views, and on a dangerous corner of the highway. It should never have been approved, much less been granted a height variance,” said Adam Keats, staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity.
The case was filed in San Bernardino Superior Court under the California Environmental Quality Act. Organizations that joined in the lawsuit are the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society, Friends of Big Bear Valley and Christians for the Earth.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a non-profit conservation organization with more than 25,000 members dedicated to the protection of imperiled species and habitat.