Newsletter: Essential California: How Trump is sparking a fight in the desert

Tom Egan, Defenders of Wildlife, walks along a wash at Chuckwalla Bench.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times )

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, March 16, and here’s what’s happening across California:


On the horizon

In a stunning reversal, President Trump one year ago ordered the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to reopen study of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan and consider shrinking the desert areas outside of Indio it protects and expanding lands available for solar, wind, broadband infrastructure, mining, off-road vehicles and grazing. Now, stakeholders are once again vying for control of some of the most sensitive and sought-after lands in the state — and the winners could determine whether California’s deserts become a hub for energy production at the expense of their unique plants and animals. Los Angeles Times


More high-speed train problems

The California bullet train will have another slow segment of track as part of a new cost-savings measure, state rail authority documents reveal. Technical documents attached to the authority’s 2018 business plan show that it no longer plans to have dedicated tracks designed for speeds of up to 220 mph over a 30-mile stretch south of San Francisco. Instead, the system would operate between San Jose and Gilroy at 110 mph on ground-level tracks on or adjacent to an existing right of way owned by Union Pacific. Los Angeles Times

Tuition hike

University of California regents voted Thursday to increase tuition for nonresident students as they struggle to raise more revenue amid surging enrollment and what they say is inadequate state funding. Los Angeles Times


Get ready! Get out those book bags. The L.A. Times has announced the lineup for the 23rd Festival of Books. Los Angeles Times

Mudslide: An early morning mudslide triggered a closure of Topanga Canyon Boulevard that could last through the weekend. Los Angeles Times

Sad story: Clark Sharon, now homeless, spends his days reading the newspapers he once wrote for, including the L.A. Times. OC Weekly


In Mexico: Former Mexican prosecutor Santiago Nieto, dismissed in October, says he was investigating bribes that officials at Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht said they paid in 2012 to a then-top campaign aide of President Enrique Peña Nieto. Wall Street Journal

Interesting story: California’s “radical embrace of inclusion stands in contrast to the Golden State’s less-than-generous past,” writes USC Professor Manuel Pastor. Los Angeles Times

A first! “The Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday appointed the first undocumented resident to a statewide post, according to Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León’s office.Sacramento Bee


Mendoza dispute: The chairman of the California Democratic Party has asked the secretary of state to reject Tony Mendoza’s ballot designation as “state senator,” saying it is misleading because Mendoza resigned from the Senate last month under threat of expulsion over sexual harassment allegations. Los Angeles Times

Novel legislation: Alarmed that California’s fledgling legal marijuana industry is being undercut by the black market, a group of lawmakers proposed Thursday to reduce state taxes for three years on growing and selling cannabis to allow licensed sellers to get on their feet. Los Angeles Times

Big picture here: “In a state that’s central to the battle for control of the House, Democrats emerged from a filing deadline late Wednesday resigned to the possibility that no Democratic candidate will appear on the November ballot in several key House races.” Politico


Court order: The city of Los Angeles has been barred from enforcing nearly all of its remaining gang injunctions, the latest blow to one of the city’s oldest and most controversial law enforcement initiatives. Los Angeles Times

Remember this? That Joshua Tree couple who were arrested for living with their kids in squalor have a new home, purchased, fixed and furnished by donations. They hope to get their kids back as well. KMIR

Do-over: A state assemblyman wants to create a new felony offense to penalize organized retail theft, a crime some have called an unintended consequence of a 2014 ballot initiative that reduced drug possession and some theft crimes to misdemeanors. Los Angeles Times

The RV ban: As businesses cite blight, overnight RV parking bans on L.A.’s streets grow — and the homeless are scrambling. Los Angeles Times


Raptor poaching:A Northern California man shot more than 130 hawks and other legally protected birds of prey on his land, leaving the carcasses to pile up at the foot of trees and telephone poles, wildlife officials said Wednesday.” Associated Press


So exciting, possibly: Los Angeles is among 17 U.S. cities in the running to serve as hosts for the 2026 World Cup should the group seeking to bring the tournament to North America prove successful in its bid. Los Angeles Times

RIP: Former Cal-State Fullerton baseball coach Augie Garrido, who transformed an upstart baseball team from a commuter school into one of the most respected and successful programs in college sports, died Thursday in Newport Beach of complications following a stroke. He was 79. Los Angeles Times

Plus: Matt Kemp’s improbable return to Dodger Stadium in a Dodgers uniform has become entirely conceivable, with the 33-year-old crushing baseballs and looking as lean as he did when he was an All-Star. Los Angeles Times

Important history lesson: “Meet the women who began California’s first #MeToo movement – 100 years ago.” Sacramento Bee

Click! Beautiful Instagrams of L.A.’s first spring flowers. Los Angeles Magazine


Los Angeles area: showers, 59, Friday; partly cloudy, 60, Saturday. San Diego: partly cloudy, 62, Friday; showers, 60, Saturday. San Francisco area: showers, 52, Friday and Saturday. Sacramento: showers, 55, Friday; showers, 53, Saturday. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Sharon Smith:

“In the fall of 1963, I was living in the senior girls’ dorm at Chadwick School in Rolling Hills. The campus then comprised 400 acres. Rattlesnake-strewn hay fields sloped down the front, and empty hills rose behind the school. Not a house in sight. My roommate Mary and I were bored and restless one night, so we climbed out our room’s back window, hurried past the Quonset huts and John-the-Cook’s trailer, and climbed the hill. What a panorama on that rare smog-free midnight. A sky full of stars and a quarter moon above, and below us the twinkling lights of the L.A. basin. Getting cold in our nightgowns, robes, and slippers, we hurried down the other side of the chalky hill toward a brand-new shopping center, hiding in a ditch when a police car went by. We found a friend’s house nearby and chatted with Joyce until dawn. Her boyfriend — who had a key to the school’s gate — drove us back to the dorm. We skittered from his car into our room, quite relieved: Capture would have meant instant expulsion!”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. Send us an email to let us know what you love or fondly remember about our state. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to Benjamin Oreskes and Shelby Grad. Also follow them on Twitter @boreskes and @shelbygrad.