Open land is a contested resource in Inland Southern California. In the past two decades, swaths of open space Riverside and San Bernardino Counties have been paved over for housing developments, warehouses, and Inland ports. The conservation of open space is critical to sustaining a rapidly changing Inland region.

San Bernardino County mapping project

Unlike neighboring Riverside County, San Bernardino County has no large-scale conservation plan. It’s a massive landscape—the largest county in California and in the United States. In Western San Bernardino County, rampant suburbanization, a development-friendly political climate, and the entrenched goods movement have left indelible imprints on the landscape. Thousands of acres have already annexed by municipalities that aim to finish developing the historic alluvial fans along the foothills of the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains—a risky endeavor in fire and flood prone Southern California.

Though much of Western San Bernardino County is seen as “valueless” from the outside—a blank slate, so to speak—San Bernardino County is a biodiversity hotspot. Part of California’s Floristic Province, the County’s San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains are part of the Transverse Ranges—the only mountains in California that run east-west. This unique geography has created rare ecological niches, with soil types and accompanying species diversity that are now under severe threat.

Mimicking the unrealized potential of the landmark 1920’s Olmstead-Bartholomew plan, our San Bernardino County Mapping Project harnesses existing momentum of multiple agencies to build capacity for land conservation in San Bernardino County. Working closely with local partners, the RRC will researches the mountain foothills as a critical ecological zone, maps remaining parcels for potential conservation plans, and educates political and residential communities as to the value of the lands that surround them.