LOS ANGELES (KCBS) – The iconic Joshua trees that populate parts of Southern California are now even more protected than ever, as people who illegally cut them down could face fines of up to $20,000, as first reported by the Los Angeles Times.
On Tuesday, San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors voted to ratchet up the fines for those who remove the trees by thousands of dollars.
Before Tuesday, the penalty for cutting down one of those trees was $1,000 fine.
First-time offenders will now be fined $5,000, second-time offenders will be fined $10,000, and those who do it a third time will be fined $20,000, and could face up to six months in jail, according to the resolution.
"The County is committed to protecting the western Joshua tree from unlawful destruction or unpermitted disturbance by levying significant fines against those offending individuals or agencies, including enforcing such violations as misdemeanor offenses," said the resolution from the meeting.
The trees are already at risk due to climate change, making the decision to increase their protection more urgent.
Right now the trees' protection falls to individual counties, like San Bernardino County, the paper reported.
"At just over 20,000 square miles, San Bernardino County (County) is the largest county in the contiguous United States. Among the features that contribute to the attractiveness and livability of the County desert communities are its Joshua trees growing as single specimens or in clusters," said the ordinance from the meeting.
But next month state officials will decide whether or not to make it endangered.
"The County remains steadfast in its desire to further protect and preserve the western Joshua tree in the event the western Joshua tree is not granted protections under CESA," said the resolution. "By reexamining local regulation and exploring the adoption of uniform set of management regulations with other regulatory agencies that are designed to preserve and manage western Joshua tree habitat, implement disincentives to the destruction of western Joshua trees, and ensure proper enforcement."
The meeting will take place on June 16.