Jennifer Ruggiero, March 2021 Morongo Basin Original

March 2021 Morongo Basin Original Jennifer Ruggiero and her son Tony.

It gives us great pleasure to name Jennifer Ruggiero the March 2021 Morongo Basin Original.

There are many multi-talented artists and technicians in the Basin who follow their own lights, and Jennifer is certainly one of those. She is accomplished and acclaimed in both still photography and film and is an experienced media arts teacher. She plays jazz flute as well. Enjoy browsing her work and follow her on Instagram at jennifer_ruggiero_photography.

But what specifically qualifies Jennifer as a Morongo Basin Original this month is the care she enacts for the land and community in the eastern Basin, speaking out on behalf of sane land use, announcing meetings and circulating petitions concerning the proliferation of seasonal or vacation home rentals (VHRs) and their impact on neighborhoods that have heretofore been characterized by owner-occupied homes. (Sign the petition!) She has also spoken out about the detrimental effects of illegal marijuana cultivation on soil quality and the water table in and around Joshua Tree, 29 Palms, and Wonder Valley.

We have experienced Jennifer as a particularly live-and-let-live person, celebrating others for their differences—a generous motivation we’ve been impressed to see exemplified by many people here in the Basin—so we are confident that her concerns are not about the morality of pot; they’re about the impact that illegal growing operations have on the land that will degrade the desert for everyone. She advocates for legalization of marijuana cultivation in San Bernardino county to ensure best practices.

Because both VHRs and marijuana are lucrative businesses and Jennifer has been advocating regulating both, she has experienced significant pushback from parties who value money above land conservation and community integrity, but overwhelming support from the people living in the Basin. Her leadership and courage in the face of such pushback is what inspires us to name her Morongo Basin Original this month.

Way to go, Jennifer!

©2021 The Artists LeFey