By CBSLA Staff

SAN BERNARDINO (CBSLA) – A couple were fined $18,000 Tuesday for digging up 36 Joshua trees on a property they own in San Bernardino County’s Morongo Basin.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the couple dug up the trees in order to clear space to build a house on the lot which they own.

FILE — Joshua Tree National Park in Joshua Tree, Calif. on Sept. 1 , 2020. (Getty Images)

In February, a neighbor reported the activity through a California Department of Fish and Wildlife tip line, the Times reports.

The couple were charged with 36 misdemeanor counts. On Tuesday, as part of a plea deal, a judge fined them each $9,000 and ordered them to enter a diversion program, the Times said.

Back in September of 2020, the California Fish and Game Commission voted to list the western Joshua tree as a threatened or endangered species for at least one year under the California Endangered Species Act.

That move kicked off a one-year status review. At the end of that review, the commission will make a final decision on the Joshua tree’s status as a threatened or endangered species.