No single region of North America is more biodiverse or ecologically spectacular than Southern California. This is the only place on the continent that spans arid deserts and lush forests, snow-covered peaks and the coast — creating habitat for an extraordinary number of species found nowhere else on Earth.
But Southern California is also one of the fastest-growing regions in the country, currently home to approximately two-thirds of the 38 million people living in the state. In Riverside County alone, the population increased by more than 42 percent between 2000 and 2013 — reaching 2.3 million people — and building permits doubled within this time.
The enormous value of Southern California’s wildlands, paired with the region’s enormous hunger for human-supporting infrastructure, makes it one of the country’s most difficult and important regions for properly managing wild places. Urban wildlands in particular are critical, those areas in which humans’ living space and wild species’ living space meet. Our job in such places, especially in regions as heavily populated as Southern California, is to ensure that people’s quality of life is supported by an abundance of biodiversity — while humans likewise support, instead of threaten, that abundance.
At the Center we believe that the quality of life for Southern California’s many residents is intricately linked to the protection of wild open spaces and the other species that also call the region home.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY
This massive housing development will impair important riparian habitat of the last free-flowing river system in the Los Angeles basin: the Santa Ana River. It will directly impact the least Bell’s vireo, unarmored threespine stickleback and San Fernando spineflower. The Center won an important California Environmental Quality Act victory against the Department of Fish and Wildlife for issuing a permit to channelize, fill, and otherwise severely alter the Santa Clara River and its tributaries and destroy this essential habitat. We’re engaged in several other active lawsuits to stop the project before any damage is done.
For more than a decade the Center has been fighting to protect Tejon Ranch — one of California’s most magnificent landscapes, critical habitat for the California condor, and home to dozens of other threatened and endangered species. Wall Street real estate speculators have proposed three massive projects on Tejon that would constitute the largest real estate development project in California history. Together they could spell doom for the California condor in the wild, pave a swath of destructive sprawl from Los Angeles to Bakersfield, and drive a stake through the heart of the irreplaceable Tehachapi ecosystem.
World Logistics Center
This 41.6 million square foot warehouse project will substantially affect Moreno Valley’s air quality, human health, as well as the Stephens’ kangaroo rat and other threatened species. The Center submitted comments on the project and will continue to watchdog and fight the project to prevent its harmful impacts from being realized.
Santa Ana Sucker critical habitat
The Center successfully sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to designate critical habitat for the endangered Santa Ana sucker, and we’ve subsequently defended that protected habitat against lawsuits by local water interests that are essentially designed to gut such designations and protections. As long as the Santa Ana River appears to be a “path of least resistance” to the sprawl development industry, the sucker and other endangered and threatened species will still be at risk. But the Center will be there, working to protect them and to ensure that the laws in place continue to be followed.
SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY
Cadiz Water Project
A private water reseller has proposed to pump groundwater from the Mojave Desert and pipe it hundreds of miles from San Bernardino County to Orange County to fuel speculative development sprawl. The project threatens to dry up the area’s few natural springs and completely de-water seasonal lake beds, stealing habitat from species — including the desert tortoise, desert bighorn sheep, Mojave fringe-toed lizard and desert kit fox. The Center and our allies are fighting this terrible project on all fronts, including by filing a major lawsuit in 2012.
SAN DIEGO COUNTY
The Center went to court repeatedly — and successfully — to stop this massive sprawl housing project, which would have negatively affected vernal pool habitat, water supply and traffic, besides creating increased fire hazards. Fanita Ranch is currently on hold, pending further environmental review and a likely redesign.
The Castlerock Development
Settling our lawsuit, developer Pardee Homes agreed to revise the project to protect Quail Canyon Creek and to make additional land available for public open space and wildlife habitat. “With Pardee’s agreement to avoid the most sensitive parts of the Castlerock site and to expand regional open space, this settlement will benefit the public, wildlife and habitat,” said John Buse, a senior attorney with the Center.
Presidential Substation Project
Southern California Edison has proposed to build a new electrical substation with high-tension power lines in a residential area — and in protected critical habitat for the California gnatcatcher. The corporation continues to push the wasteful and destructive plan, while ignoring far superior alternatives. The Center has been working with local allies to force SC Edison to consider proposed alternatives that would protect gnatcatcher habitat and open spaces, and to reroute any high-tension lines away from area homes.