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Save Tejon Ranch
Courthouse News Service, August 30, 2010

Landowner Barred from Salamander Fight
By Joseph Celentino

The owner of the largest piece of private property in California, whose land is home to one of the two remaining populations of the Tehachapi slender salamander, cannot intervene in a lawsuit to speed up the animal's addition to the Endangered Species List, the Federal Circuit ruled.

The Center for Biological Diversity and Wildearth Guardians sued after the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to make a decision on the salamander's status within the one-year deadline, concluding only that listing "may be warranted."

Tejon Ranchcorp owns the property, which supports ranching and farming, oil production, mining, recreational activities and real estate development.

Twenty-seven endangered species live on the ranch, and conservation of 90 percent of the property is already in place. Although there are still plans to build a resort on the land, Ranchcorp has been working with the Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a plan which will protect 3,507 of the 3,797 acres of suitable habitat for the salamander.

The group says it will lose money and be unable to develop its property if the decision is made before its conservation plan has been finalized, which it believes will eliminate the need to list the species all together.

The circuit ruled that Tejon Ranchcorp should not be added to the case, finding that its principle interest is the completion and approval of the conservation plan, not the decision to add the salamander to the Endangered Species List.

"Whether the [Fish and Wildlife Service] fulfilled a procedural obligation to complete review of the status of the Tehachapi slender salamander within the time period provided by law \has no apparent impact on whether [Tejon Ranchcorp's] proposed plan will be approved," Judge Emmet Sullivan wrote.  

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton