For Immediate Release, January 23, 2009
Contact: Adam Keats, (415) 436-9682 x 304; (415) 845-2509 (cell)
Tejon Ranch Seeks Permit to Harm California Condor;
Core Habitat Would Be Destroyed by Sprawl Development
LOS ANGELES— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a draft plan today that would allow the Tejon Ranch Company to harm and harass the iconic and extremely endangered California condor. The condor’s last bastion of wild habitat is threatened by mega-developments in northern Los Angeles and southern Kern counties, planned by the Tejon Ranch Company, a publicly traded company heavily invested in by New York-based funds. Twenty-six other rare species are also included in the proposed plan. This Habitat Conservation Plan, as it is called, is sought by Tejon Ranch to exempt Tejon from its otherwise illegal “taking” of the covered endangered and threatened species.
“The countdown has begun on Tejon’s plan to destroy the condor’s ‘Garden of Eden’—the core of its existence,” said Adam Keats, director of the Urban Wildlands Program of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Contrary to Tejon’s assertions, this is not a conservation plan. This is a permit to harm, displace, disturb, and in some cases, kill 27 endangered, threatened, or rare species that call Tejon home. Don’t be fooled: Each of these species would be far better off if this permit is never issued.”
Tejon Ranch covers over 270,000 acres of wilderness at the crossroads of Northern and Southern California. The Mojave desert, the southern Sierra Nevada mountains, the great Central Valley and the southern forests all converge on Tejon Ranch — the only place in California where four ecoregions come together. The diversity of plants and animals that occur on Tejon Ranch is exceptional. Several of the rare plants and animals that Tejon Ranch Company is seeking permission to harm or kill are only known from Tejon Ranch, and have nowhere else to live.
“Barely 100 condors fly free in California, and only about 50 near Tejon, the historical heart of their range,” said Ileene Anderson, staff biologist with the Center. “They simply cannot withstand a single death, nor can they withstand the loss of habitat that this permit would enable. Tejon Mountain Village is smack in the middle of the linchpin of the condor’s historical and contemporary existence. Condors and housing developments simply do not mix. If Tejon Mountain Village is allowed to be built, the condor will lose.”
Besides the California condor, Tejon Ranch is a refuge for a host of wildlife and plants threatened by the proposal, including five other species declared by the state of California to be “fully protected”: the bald eagle, American peregrine falcon, golden eagle, white-tailed kite, and ringtail (the condor is also fully protected). Other species in the permit request include the least Bell’s vireo, southwestern willow flycatcher, American peregrine falcon, bald eagle, golden eagle, white-tailed kite, yellow warbler, Valley elderberry longhorn beetle, western yellow-billed cuckoo, Tehachapi slender salamander, little willow flycatcher, tricolored blackbird, Tehachapi pocket mouse, ringtail, burrowing owl, yellow-blotched salamander, western spadefoot, purple martin, coast horned lizard, two-striped garter snake, round-leaved filaree, Fort Tejon woolly sunflower, Kusche’s sandwort, Tehachapi buckwheat, striped adobe lily, and Tejon poppy.
“As the condor goes, so goes what makes California special,” said Adam Keats. “Real-estate speculation has exacted a heavy toll on our environment in California , just as it’s wreaked havoc on our economy. It’s time we say that we’ve had enough. We sincerely hope that the Fish and Wildlife Service comes to its senses and rejects this permit.”
The Center has a better plan for Tejon Ranch: preserving it as a new national or state park. See http://www.savetejonranch.org.