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For Immediate Release, April 8, 2010

Contact:  Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (213) 598-1466
Dr. Leonard Nunney, Friends of Riverside’s Hills, (951) 313-5386
Drew Feldmann, San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society, (909) 319-6936
George Hague, Sierra Club-San Gorgonio Chapter, (951) 924-0816

Groups Move to Save Wildlife Preserve Area From Industrial Development
Warehouses Proposed in Endangered Species Habitat

RIVERSIDE, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity, San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society, Sierra Club, and Friends of Riverside’s Hills filed suit today challenging an industrial development planned within a wildlife area in the city of Riverside. Two separate lawsuits oppose the city’s approval of a warehouse distribution center and industrial park within an area dedicated for permanent protection adjacent to the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park.

“Trading dirty diesel for nature preserves is a bad deal for both wildlife and neighborhoods,” said Jonathan Evans of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Sycamore Canyon was dedicated for permanent wildlife conservation for a reason and can’t simply be carved up for warehouses just to make this developer happy.”

Much of the area proposed for development was dedicated for permanent protection as the Sycamore Canyon-March Air Force Base Core Reserve under the Stephens’ Kangaroo Rat Habitat Conservation Plan. But after the warehouse project was first proposed in early 2007, the Core Reserve boundary was changed to eliminate protections for wildlife habitat. This change was made without any environmental review, reversing the protections under the habitat conservation plan.

“After many years of study and negotiation, a plan to preserve Stephens’ kangaroo rat while providing for a blueprint for responsible future development was finalized and signed,” said Dr. Leonard Nunney of the Friends of Riverside’s Hills. “But this project shows how easy it is for these agencies to break their promises and sacrifice scarce habitat for development.”

This lawsuit follows a legal challenge to a proposed land swap on the March Stephens’ Kangaroo Rat Preserve that would further endanger the rat and hurt other imperiled species. The land swap has been proposed to enable further commercial and industrial development of the former March Air Force Base. Although other lands have been proposed for protection as part of the swap, the unequal trade will ultimately cause more harm than good, destroying essential wildlife habitat and linkages and encouraging neighboring industrial development — and ultimately threatening the integrity of a network of Riverside County wildlife preserves.

“In supposedly green Riverside, wildlife and the remaining natural habitat have little value to some public officials in practice,” said Drew Feldmann of the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society.

In addition to the planned land swap and warehouse project in the city of Riverside, another threat looms for this network of nature preserves: Riverside County recently approved a separate large-scale industrial warehouse to be located across Alessandro Boulevard. This project would be directly adjacent to the March Stephens’ Kangaroo Rat Preserve. Combined, these two projects threaten to sever the preserve’s connection to the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park and permanently isolate both refuges.

“Legal commitments for permanent reserves can’t simply be changed on a whim,” said George Hague of the Sierra Club’s San Gorgonio Chapter. “Many habitat plans already favor pavement over protection and are tipped further out of balance when past promises for protection are broken.”

Numerous threatened and endangered species live in these areas of western Riverside County and are threatened by unchecked development including the Stephens’ kangaroo rat, bobcat, burrowing owls, least Bells' vireo, and coast horned lizard. These warehouse projects would also cause extensive diesel-truck traffic, exacerbating regional air-quality problems as well as global warming.

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