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For Immediate Release, March 1, 2012

Contact:  John Buse, (323) 533-4416

Fanita Ranch Fails Second Test:
Court Rules City of Santee Has Still Not Addressed Development's Fire Safety

SAN DIEGO— A court today upheld the second legal challenge by environmental groups to the sprawling Fanita Ranch project planned for the northern edge of Santee in San Diego County. As approved in December 2007, Fanita Ranch would put about 1,400 homes on the 2,600-acre site in a dispersed, low-density design that maximizes both habitat loss for endangered species and the risk of catastrophic wildfires.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Preserve Wild Santee and the Endangered Habitats League prevailed in their first lawsuit on the issue of fire safety. When the city of Santee simply reaffirmed its original decision without considering a more rational and fire-safe project, the groups filed a new suit; today’s ruling upholds the groups’ claims in this second suit that Santee has still failed to adequately address the project’s fire safety.

“The ruling validates our concern that Santee just tried to rationalize its original decision without a real look at why the project faces extraordinary fire risks,” said John Buse, senior staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Fire safety is closely related to the fate of wildlife in this place — the same unwise design decisions that create these fire risks for human communities also threaten rare animals like the Quino checkerspot butterfly, Hermes copper butterfly, California gnatcatcher and San Diego fairy shrimp.”

As a result of today’s ruling, Santee will again have to consider the project’s fire safety. “After the first ruling, the city missed a prime opportunity to address the basic design issues that threaten both the site’s current wildlife and future residents,” Buse said. “We hope this time it will do more than simply paper over these fundamental concerns.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 320,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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