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For Immediate Release, October 19, 2012

Contact:   John Buse, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 533-4416    
Van Collinsworth, Preserve Wild Santee, (619) 258-7929
Dan Silver, Endangered Habitats League, (213) 804-2750

Appeals Court Deals Another Blow to Sprawling Fanita Ranch Project

SAN DIEGO— An appellate court ruled today in favor of the opponents of the Fanita Ranch project, a 1,380-unit development that would sprawl over thousands of acres of important wild areas on the city of Santee’s northern edge. Today’s decision comes in the wake of two earlier legal setbacks for Fanita Ranch.

Santee approved the latest iteration of development at Fanita Ranch in 2007. Subsequently, after legal challenges by Preserve Wild Santee, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Endangered Habitats League, a superior court judge twice ruled that the city failed to adequately consider the project’s fire safety impacts. Today’s California Court of Appeal decision supplements these rulings, finding that the city improperly deferred dealing with the project’s effects on the endangered Quino checkerspot butterfly and did not properly consider the project’s water supply demands. As a result of the decision, the city will have to re-evaluate these concerns, as well as fire safety, if it decides to pursue the project in the future.

“Today’s decision is the third strike for this sprawling, unnecessary development in the heart of rich habitat for plants and animals,” said John Buse, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This ruling should be a clear message to the city and the developer that the project overreached.”

The 2,600-acre Fanita Ranch site is now almost entirely undeveloped open space.  Fanita Ranch contains rich chaparral, coastal sage scrub and vernal pool habitats, and supports many rare plants and animals in addition to the Quino checkerspot butterfly, including California gnatcatchers, San Diego fairy shrimp, and willowy monardella.

“Fanita Ranch is a regional treasure that deserves Santee’s highest priority for conservation,” said Van Collinsworth, Preserve Wild Santee’s executive director.  “Today’s decision lends further support to this priority.”

“It is essential for the rare natural resources of Fanita Ranch to be protected, which the project approved in 2007 did not,” added Dan Silver, executive director of the Endangered Habitats League.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 450,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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