For Immediate Release July 30, 2004
Contact: Peter Galvin, Center for Biological Diversity, 707-986-7805
The Center for Biological Diversity has called for an investigation by the California Attorney General and the California Environmental Protection Agency into the role of the Tejon Ranch Company in the death of an endangered California condor last year. The Tejon Ranch Company is currently seeking a blanket "incidental take" permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) which would allow it to harm, harass, and even kill endangered condors during construction and operation of a proposed series of major developments north of Los Angeles.
Tejon Ranch is located on 270,000 acres of wild country north of Los Angeles. It lies at the geographic center of California condor habitat. In February 2003, a hunter participating in a Tejon Ranch sponsored event shot and killed an especially biologically important and beloved California condor designated "AC-8." AC-8, one of the last wild condors captured for the captive breeding program, was vital to the efforts to reintroduce the condor throughout its historic range in southern California. Less than 50 currently fly free in California. The condor is so rare and imperiled that the FWS has to this date never granted an "incidental take" permit for the species.
"AC-8's death was tragic, as she was one of the last of the original wild condors. Condors are so rare that we simply can't afford to lose a single one" said Center Staff Attorney Adam Keats.
Tejon Ranch Company is seeking an Incidental Take Permit as part of a Habitat Conservation Plan for Tejon Ranch that would enable the development of thousands of acres of historic and critical condor habitat. The permit would allow for the harm, harassment, and killing of condors as Tejon Ranch builds out its development. The permit would remain active for the next 50 years.
"If Tejon Ranch Company is guilty of wrongdoing in the death of AC-8, they can't legally be issued the Incidental Take Permit under the Endangered Species Act. Their role needs to be fully investigated before any permits are issued," said Keats.
Peter Galvin, Conservation Director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said that "TRC has long opposed the condor recovery program. In 1997, TRC filed a federal lawsuit to halt condor reintroduction and to remove protections for condors. Now they are seeking an Incidental Take Permit that would allow them to kill or harm California condors on Tejon Ranch. If granted, this would be the first such take permit ever issued for the condor, which is perilously close to extinction even after years of recovery efforts. Allowing killing, harm, or harassment of a single condor is unacceptable." Galvin added "Instead of being rewarded for their efforts to thwart the condor's recovery, TRC should be investigated and prosecuted for the condor's death."
The Center for Biological Diversity protects endangered species and wild places through science, policy, education and environmental law.