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For Immediate Release, May 31, 2007

Contact: Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (213) 598-1466

Conservation Groups Challenge Controversial Annexation
Approval Terminates Regional Habitat Plans

RIVERSIDE, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club filed suit today to challenge a controversial annexation approved by the Riverside Local Agency Formation Commission, a regional agency charged with discouraging urban sprawl. The annexation opens the door for a luxury resort on recognized conservation lands at the heart of a regional habitat plan near Joshua Tree National Park.

The Palmwood annexation would devastate the natural character of the region by allowing for the development of more than 2,600 homes, more than 1 million square feet of commercial space, a 400-room hotel, commercial amphitheater, and two golf courses.

The California Department of Fish and Game sent a May 4, 2007 letter to the Coachella Valley Association of Governments stating the annexation jeopardizes an agreement to protect the Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard and could result in lengthy delays in development permits. On May 25, 2007, both Riverside County and the Coachella Valley Conservation Commission requested that the commission reconsider its decision because of financial problems with the proposal and threats to the Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan. This habitat plan — in development for more than 10 years — has been supported by local governments, public agencies, developers and environmentalists alike. It attempts to balance development and wildlife protection in one of the fastest-growing areas in the United States.

"What's at stake here is a regional conservation plan more than 12 years in the making — a plan that is critical to both the economic and conservation future of the Coachella Valley," said Joan Taylor, local Conservation Chair for Sierra Club. “LAFCO should have done more than just rubber-stamp Desert Hot Springs' shoddy environmental impact report."

“The Palmwood annexation throws the plans and permits in the Coachella Valley into a tailspin,” said Jonathan Evans, staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s an ecological disaster for wildlife and a financial disaster for people in the valley.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 35,000 members dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Sierra Club is a nonprofit conservation organization of over 732,000 members dedicated to exploring, enjoying, and protecting the wild places of the earth.

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