For Immediate Release, May 16, 2007
Contact: Lisa Belenky, (415) 385-5694
Judge Issues Injunction to Protect Bighorn Sheep
Halts Grading for Golf Course in Peninsular Bighorn Sheep Habitat
PALM SPRINGS, Calif.– Superior Court Judge Harold Hopp issued a preliminary injunction today to prevent grading in Peninsular bighorn sheep critical habitat in the heart of Chino Canyon at the entrance to Palm Springs. The Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity asked the court to enjoin the developer from all grading until the court could rule on their lawsuit, which asserted that the city of Palm Springs had illegally extended the Shadowrock Development Agreement under a so-called “force majeure” provision.
The court agreed with the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity that if grading were to proceed, the damage to Chino Canyon would be irreparable. The ruling protects the endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep and least Bell’s vireo that live along Chino Creek and also protects the voters’ right of referendum on a 10-year extension of the development agreement for this project.
“Shadowrock was hoping to do some grading so that it could claim it had vested its development rights and no longer needed the 10-year extension that is scheduled for a public vote this November,” said D. Wayne Brechtel, Sierra Club legal counsel. “The court put the brakes on the ill-advised plan and put Shadowrock on notice that it cannot circumvent the court’s jurisdiction or the voters’ right of referendum.”
Last spring, a 3-1 vote of the Palm Springs City Council narrowly approved the 10-year extension of the already 13-year-old Shadowrock Development Agreement. Immediately after the council’s decision, Save Our Mountains collected enough signatures to refer the decision to the voters of Palm Springs. The election will take place on November 6, 2007.
“This injunction is critical to protecting the endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep and its critical habitat in Chino Canyon as well as least Bell’s vireo nesting sites along Chino Creek. It also protects a crucial movement corridor for the bighorn in the northern part of its range,” said Lisa Belenky, staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We take heart that the judge agreed that there is no need to rush to develop yet another golf course and luxury housing development before the court can thoroughly review the merits of the case.”
The efforts of the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity to secure the injunction were supported by experts who have worked to conserve and recover the endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep for decades.
This case was filed in addition to the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity’s California Environmental Quality Act challenge to the 10-year development agreement filed last year. That suit is currently stayed, pending the referendum vote. The Center for Biological Diversity also recently filed a related challenge in federal court challenging project approvals by Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act because they would allow the project to proceed despite significant impacts to the endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep and its critical habitat as well as impacts to the least Bell’s vireo.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 35,000 members dedicated to the protection of imperiled species and habitat.