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For Immediate Release, March 24, 2010

Contacts:  Douglas P. Carstens, Chatten-Brown & Carstens, (310) 314-8040
Adam Keats, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 436-9682 x 304
Hugh Bialecki, Save Our Forest Association, (909) 337-0705
Drew Feldmann, San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society, (909) 881-6081

Board Approval of Royal Ranger Camp Project Contested
Suit Filed to Uphold Public Safety and Responsible Planning in San Bernardino Mountains

TWIN PEAKS, Calif.— After a decisive town meeting on Sunday, mountain community members and supporting organizations agreed to challenge the county of San Bernardino Board of Supervisors’ approval of the controversial Royal Rangers Adventure Camp project in the San Bernardino Mountains community of Twin Peaks. The necessary lawsuit was filed today in Superior Court by Save Our Forest Association, Center for Biological Diversity, San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society, and Christians for the Earth.

The project, located on 50 acres of steep terrain, would seriously compromise the public safety of the area, bringing hundreds of people to a forested location prone to wildfire with limited evacuation routes.

“The Board ignored the clear and knowledgeable warnings by the community and public-safety officials that this project would unnecessarily and irresponsibly put a great number of people at risk,” said Dr. Hugh Bialecki, president of Save Our Forest Association. “It’s clear from our packed town meetings that the community feels let down by both the Planning Department and the Board of Supervisors. And now we must raise large sums of money and go to court to do the work that our leaders were elected and paid to do, but failed to do.”

The suit asserts violations of critical components of the county’s own General Plan designed to maintain public safety, unique mountain values, and sound planning practices, as well as violations of the California Environmental Quality Act. The project site is home to the southern rubber boa, a snake threatened with extinction that occupies only a limited range of the San Bernardino Mountains. The suit seeks to void the Board’s approval of the project, sending it and the environmental impact report back to the drawing board for compliance with state law.

“The value of the San Bernardino Mountains as a scenic treasure and wildlife haven is diminished every time the County fails to follow its own guidelines,” said Drew Feldmann, conservation chair of the local Audubon Society. “It’s discouraging that the County treats these resources with so little respect.”

“This project is simply inappropriate for this site,” said Adam Keats of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Board failed to properly consider alternatives to this plan, sacrificing the safety of the mountain community and the fate of the rubber boa in the process.”

“The county arbitrarily disregarded recommendations of firefighting and state biological professionals. It downplayed the importance of overall proper planning for fire safety,” said Chatten-Brown and Carstens attorney Doug Carstens. “The County General Plan has numerous interlocking policies that work together to achieve greater safety of residents and firefighters by restricting development in fire-prone wildland/urban intermix zones and ensuring there is adequate emergency evacuation capability. Open-space policies for wildlife corridors and critical habitat contribute to lessening urban density in national forest wildlands. The county must respect all these fundamental, mandatory policies but failed to do so.”

The project site is located on a steep slope adjacent to Highways 18 and 189 in the San Bernardino Mountains, overlooking the vacant Cliffhanger Restaurant. The forest setting is part of a county-designated major wildlife corridor, a maximum fire-danger zone, habitat for protected species, and is accessed by a hazardous, substandard highway.

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