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For Immediate Release, September 12, 2012

Contact:   Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (213) 598-1466
Drew Feldmann, San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society, (909) 881-6081

Settlement Protects Southern California Wildlife Preserve, Requires Green Building

RIVERSIDE, Calif.— A legal settlement approved today permanently protects the core of an important wildlife preserve in western Riverside County. Large portions of the March Stephens’ Kangaroo Rat Preserve, which had been threatened with conversion to commercial warehouses, will remain dedicated to long-term conservation and public parkland, while ensuring that only environmentally friendly building will occur in the area.

“This agreement shows we can build greener and smarter to protect wildlife, fight climate change and improve air quality,” said Jonathan Evans of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wildlife protection and green building is feasible for every development and should be the standard for all projects.”

The March Stephens’ Kangaroo Rat Preserve is home to a range of imperiled wildlife species including the namesake Stephens’ kangaroo rat, bobcat, least Bell’s vireo and western spadefoot toad. The settlement sets aside more than 660 acres for wildlife protection, another 91 acres as a public park for active recreation, and 424 acres for development under green building principles. 

The agreement also requires environmentally responsible green-building practices. Buildings will be certified in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), demonstrating standards for energy efficiency, curtailing vehicle exhaust and reducing greenhouse gas pollution.

A previous settlement in this case overturned a decision to develop the 1,100-acre March Stephens’ Kangaroo Rat Preserve. The new settlement locks in permanent conservation for the wildlife preserve and maintains an important wildlife corridor between the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park and March Stephens’ Kangaroo Rat Preserve. Connecting wildlife areas protects wildlife from inbreeding and ensures greater access to food sources.

“With this settlement, we have links between crucial habitat areas,” said Drew Feldmann, conservation chair for the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society. “Without those connections, the protected animals in those wildlife areas would be much more likely to perish.”

The settlement follows a series of successful legal settlements and victories by the Center and San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society protecting wildlife habitat from warehouse development in the area. Conservation groups reached a successful legal settlement to protect important wildlife habitat and reduce air pollution that threatened the neighboring Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park. Late last year a court threw out plans to develop warehouses on a crucial wildlife corridor between the March Stephens Kangaroo Rat Preserve and the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park.

Background: The Stephens’ Kangaroo Rat
The Stephens’ kangaroo rat can be glimpsed at night hopping through arid grasslands in western Riverside and northern San Diego counties and searching for seeds, which it stores in its large cheek pouches. During the day it takes refuge in burrows that are cooler and more humid than the surrounding desert. Termed a “rat” because of its long tail, it is actually more closely related to squirrels.

Habitat loss due to rampant sprawl and historic agriculture has claimed 95 percent of this kangaroo rat’s original habit; changing rainfall patterns and increasing drought due to climate change may threaten the rest. Stephens’ kangaroo rat populations fluctuate with the amount and timing of rainfall, which affects their food supply. Because this animal’s habitat has been so severely fragmented, its remaining isolated populations are more vulnerable to extinction.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 375,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society is a California nonprofit conservation organization with approximately 2,000 members within the Inland Empire of Southern California who are dedicated protecting the region’s natural heritage.

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