Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 3, 2019

Contact:  J.P. Rose, Center for Biological Diversity, (408) 497-7675, jrose@biologicaldiversity.org
Nick Jensen, California Native Plant Society, (530) 368-7839, njensen@cnps.org

Conservation Manager for Centennial Development Facing Financial Problems

L.A. County Urged to Reconsider Project, Require Independent Management of Conservation Lands

LOS ANGELES— Conservation groups today urged the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to reconsider its tentative approval of the Centennial development because the organization charged with managing conservation lands for the massive project is in severe financial trouble.

As today’s letter to supervisors notes, the Tejon Ranch Conservancy recently announced that it will lose approximately half its staff because of a lack of funding. That will include the president and CEO, stewardship manager, public access manager and conservation communications manager. The environmental review for Centennial relies on the Conservancy to manage conservation lands set aside as mitigation for the proposed 12,000-acre Centennial development.

“The county can’t expect an organization facing serious financial problems to manage thousands of acres of open space for conservation and public access,” said J.P. Rose, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These lands need to be managed by an independent and adequately funded state agency to protect their beauty and immense ecological value.”

The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, an independent state agency, and county planning commissioner Laura Shell also have requested that these lands be managed by an independent public entity, but Tejon Ranch Company has refused. County supervisors have not required independent management despite having authority to do so.

The Tejon Ranch Conservancy was created as part of a 2008 settlement agreement between Tejon Ranch Company and a group of environmental organizations. The agreement transfers “all costs and liabilities” relating to conservation activities and public access from Tejon Ranch Company to the Conservancy.

Despite shifting costs to the Conservancy, Tejon Ranch Company retains control over who can access conservation lands. The company recently banned scientists and community members.

Tejon Ranch Company received $15.8 million from California taxpayers for conservation easements on 62,000 acres of the conservation lands.

“The company shouldn’t be able to have it both ways by taking money from the public and then banning the public from accessing these lands,” said Nick Jensen, a Southern California conservation analyst at the California Native Plant Society. “And L.A. County shouldn’t condone the company’s plan to shift mitigation costs onto a nearly insolvent conservancy while the company and its Wall Street investors make millions.”

The 12,000-acre Centennial development is one of the largest ever proposed in L.A. County and would destroy thousands of acres of rare wildflower fields and native grasslands. It would also add 75,000 new long-distance vehicle trips on the South Coast’s crowded freeways.

The conservation groups separately sent a letter to the Board indicating that Tejon Ranch Company’s public representations regarding Centennial are inconsistent with documents released by County staff.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The California Native Plant Society is a statewide organization working to save and celebrate California’s native plants and places via plant science, advocacy, education, and horticulture. CNPS has thousands of members in 35 chapters throughout California and Baja to promote its mission at the local level. www.cnps.org

www.biologicaldiversity.org

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