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For Immediate Release, February 23, 2007

Contact: Ileene Anderson, (323) 490-0223

Tejon Ranch Switch to Lead-Free Ammunition Will Help Condors

But Tejon’s Planned Cities Will Devastate the Bird’s Habitat

LOS ANGELES– Tejon Ranch Corporation announced today that non-lead ammunition will be required for all hunting and predator control on the 270,000-acre Tejon Ranch starting this fall, to protect the endangered California condors who forage in critical condor habitat on the ranch. The switch to non-lead ammunition will reduce the threat of lead poisoning, which is the leading cause of death for reintroduced condors, still teetering on the brink of extinction.

“We applaud Tejon Ranch’s decision to get the lead out for condors, and if the state’s largest private landholder can go lead-free, then the rest of California should be able to follow suit,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Unfortunately, the urban-sprawl developments planned for Tejon Ranch are also a gun to the head of condor recovery efforts. If Tejon pulls the trigger on these developments the resulting habitat destruction and disturbance could prove just as lethal to condors as any bullet.”

The move to lead-free ammunition provides a significant conservation benefit for condors and ratchets up the pressure on the state of California to regulate lead bullets in condor habitat and stop lead poisoning. The Center is part of a coalition of health and conservation organizations, hunters and American Indians that filed a lawsuit against the state last fall for continuing to allow hunting with toxic lead ammunition. Safe, reliable bullets and shot made from copper and other materials are widely available for hunting and perform as well or better than lead ammunition. The California Fish and Game Commission began a review of the state game-hunting regulations last month and is considering amendments to eliminate lead ammunition, either within the condor range or statewide. The commission will take public comments through April.

“Eliminating lead bullets is a step in the right direction, but Tejon is poised to take several steps backward with developments that will destroy the unique values and ecological integrity of Tejon Ranch,” said Center biologist Ileene Anderson. “Tejon’s proposed 28,500-acre Tejon Mountain Village will devastate the heart of the condor’s critical habitat.”

Tejon Ranch Corporation is proceeding with several proposed mega-developments that will destroy or degrade essential condor and other wildlife habitat and create additional deadly threats to the birds. The planned Tejon Mountain Village would convert 38,500 acres of oak-studded mesas and canyons in the Tehachapi mountains — much of which is designated critical habitat for the condor — into luxury homes, golf courses, commercial space and hotels. The proposed 11,000-acre city of Centennial would add 23,000 houses in the southern Tehachapis, in habitat for other imperiled wildlife. These developments would introduce thousands of buildings, roads, people, vehicles and pets into what is now a largely undeveloped and natural landscape. Tejon Ranch is seeking an unprecedented federal permit to “take” (kill, harass or harm) condors in their development plans.

Tejon Ranch’s dubious history with condors is legendary. The company opposed reintroduction of condors into their historic range, sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to block reintroduction near the ranch, and attempted unsuccessfully to have condors designated as an experimental and non-essential population without Endangered Species Act protection. During a 2003 Tejon Ranch sponsored “pig hunt” beloved condor AC-8, the oldest remaining wild-born condor, was illegally shot and killed.

The California condor is one of the most imperiled animals in the world and was so close to extinction in 1987 that the last five wild birds were then rounded up to start a captive-breeding program. The government began releasing condors in 1992, and there are now about 130 condors in the wild, 68 of them in California. Of 127 condors released in California from 1992 through 2006, 46 birds (36 percent) died or disappeared and are presumed dead. Scientists say poisoning from scavenging carcasses tainted by lead ammunition is likely responsible for many of the deaths.

The public has made a tremendous effort to recover the condor and has invested over $40 million in the condor reintroduction program; it makes no sense to allow a private company to destroy the species’ core habitat. In 2005 the Tejon Ranch Company announced a sham conservation proposal to sell a portion of the ranch to the state as a conservation area, yet some of the most important wildlife habitat was excluded and the land offered has little or no development value. The Center and a coalition of conservation organizations representing close to 2 million citizens are calling on state and federal officials to balance conservation and development by planning the whole ranch to avoid piecemeal development and protecting 245,000 acres of Tejon Ranch as a new national or state park.

Visit the Center for Biological Diversity’s Web site for more information about lead ammunition poisoning of condors and the campaign to save Tejon Ranch from development.

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