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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

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Developers in Western Riverside County Attack Wildlife Preserves


http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/PRESS/riverside-12-07-2006.html

Dec. 6, 2006

Conservation Groups Push to Protect Core Wildlife Habitat

LOS ANGELES – Western Riverside County leaders voted Monday to let science lead the way in protecting core habitat for imperiled wildlife. The Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority denied a proposal prompted by developers to eliminate a vital preserve for the Quino Checkerspot Butterfly and California Gnatcatcher, two of the most endangered species in the region.

Developers have pushed hard to eliminate core wildlife protections. In December 2005, the County of Riverside and the City of Murrieta requested modification of the reserve configuration in core habitat areas to allow development. A similar push to eliminate conservation lands was first proposed by the City of Murrieta in April 2005 at the request of Winchester 700, a southern California developer.

The Center for Biological Diversity strongly urged rejection of that proposal. Wildlife agencies agreed with the Center’s concerns and concluded that the proposal “lack[ed] the biological data” necessary and represented a “substantial change to the conservation strategy.”

Nearly a decade of extensive scientific analyses concluded that protection in the area is absolutely and unequivocally necessary to prevent the extinction of the Quino Checkerspot Butterfly.

Riverside County officials asked Michael Allen, Ph.D. of the University of California-Riverside Center for Conservation Biology to assemble a panel of experts to assess the environmental conditions in the core wildlife area. The panel recommended protection of the area because of its unique ecological conditions that could be found nowhere else in the region.

Conservation groups lauded the panel’s recommendation and pushed to eliminate the recommendation for development in core wildlife areas. “Development of individual projects in core wildlife areas will subject the habitat plan to death by a thousand cuts and undermine regional conservation planning,” said Jonathan Evans, staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The current plan is the minimum necessary to keep these species alive. Whittling away at habitat protections puts wildlife and the habitat plan at risk.”

The Inland Empire of southern California, including Riverside County, is experiencing tremendous pressure from urban developers to pave ever more habitat. The Center for Biological Diversity has been working to protect habitat for imperiled species in the rapidly urbanizing Southwest.

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