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--the California "Mega-Park" Project

Tracking measurable success on efforts across California to preserve and connect our Parks & Wildlife Corridors



WE POST NEWS THREE WAYS:
1. long detailed stories on blogspot (here!)
2. short messages on Twitter
3. automated news feeds from CA enviro websites in the right-hand column which change frequently and are not archived by our website (that's why we now have a twitter account to permanently capture the memorable feeds)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

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Catastrophe for the Condor? Tejon Ranch Makes Deal With Some Eco Groups That Brings 25,000 Homes to Pinch-point of Eco-Crossroads of California

(Click on maps to enlarge)
Condor Habitat map from 9/2007 Sierra Club brochure



Map of Deal Reached Between the Owner of Tejon Ranch and Some Environmental Groups from http://ca.audubon.org/tejon.php




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Owner of Tejon Ranch Will Only Seek to Develop 10% of the Land in Deal with Some Eco Groups; At Least One Calls it a Disaster for the Condor

Governor Praises Historic Tejon Ranch Agreement
5/8/2008
http://gov.ca.gov/index.php?/fact-sheet/9526/
Today, Governor Schwarzenegger visited Tejon Ranch and announced a historic agreement between Tejon Ranch landowners and conservation and environmental groups to give California its largest ever privately conserved parcel. Under the agreement, up to approximately 90 percent of the expansive 270,000 acre ranch will be permanently preserved. Aside from being home to the California condor and countless other plant and animal species, the ranch includes four of state's most important ecological regions: the Sierra Nevada, the Mojave Desert, the Coastal Range and the San Joaquin Valley. With 30,000 acres set aside for the development of smart-growth, sustainable communities, this agreement also allows its landowners to develop enough of the ranch to create thousands of jobs, millions of dollars in tax revenue and exciting places for people to live.

See the 38 Minute Press Conference: http://msmedia.dot.ca.gov/governor/20080508_tejon.asf

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Tejon Ranch Deal Destroys Critical Habitat for California Condor, Paves Way for Largest Development Ever Proposed in California


http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2008/tejon-ranch-05-08-2008.html
For Immediate Release, Thursday, May 08, 2008
Contact:
Adam Keats (415) 436-9682 x 304, (415) 845-2509 (cell) Ileene Anderson, (323) 490-0223

\LOS ANGELES— Tejon Ranch Corporation and several environmental organizations announced a deal today that may pave the way for massive development in the Tehachapi Mountains north of Los Angeles. The deal allows for unprecedented destruction of federally designated critical habitat for the endangered California condor to make way for thousands of luxury vacation estates. It also greenlights a behemoth city on the last wild edge of Los Angeles County.

“While there are a few aspects of today’s accord we can celebrate, including the potential acquisition of 49,000 acres for a state park, this deal contains numerous ‘poison pill’ provisions, including the development of Tejon Mountain Village in the heart of condor critical habitat and Centennial, the largest single development ever to be proposed in California,” said Peter Galvin, conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We know that the environmental groups who have negotiated the accord did so with the best of intentions, but the Center for Biological Diversity could not sign off on this highly flawed agreement. Virtually all of the areas to be acquired or managed under the conservation easement are undevelopable anyway. On paper the deal sounds good, but a close examination shows that very little is gained biologically and far too much is sacrificed.”

“While Tejon claims to have pulled development off the important northern ridges, this pullback is illusory. The fact remains that development will still occur in active, occupied condor critical habitat. The heart of condor country is designated as critical habitat for a reason: the science clearly shows that it is essential to the survival and recovery of the species,” said Adam Keats, urban wildlands program director at the Center. “It cannot and should not be sacrificed.”

The deal would allow the building of Tejon Mountain Village, a luxury vacation resort in the wild and rugged highlands of the Tehachapi mountains, designated as critical habitat by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect condors. The designation imposes strong protections on the land, and its habitat qualities cannot be harmed or “adversely modified.” Housing developments are completely incompatible with this designation.
The agreement also allows the leapfrog sprawl development known as Centennial. Located in rolling native grasslands and wildflower fields on the northern border of Los Angeles County off Interstate 5, this development would add extreme pressures to the region, already gridlocked in development-related traffic and choking in pollution and congestion. The 11,600-acre city would house 70,000 or more automobile commuters, expose residents to severe wildfire threats, and destroy irreplaceable native habitat and wildlife linkages.

The Center has a different vision for Tejon Ranch: Tejon-Tehachapi Park. “Tejon Ranch is a true gem of California and can never be replaced,” said Ileene Anderson, staff biologist at the Center. “Once these sprawl cities are built, they will further fragment Southern California from the rest of the state. Coupled with the hit that condor will take, this agreement deals away one of the greatest environmental opportunities that California has ever seen. And it will be lost forever.”

Tejon Ranch covers over 270,000 acres of wilderness at the crossroads of Northern and Southern California. The Mojave Desert, the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains, the great central valley and the southern forests all converge on Tejon Ranch — the only place in California where four ecoregions come together.

“This deal does a disservice to the wildlands and wildlife of Tejon, to the people of Southern California who will suffer the consequences of overdevelopment, and to all Californians, who will pay the price,” said Keats. “We can and must demand better. We live in a world too fragile to allow this kind of sacrifice. Now is the time to say enough is enough.”
Preserving Tejon Ranch as a new national or state park would protect a bounty of native plant and animal communities, cultural and historic features, and scenic vistas. See http://www.savetejonranch.org.
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Conservationists, developer reach major Calif. land deal

By NOAKI SCHWARTZ – 9 hours ago
http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5iAJNnJswd2ke8NW1hqQZNRVOiyVAD90HD2B80
LEBEC, Calif. (AP) — A group of environmentalists and the owners of a large stretch of wilderness have reached a deal that would set aside the largest parcel of land for conservation in California history.
After years of legal tussles, conservationists including the Sierra Club have agreed not to challenge proposed development on the sprawling Tejon Ranch north of Los Angeles in exchange for close to 240,000 acres, in a deal to be announced Thursday.
At 375 square miles, the preserve of desert, woodlands and grasslands would be eight times the size of San Francisco and nearly the size of Los Angeles, said Bill Corcoran, the Sierra Club's senior regional representative.
"There is, in my opinion, no other place like it in California — it's unrivaled in the diversity of native wildlife and plants," said Corcoran, who helped negotiate the deal. "Tejon is key to us because it's the only place where the Sierra Nevadas, the coastal range and Mojave Desert and Central Valley all meet."
Tejon Ranch sits atop the Tehachapi Mountains 60 miles north of Los Angeles and is home to elk, wild turkeys, coyotes, bears and eagles, as well as a critical habitat for condors.
The Tejon Ranch Co. has been trying for years to develop three projects, or 10 percent of the 270,000 acre ranch, while appeasing environmentalists.
The other groups that have signed on are the Natural Resources Defense Council, Audubon California, Planning and Conservation League and Endangered Habitats League.
In 2005, the company and a national land trust hailed an agreement to sell more than one-third of the ranch for use as a nature preserve. That agreement, however, failed to satisfy the Tejon Natural Heritage Park Committee, a coalition of 12 conservation groups.
Less than a year later, another promising agreement fell through. The developer promised to set aside 100,000 acres as a natural preserve but environmentalists wanted more than double that size.
At the time, Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope and other environmental leaders said they would make the Tejon Ranch their top priority in California. Conservationists threatened to unite and file a lawsuit against the developer under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Instead they went back to the negotiating table.
"After nearly two years of negotiations, which were often difficult but always in good faith, we have achieved an unprecedented agreement protecting close to 90 percent of the ranch," Corcoran said.
The Tejon Ranch Co. is dedicating 178,000 acres and about 62,000 will be purchased in part with state conservation bond money. While it is not clear how much the land will cost, the developer agreed to a state appraisal.
An independent conservancy will be set up to manage the land and the developer has agreed to donate some money for its upkeep, Corcoran said. The agreement also seeks to establish a large state park that will be open to the public.
"In my opinion it's a near certainty that California will never again see a private land conservation agreement of this size and ecological importance," said Corcoran.

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Associated Press - May 8, 2008 5:34 AM ET
LEBEC, Calif. (AP) - A landmark agreement could result in an unprecedented land preserve.
A group of environmentalists and the owners of a large expanse of wilderness have hammered out a deal that would result in the largest piece of land set aside for conservation in California history.
It could rival Yosemite National Park in its diversity of wildlife.
After years of legal fights, conservationists including the Sierra Club have agreed not to challenge proposed development on Tejon (teh'-HONE) Ranch in exchange for close to 240,000 acres for preservation.
Bill Corcoran of the Sierra Club says the preserve would be eight times the size of the city of San Francisco and nearly as big as Los Angeles.

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By Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer May 8, 2008
http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/california/la-me-tejon8-2008may08,0,4242813.story

A coalition of environmental groups and a developer have agreed on a landmark plan to conserve 90% of the largest chunk of privately owned wilderness remaining in Southern California.The agreement ends years of debate over the fate of an untrammeled tableau of mountains, wildflower fields, twisted oaks and Joshua trees in the historic Tejon Ranch in the Tehachapi Mountains, about 60 miles north of Los Angeles.


The developer, the Tejon Ranch Co., has agreed to set aside 178,000 acres and provide an option for public purchase of 62,000 additional acres -- 49,000 to create a state park, 10,000 to realign a 37-mile segment of the Pacific Crest Trail through the heart of the wild lands and the rest to provide docent-led tours of sensitive habitat. It also will pull back development plans along some ridgelines considered crucial to the California condor.In exchange, a coalition led by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, Audubon California, the Planning and Conservation League and the Endangered Habitats League will not oppose the company's plans to build three urban centers, including more than 26,000 homes as well as hotels, condominiums and golf courses at the western and southwestern edge of the ranch.Those groups and others had threatened a campaign against development of the property, saying it would extend Southern California's suburban sprawl to the Central Valley, add to regional traffic and air pollution woes, and harm endangered species such as the condor.The pact was the second major truce among environmental groups and developers in as many months in Southern California, where such projects can be tied up in court for decades. Last month, conservationists struck a deal with a Houston oil company that would allow for offshore drilling this year in exchange for early retirement of several large-scale oil facilities along an otherwise pristine coastline in Santa Barbara County.In a prepared statement, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the success in reaching the Tejon agreement underlines how "we can protect California's environment at the same time we pump up our economy."Some environmentalists expressed reservations about the accord, to be announced today. Ilene Anderson, a biologist and spokeswoman for the Center for Biological Diversity, said her group remains worried about habitat for the condor."So while we support significant open space," she said, "it's precedent-setting that critical habitat for a species just brought back from the brink of extinction would be written off for development."Eight times the size of San Francisco, the unfragmented 270,000-acre property embraces the juncture of four ecosystems: Mojave Desert grasslands, San Joaquin Valley oak woodlands, Tehachapi pine forests and coastal mountain ranges.Like Louisiana PurchaseThe 165-year-old ranch, first cobbled together by Edward Fitzgerald Beale, was owned for decades by an investment group led by former Los Angeles Times owner Harry Chandler and land developer Moses Sherman."For Southern California, this is the ecological equivalent of the Louisiana Purchase," said Bill Corcoran, senior regional representative for the Sierra Club. "It is the only place in the region where within a few minutes a visitor can ascend from Joshua tree woodlands to oak-filled canyons on up to vast plains with views across the coastal range."Permitting for residential and commercial development of the remaining 30,000 acres is expected to be easier with the agreement, although plans still must be approved by state and federal regulatory authorities, as well as Los Angeles and Kern counties, according to Robert A. Stine, president and chief executive of Tejon Ranch Co."Our vision has always been to preserve California's legacy and provide for California's future, and this agreement does exactly that," Stine said in an interview. "It's good for conservation, good for California and good for the company and its shareholders."Finding common ground between the nation's most powerful environmental groups and the Tejon Ranch Co. wasn't easy."We've come a long way from where we started," said Joel Reynolds, senior attorney and director of the Southern California Program of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "This was an extremely complicated deal, but also a once-in-a-lifetime conservation opportunity."The agreement guarantees Tejon Ranch Co. the right to proceed with massive development projects near Interstate 5: Centennial, a planned community of 23,000 homes east of Quail Lake in northern Los Angeles County; and Tejon Mountain Village in southern Kern County, which will include a resort featuring spas and boutique hotels, commercial space, golf courses and 3,400 estate homes. The Tejon Industrial Complex in the Kern County portion of the ranch is already home to IKEA's 2-million-square-foot main distribution warehouse, among others.In each project, Stine said, "a whole set of design parameters will be reviewed by all parties to ensure that all development activity that takes place will consider all green opportunities into the future; that means transportation, building and landscape materials, water usage. Everything."The agreement also creates an "independent Tejon Ranch Conservancy" composed of 12 members appointed by the company and its environmental partners to manage the preserved land in perpetuity. The company will provide about $800,000 a year for seven years to get the conservancy off the ground. Later, it will be funded through transfer fees from the sale of residential properties."It's not enough to simply set aside land," Reynolds said. "We also need an entity whose focus is restoration and conservation."Tejon Ranch remains a vast wildlife stronghold where deer, elk, bobcat and wild turkey flourish. Canyon bottoms are full of oaks. Along old lumber roads edging the brows of hills, flocks of wild pigeons rise. On the uplands, pine and cedar hold their own, and golden eagles ride warm air currents from coastal mountains to the Sierra.Graham Chisolm, director of conservation for Audubon California said, "There is probably no more important property for the future of the California condor." Only a week ago, he said, roughly half of the 38 California condors in Southern California were foraging on the property.4 ridgelines sparedA key to unlocking the stalemate was the developer's agreement to pull back from four of five northern-facing ridgelines, including one hemming scenic Bear Trap Canyon, that are prime foraging grounds inside critical California condor habitat."By removing the potential obstacles that have plagued similar development efforts in California, we'll be able to move ahead with the entitlement processes on our current development projects in a much more timely fashion," said Michael H. Winer, portfolio manager for Third Avenue Management, Tejon's largest shareholder, and a member of its board of directors.The company had been seeking an "incidental condor take permit" from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which would have relieved it of liability in the event that its projects were linked to the death of any of the endangered raptors. However, the company recently determined that such a "lethal take permit" was no longer needed given the reconfiguration of development plans under the agreement.Reynolds, of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said he was satisfied that the condor would be protected under the new plan."The condor is a very high-profile species, and there's been significant public investment in its recovery," he said, "and throughout these negotiations an enormous amount of attention was paid to ensuring that this agreement would be consistent with its recovery, and we believe it does so."

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Tejon Ranch Company Press Release:

http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/tejon-ranch-co-amp-major-environmental-groups-reach-deal,385353.shtml

TEJON RANCH, Calif. - (Business Wire) Tejon Ranch Co. (NYSE:TRC) announced today that it has reached agreement with the country’s largest and most respected environmental resource organizations on a conservation and land use plan for the 270,000-acre Tejon Ranch.

The agreement between Tejon Ranch Co., The Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Audubon California, Planning and Conservation League and the Endangered Habitats League, would result in the permanent conservation of a significant portion of the Ranch’s landholdings while guaranteeing that the signatory environmental organizations would not oppose the Company’s development plans for approximately 30,000 acres located on the western edge of the Ranch: the planned communities of Centennial and Tejon Mountain Village, and a development project at the base of the Grapevine in the area adjacent to Tejon Industrial Complex.

“Without a doubt, this agreement is good for the Company and its shareholders,” said Michael H. Winer, Portfolio Manager for Third Avenue Management LLC, the company’s largest shareholder, and member of the Tejon Ranch Co. Board of Directors. “It’s the key to unlocking the value of Tejon Ranch. By removing the potential obstacles that have plagued similar development efforts in California, we’ll be able to move ahead with the entitlement processes on our current development projects in a much more timely fashion.”

The agreement calls for Tejon Ranch Co. to commit to phased conservation over the next several decades. Through a combination of dedicated conservation easements, either initially dedicated or tied to project approvals, and designated project open space areas, Tejon Ranch Co. will permanently protect approximately 178,000 acres. The agreement also lays the groundwork for the purchase, at a price determined by a state appraisal process, of an additional 62,000 acres of Ranch land, resulting in a total of 240,000 acres of conserved land. Under the agreement, the Ranch will also be able to continue with its historic revenue producing activities on those lands.

The agreement is an outgrowth of the vision for its land that Tejon Ranch Co. has been articulating for years, a vision that included extensive conservation.
Over the years, Tejon Ranch Co. had routinely engaged in conversations with environmental groups and government agencies that could have an interest in or influence over the planned future activities on its land. Those conversations evolved into two years of formal negotiations with the signatory environmental organizations.
“Our vision has been to preserve California’s legacy and provide for California’s future, and this agreement does exactly that,” said Robert A. Stine, President and CEO of Tejon Ranch Co. “The agreement we’ve reached is good for conservation, good for California and good for the company and its shareholders.”
The agreement is strongly supported by key state government officials, including California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Secretaries of the California Department of Resources and the California Environmental Protection Agency, the Directors of the California Departments of Fish and Game and Parks and Recreation, along with the Director of the Wildlife Conservation Board and the Chair of the State Water Resources Board.

“The success of environmental organizations and Tejon Ranch Co. in reaching this historic agreement to protect a California treasure illustrates something that I have stressed since taking office — we can protect California’s environment at the same time we pump up our economy,” Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said.
Tejon Ranch Co. is a diversified real estate development and agribusiness company, whose principal asset is its 270,000-acre land holding located approximately 60 miles north of Los Angeles and 30 miles south of Bakersfield. More information about Tejon Ranch Co. can be found online at http://www.tejonranch.com.

The statements contained herein, which are not historical facts, are forward-looking statements based on economic forecasts, strategic plans and other factors, which by their nature involve risk and uncertainties. In particular, among the factors that could cause actual results to differ materially are the following: business conditions and the general economy, future commodity prices and yields, market forces, the ability to obtain various governmental entitlements and permits, interest rates and other risks inherent in real estate and agriculture businesses. For further information on factors that could affect the Company, the reader should refer to the Company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Tejon Ranch Co.Barry Zoeller, VP of Corporate Communicationsbzoeller@tejonranch.comAllen Lyda, VP & CFOalyda@tejonranch.com661-248-3000
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http://la.curbed.com/archives/2008/05/tejon_ranch_dea.php
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http://www.turnto23.com/news/16201081/detail.html#
LEBEC, Calif. -- A group of environmentalists and the owners of a large expanse of wilderness have hammered out a deal that will conserve 90 percent of California’s Tejon Ranch.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is meeting with the Tejon Ranch Company and environmental groups Thursday morning to unveil future plans for the Tejon Ranch.
The deal would result in California's largest parcel of land designated for conservation that could rival Yosemite National Park in its diversity of wildlife. The preserve would be the rough equivalent of Los Angeles.

The Tejon Ranch, located in the Tehachapi Mountains 60 miles north of Los Angeles and includes, mountains, woodlands, grasslands and desert terrain. Wildlife includes elk, wild turkeys, coyotes, bears, eagles and a crucial condor habitat.
View: LA Times Map Of Ranchland

Conservationists have agreed not to challenge proposed development on Tejon Ranch in exchange for close to 240,000 acres.
Past agreements failed, including a deal that sought in 2005 to sell a third of the ranch as a nature preserve. That agreement fell through, failing to serve the vision of the Tejon Natural Heritage Park Committee, a coalition of 12 conservation groups.
In 2006 another deal fell through as environmentalists sought more than double the acres that developers offered for a preserve.

The Tejon Ranch is dedicating 178,000 acres, while an additional 62,000 will be purchased with state bond funds.
An independent conservancy will be set up to manage the land. The developer has agreed to donate some money for its upkeep. The agreement also seeks to establish a large state park for public use.

Development will include homes and business. There’s already a large IKEA 2-million-square-foot facility within the Kern County portion of the ranch.
The Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced Kern County as the new home to a national cemetery located off of Highway 58 on a 500-acre site donated by Tejon Ranch.

The new cemetery will serve close to 200,000 veterans in Central California who are currently not provided burial space. Construction of the first phase is set to begin in summer 2008.

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