Indexed News on:

--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)

Monday, June 30, 2008

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413 acres Saved in the Sierra Foothills by the Pacific Forest Trust

From Summer 2008 Newsletter

http://pacificforest.org/news/pdf/LoveCreek-Smith-PR-4-22-08.pdf

Love Creek Forest – a 413-acre family-owned, mixed-conifer working
forest outside Arnold in Calaveras County, CA – has been conserved through a partnership with the Pacific Forest Trust, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and the Smith family. Love Creek Forest shares its boundaries with two Sierran treasures – Big Trees State Park and Stanislaus National Forest – and has been managed sustainably under the American Tree Farm System for the last 40 years...

The Smith family, who have owned Love Creek Forest for more than 65 years, have long been involved in conservation efforts to protect Calaveras County’s natural resources and public lands. In 1974 for example, Dr. Ben Smith and his wife Dutton – the original Smith owners and Larry’s parents – were active in creating the Calaveras Big Trees Association, a volunteer organization dedicated to preserving and promoting Big Trees State Park. But it is the responsible stewardship of their own property and their decision to protect their land in perpetuity that may most help preserve the adjacent Big Trees State Park and Stanislaus National Forest.

“Love Creek Forest serves as an important wildlife migration corridor between public lands, contains creeks and streams that feed into the public water supplies and provides scenic buffers and firebreaks that help protect neighboring public resources,” notes PFT Conservation Manager Megan Wargo. “As such, this project will have significant landscape-level conservation
impacts.”

The Smith family generously donated the land value cost of the easement to the Pacific Forest Trust. In doing so, the family was able to take advantage of the expanded federal income tax benefits that were available through the end of 2007 and that are currently being considered for renewal by Congress. The Sierra Nevada Conservancy, an agency of the State of California, funded the project’s transactional costs.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

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THE EFFORT TO SAVE CLOVER VALLEY


By Marilyn Jasper
Clover Valley Foundation, Sierra Club Placer Group


http://www.pclfoundation.org/projects/ceqasuccessclover.html

Clover Valley is located about 30 miles east of Sacramento in the Sierra foothills. It consists of 622 acres, 2 miles long, approx ¾ mile wide with steep slopes, wetlands, oak and riparian woodlands, diverse wildlife, a perennial creek, meadows, grasslands, scenic ridges, historic and 33 prehistoric sites (one dating back 7,000 years). The Clover Valley provides a buffer between Rocklin, Loomis, Lincoln and Placer County lands.

This area is important for several reasons. It is the last vestige of what Placer County and the foothills really looked like. With rock walls, stone corral, and 33 prehistoric sites, along with the cornucopia of ecological resources, it could be a unique historic nature preserve completely secluded and protected from any traces of rampant urban sprawl just on the other side of its steep slopes.

The call to arms occurred when the project/issue was discovered by accident when a notice went out that the city of Rocklin was going to approve a “Mitigated Negative Declaration” on the project.

This particular development project involves all the major regulatory agencies, not only at the CEQA level, but also at the permitting process level. The lead agency is the City of Rocklin and the project proponents consist of a partnership headed by Buzz Oates, Rick Massie, Phil Oates, and David Garst.

The opposition to the project started with only a couple folks, but later grew into a 501(c)3 non profit and ultimately formed a coalition that involved many other organizations as each stepped up to support the effort to “SAVE CLOVER VALLEY.”

The CEQA process was first utilized to force the City of Rocklin to abandon their plan to slide with a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND). We had over 100 people show up at the Planning Commission to testify that the MND was in violation of CEQA. Since a Programmatic EIR was certified in 1998, the proponents and the city proceeded with a Tiered EIR in 2002. However, in addition to our environmental attorneys shooting it full of holes, we were able to obtain a copy of a Cultural Report that had been hidden from us. The city knew about the report before the Draft EIR was released (we obtained a memo that proved they were aware of the new report). Instead of 6 prehistoric sites, there were 33, and all were eligible for National Registry. Shortly after this discovery, the city abandoned the 2002 Tiered EIR and decided to proceed with a full EIR. This one was certified in 2007, and led to our filing the lawsuit.

Just before the Rocklin City Council cast their votes to approve the project, with about 200 of our supporters in the room, they patronizingly told us what a wonderful job we did in “improving” the project and thanked us. To our coalition, the project’s reduction to 558 units still increased traffic (14,000 additional trips), took out over 7,000 oaks (half of which are blue oaks), encroached on creek minimal setbacks, and allowed many other “significant but unavoidable impacts.” It was as if someone said they were going to improve the project by cutting out one lane of a four-lane freeway through vernal pools and wetlands. We do not believe the project has been “improved;” it’s been changed, but is still unacceptable.

We also tried a referendum but lost. We had 2/3 support for saving the valley going in. We raised $70,000; the opponents spent close to $900,000—final FPPC filings have not been made yet. The campaign turned nasty; the proponents said they were saving open space and reducing traffic (with the cross valley highway). Many of our supporters became confused and voted “yes,” thinking they were helping to save the valley.

One of the major challenges was/still is fundraising for the lawsuit. We have not saved Clover Valley yet; we have filed a lawsuit under CEQA and expect a probable court date either late 2008 or early 2009. We also anticipate an appeal process (theirs or ours) and will be fundraising for that as well.

With our CEQA lawsuit, Clover Valley Foundation and Sierra Club are co-plaintiffs. The Town of Loomis also sued in a separate lawsuit. The loss of the referendum had unintended consequences with many people now believing the valley is lost to development. We are working double time to correct that misperception and bring our supporters back into the fold.

Another challenge is keeping supporters active. After nine-years of working to save the valley (writing letters and articles, following up all leads, contacting/meeting with regulatory agencies, tabling at any and all events, attending public hearings, giving presentations to other groups, etc.), some folks have moved on to other issues. However, a good solid hard-core base of supporters remain determined to save this remarkable place.

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Legislature Considers a Bad "Fix" For the California Drought


--Bill Would allow water exports from the Sacramento/San Joaquin River Delta for Developers as long as rare fish hatched in captivity are released

PLEASE CALL TODAY TO ASK FOR A NO VOTE ON SB 994

Contact: Barb Byrne, Planning and Conservation League, bbyrne@pcl.org, office: 916-313-4524 or cell: 530-304-5389

PCL is working with others (http://www.pcl.org/files/SB994PCLsignon.pdf) in OPPOSITION to SB 994 (Florez, Ashburn, Steinberg) - a very troubling piece of legislation that will be detrimental to restoration efforts for Delta Smelt and also to the collaborative planning efforts that are working to find equitable solutions to restore the Delta. This bill failed passage in the Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee on June 4th, but will be heard again TOMORROW MORNING (the morning of June 24th). While the bill (supported by powerful water interests) purports to restore Delta Smelt and restore Delta water deliveries, the "fix" it offers is a false one. In fact, it is quite likely that this bill would do much more harm than good to Delta Smelt.

TALKING POINTS ON WHY WE RECOMMEND A NO VOTE ON SB 994

1. SB 994 allocates scarce resources to a hatchery program that doesn't address the root problems in the Delta SB 994 would require the Department of Fish and Game to develop a "production-scale" Delta Smelt hatchery program. While the use of a fish culture program to maintain a refuge population of Delta Smelt (already in progress - no legislation is needed to authorize this valid effort) is supported by science, the idea of rearing large numbers of Delta Smelt for release into an ailing Delta is not supported as a sound approach to species restoration at this time. Dr. Peter Moyle, an expert on Delta Smelt from UC-Davis, notes that: "Trying to keep Delta smelt going by raising them in hatcheries and releasing them is like trying to raise sheep in a drought-seared pasture surrounded by a forest full of hungry wolves."

2. SB 994 requires the Department of Fish & Game to issue "take permits" in exchange for hatchery funding - despite the fact that a Delta Smelt hatchery is unlikely, under current conditions, to provide effective mitigation. Water diverters who would fund the ongoing expenses of the unproven hatchery would get automatic Delta Smelt take authorization, despite the poor record of hatcheries for other species that have been around for decades.

3. SB 994 forces ongoing planning processes to divert significant resources towards an unproven conservation measure. This bill would prejudge the outcome of the Delta Vision process and the Bay Delta Conservation Plan by dictating that a Delta Smelt hatchery, run as a mitigation bank, be a component of any final plan coming out of those collaborative processes.

Other groups in opposition: Planning and Conservation League • Sierra Club California • Defenders of Wildlife • NRDC • EDF • The Bay Institute • Natural Heritage Institute • American Rivers • The Nature Conservancy • California Sportfishing Protection Alliance • Butte Environmental Council • Friends of the Trinity River • Desal Response Group • Southern California Watershed Alliance • California Trout • Friends of the River • Friends of the Trinity River • California Striped Bass Association • Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations • Environmental Water Caucus • Dan Bacher • Winnemem Wintu • Northern California Federation of Fly Fishers • Earthjustice

Monday, June 23, 2008

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State Legislature Fails to Crack Down on Developer Use of Polluted "paper" Water Supplies


Tainted water still counts for land developers: Amendment to count only clean water struck down in Sacramento

The Santa Clarita Signal- 6/3/08
By Jim Holt, Senior Writer
http://www.the-signal.com/news/article/2178/

Local water activists are saddened today now that a proposed law promising to slow development through tougher conditions set on groundwater assessment has been struck down in Sacramento. Assembly Bill AB2046 requires water suppliers such as the Castaic Lake Water Agency to submit to the state the quantity and quality of groundwater being assessed in relation to supplying that water ultimately to an identified group, such as a 500-unit housing development. If a water supply is contaminated, the suppliers are required to detail for their local governments how they would treat the contamination. Once those conditions are met, the supplier can count the water in its plans.

Proposed amendments to the bill would have precluded water suppliers from relying on groundwater in calculating their water supplies. Specifically, the amended AB2046 would have precluded the supplier from relying on groundwater as a supply earmarked for any proposed development project (such as a 500-unit housing development) if the groundwater did not meet applicable state standards - such as the standard set for safe drinking water - on the date the water supply assessment is prepared.

On Thursday, members of the Assembly's Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee voted five to two in favor of amending two sections of the state Water Code, thereby removing the proposal to stop counting untreated groundwater. Cam Noltemeyer, a Santa Clarita resident concerned about how water is obtained and disseminated locally, appealed to members of the Newhall County Water District last month to endorse the recommended bill changes. "I went before the Newhall board to see if they would endorse the changes," she said Monday. "Now they're going to go back to paper water."

"Paper water" is the term used to describe groundwater assessed before it's tapped - water that appears only on paper. The proposed bill would have recognized water that had been treated first, before being counted. Noltemeyer, who does not drink Santa Clarita tap water and would "prefer not to bathe in it," fears the legislative setback will stall water cleanup efforts. "It's appalling to me that they wouldn't count it until it's clean. It's going to affect how they (water agency) look at cleaning up the Whittaker-Bermite site," she said, referring to the agency's ongoing efforts to remove the chemical perchlorate from groundwater on the former company's land.

Dan Masnada, general manager of the water agency, says the amended bill in no way alters how the agency continues to bring a clean, drinkable, uninterrupted supply of water to the residents of Santa Clarita. "It makes the bill more practical and workable for us," he told The Signal Monday. "Most importantly, we will continue to do our job as we have been doing it."

Bill Allayaud, senior consultant to Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, who authored the bill, said the bill would not have passed if it included the controversial groundwater clause. "The bill now basically asks for more transparency on the part of water suppliers," he said. "They must show the amount of water you have and the plans to supply that water." Allayaud said the state heard from a number of interested parties in the reading of the bill, including the Association of California Water Agencies, the California Building Industry Association, and various chambers of commerce. "Basically, we felt that Mr. Jones wasn't going to get the votes needed to carry the bill," Allayaud said, adding that talk about the "predictability of future water supplies" was all the buzz at the state legislature. "This is the time people are starting to pay attention to urban water management plans," he said.

http://www.the-signal.com/news/article/2178/

Friday, June 20, 2008

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California Coastal Trail Hikes Calendar is Posted:


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Bay Area Ridge Trail Council News

5/20/2008


New Carquinez Strait Scenic Loop Trail Collaboration


The Council is thrilled to announce a new collaboration with our “sister” San Francisco Bay Trail Project: a 50-mile Carquinez Strait Scenic Loop Trail.

We have long envisioned an intertwined loop around the Strait as part of our regional network. The Ridge and Bay trails share an alignment between Vallejo and Benicia on the northern side of the Strait, and across the toll bridges. South of the Strait, the Ridge Trail winds up onto the ridgelines before heading south into the East Bay hills, while the Bay Trail hugs the shoreline.

While the area is not widely visited, it boasts dramatic bluffs with spectacular vistas and fascinating natural and human history. Stunning sections of the Carquinez Loop are already open, including Crockett Hills Regional Park, Benicia State Recreation Area, the Al Zampa Bridge path, Mt. Wanda in the John Muir Historic Site, and the Pinole Watershed trail, opened last November.

This year, in addition to support from the Coastal Conservancy, we are grateful to have received a generous grant from the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund for this special collaboration. Our goals are:
  • To close as many gaps as possible in time for the fall 2009 opening of a new bicycle pedestrian path on the Benicia Martinez bridge; and
  • To reach out with trail events and activities to build awareness of our trails, especially among youth.

New trail priorities include (moving clockwise around the Strait): Vallejo Bluffs, Glen Cove Waterfront Park, a path over I-780 to Benicia State Recreation Area, Martinez Regional Shoreline, the historic Feeder Trail, Fernandez Ranch, and community connections in Benicia, Martinez and Crockett.

Check out a special feature in your next issue of RidgeLines and http://ridgetrail.org for more details, as they take shape.
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Sierra Nevada Forests Protected; Yosemite Road Construction Halted; Sacramento River Fish Lawsuit Continues


May 2008--EarthJustice Legal Foundation Legal Brief
http://www.earthjustice.org/news/e-brief/may-2008.html

Photo of the Sacramento River.June 6 trial set in delta salmon case

Earthjustice attorneys are gearing up for a June 6 trial to determine how steelhead and salmon will be protected in the Sacramento River under terms of a ruling they won in April. The ruling disallowed a state water management plan for pumping water out of the Sacramento delta.

http://www.earthjustice.org/news/press/2008/judge-tosses-biological-opinion-for-salmon-and-steelhead-in-california.html


Photo of the Yosemite valley.Yosemite road construction halted

In response to a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice last month, Mariposa County, California has cancelled a permit that would have allowed a private developer to construct two alleged county roads within Yosemite National Park. The roads would have been bulldozed near the Merced Grove of giant sequoias.


Photo of the Sierras in fall.Sierra forest plan nixed by federal court

A U.S. Forest Service plan to greatly increase logging in Sierra Nevada national forests was struck down by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Earthjustice had challenged the Sierra Nevada Framework management plan on behalf of Sierra Forest Legacy, Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society.

http://www.earthjustice.org/news/press/2008/ninth-circuit-rules-to-protect-sierra-forests-faults-usfs-plan.html


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Judge Halts Mojave Desert Sewage Sludge Composting Plant


For Immediate Release, April 29, 2008

Contacts: Norm Diaz, http://helphinkley.org, (760) 963-3585
Kassie Siegel, Center for Biological Diversity, (760) 366-2232 x 302
Ingrid Brostrom, Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, (661) 720-9140 x 302

Hinkley Residents Win Challenge to Open-Air Sludge Compost Facility;
Community Activists Convince Judge to Order
Further Environmental Review for Proposed Project

HINKLEY, Calif.— A group of residents in Hinkley, the rural California town Erin Brockovich made famous in a landmark case against a utility for contaminating the local water supply, has won another environmental case, this time against the county, for its approval of a proposed open-air sewage sludge compost facility.

HelpHinkley.org and the Center for Biological Diversity argued that the proposed Hawes Composting Facility Project, to be located near the former Hawes Airport, about 8 miles west and upwind of Hinkley, posed potential environmental risks because it would ferment human sewage sludge and other waste products in the open air. The plaintiffs charged that San Bernardino County failed to adequately consider mitigation measures — in particular, enclosing the proposed facility — that would reduce potential environmental impacts before it approved the Environmental Impact Report by Nursery Products LLC, the company to build the facility.

San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge John Vander Feer agreed, ruling that the county must conduct further environmental review and consider the feasibility of enclosing the proposed facility.

“It is extremely gratifying to know that our concerns were validated and the judge sided with us,” says Norm Diaz of HelpHinkley.org. “We understand the need to compost and deal with waste responsibly. But our communities are not the producers of the majority of sewage sludge in Southern California that would go to this proposed facility. If we are forced to deal with other areas’ waste, we should be protected from any possible effects with the use of state-of-the-art technologies.”

Kassie Siegel, climate, air and energy program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, adds: “Our victory in this case gives the county a second chance to protect the environment and the health and welfare of Hinkley residents by requiring this facility to use today's technology, rather than last century’s.”

HelpHinkley.org and the Center for Biological Diversity were represented by the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment (CRPE) and the Golden Gate University Environmental Law and Justice Clinic. Participating attorneys included Brent Plater, staff attorney with the clinic, who supervised Golden Gate University law students working on the case, and Caroline Farrell and Ingrid Brostrom with CRPE.

to read rest of press release: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2008/hinkley-04-29-2008.html
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Two Rare Southern California Plants Get New Chance to Grow

6/20/2008

Settling a suit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Bush administration agreed Wednesday to revisit two 2005 decisions that would work against the recovery of two federally protected Southern California plants. The spreading navarretia, a tiny, white-flowered plant that dwells in rare seasonal ponds, was granted just 652 acres of protected habitat -- even though it's found in a total of 18,747 acres -- while the thread-leaved brodiaea, a clay-loving lily, was left no better off with just 597 out of 4,093 acres of habitat protected. These scanty habitat designations were scientifically indefensible and just happened to take place smack in the middle of a period fraught with politically tainted endangered-species decisions made by Bush administration appointees. The Center filed a notice of intent to sue over 55 of those decisions and has moved forward with more than one lawsuit -- and the spreading navarretia and thread-leaved brodiaea are among the species likely to benefit.

Thanks to this week's settlement, the administration must go back to the drawing board and make new decisions regarding protected habitat for both plants. Final designations are due by 2010, with proposals to be made next year.

Learn about the spreading navarretia, the thread-leaved brodiaea, and our "Watchfrogging Political Corruption" campaign on our Web site.


http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/plants/spreading_navarretia/index.html

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/plants/thread-leaved_brodiaea/index.html

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Endangered Toad to Get New California Hopping Grounds

6/5/2008

Settling a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Bush administration last week agreed to redo a politically tainted decision that reduced the protected "critical habitat" area for southern California's endangered arroyo toad from 182,360 acres to just 11,695.

Though federal investigations revealed that this and many other decisions to strip protection from endangered species were forced upon agency scientists by high-ranking administration officials, the Center was forced to sue to have the decision rescinded. The settlement requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to establish a new protected area by October 2010.

Learn more about the arroyo toad, our campaign against tainted endangered species decisions, and the latest settlement.

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/amphibians/arroyo_toad/index.html

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2008/arroyo-toad-06-05-2008.html

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Friday, June 13, 2008

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An end to Hurwitz saga at Pacific Lumber


June 12, 2008, Houston Chronicle
COMMENTARY

By LOREN STEFFY

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/business/steffy/5834680.html

Charles Hurwitz and environmentalists agree.

You read that right. After two decades of bitter feuding, the war of the redwoods appears to be ending the only way it could: with Hurwitz's exit from the timber business.

Last week, a bankruptcy judge in Corpus Christi indicated he favors a reorganization plan for Pacific Lumber that would transfer ownership from Houston-based Maxxam Corp., which Hurwitz controls, to Mendocino Redwood Co., a timber company based in Ukiah, Calif.

Environmentalists favor the plan because Mendocino, owned by the billionaire Fisher family that founded the Gap retail chain, has a history of enviro-friendly logging practices. Hurwitz favors it because it preserves Pacific Lumber and its 300 jobs in the company town of Scotia, Calif.

"It's a fantastic company," Hurwitz said of Palco, as the company is known. "The guys at Mendocino are good people."

Bondholders could still derail the deal, but it appears Mendocino will prevail, paying $580 million for Palco and its 210,000 acres of redwood timberland.

Mendocino's advantages

So how does Mendocino hope to make the deal work when Maxxam couldn't?

It has a few advantages. It's a private company, so it can take a longer-term view of profitability without worrying about delivering quarterly numbers to investors.

"That's a luxury public companies don't have," Mendocino Chairman Sandy Dean said.

Second, the bankruptcy process has eliminated about $600 million in debt, easing the pressure on Palco's profit margin.

Personification of doom

Most importantly, though, Mendocino doesn't have Hurwitz.

For two decades, Hurwitz has been the personification of environmental doom painted by a legion of activists in northern California.

Nothing he did, including agreeing to some of the most arduous environmental restrictions ever imposed on a timber company, could appease them. As long as they had Hurwitz, they had someone to vilify.

Hurwitz, for his part, didn't recognize until it was too late how the environmentalists could disrupt his business. By then, both sides were stuck.

Maxxam in the 1980s wasn't a long-term investor. It used junk bond financing to take over an undervalued lumber company. The playbook for such deals called for restructuring the company and selling it a few years later.

By the time Hurwitz was ready to sell, he had a full-blown war on his hands, and no one wanted to buy into it.

As part of the 1999 agreement that set aside thousands of acres of old-growth redwoods as a preserve, Hurwitz agreed to reduce Palco's timber harvest, but it didn't matter. As long as trees were cut in his name, the environmental groups kept up the fight.

That left Palco cutting far less timber than the deal allowed and unable to make enough money to pay its debt.

Mendocino claims it can make money while cutting less than a third of what's permitted under the 1999 pact.

Few companies, of course, ever truly win the support of environmentalists. Despite its sustainable logging efforts, Mendocino, too, has been the target of protests and "tree sits," and even a campaign to boycott Gap stores in the past. Nevertheless, its logging practices are less aggressive than Palco's under Hurwitz.

Perhaps Mendocino learned from Palco's plight. It has been conducting a series of meetings in California's Humboldt County, explaining its plan. It's an openness that Maxxam never had.

Ironically, though, the success of the plan environmentalists favor hinged on Maxxam itself. In bankruptcy cases, secured creditors typically rule.

It's unusual that Judge Richard Schmidt didn't simply allow bondholders to sell timberland to the highest bidder and recover the money they're owed.

Mendocino's plan gained traction after Maxxam backed it.

"It was gracious of Maxxam to support our plan," Dean said. "Their support helped improve our plan significantly."

Not a victory

The plan is far from a victory for Maxxam. It loses control of Palco, its investment withered away by two decades of timber wars. If it had to give up control, though, the Mendocino plan offers the best option for preserving Palco, which Hurwitz said was important to him.

Maxxam, which wasn't in bankruptcy itself, is left with some real estate properties and its Houston horse-racing track.

For environmentalists, the plan offers hope that a company they've long despised will change its practices, striking a balance between environmentalism and capitalism.

Perhaps it's only fitting, then, that in this, the denouement to the timber wars, they and Hurwitz finally agree.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

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Another Link is Saved in the Redwoods to the Sea Park on the North Coast

Redwoods league buys Mattole land for BLM

John Driscoll/The Eureka Times-Standard
6/08/2008

http://www.times-standard.com/ci_9520620

The Save-the-Redwoods League has acquired 216-acres between Humboldt Redwoods State Park and the King Range National Conservation Area and transferred it to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The property is the latest addition to a project known as Corridor from the Redwoods to the Sea. That is nearly 10,000 acres connecting the lush old-growth redwood forests in the Southern Humboldt County park to the ocean.

”In the BLM Arcata Field Office we share Save-the-Redwoods League's vision to connect critical wildlife areas in California,” said Field Manager Lynda Roush. “This land transfer is a significant stepping stone in extending the Corridor from the Redwoods to the Sea.”

The acquired land connects habitat and provides protection for threatened species in the area, according to a league press release. Endangered coho salmon and steelhead trout exist in several streams on the property, the league said, and second-growth redwoods and Douglas fir forests protect the Mattole River from soil erosion and improve habitat for aquatic species.

The land was bought from a family for about $200,000 with funding from the league and the Resource Legacy Fund Foundation's Preserving Wild California Program, league Executive Director Ruskin Hartley said in a phone interview. Hartley said the league has been working in the Mattole River area since at least 1999, initially buying some property from Eel River Sawmills. He said it's been important since large parcels in the Mattole are becoming more scarce, and the effects on wildlife and streams have been dramatic.

”The league's Corridor from the Redwoods to the Sea project is significant because virtually all of the remaining wild land in the lower 48 states is divided into isolated islands,” Hartley said. “Linking areas of wildlands is key to effective conservation. It allows us to protect landscapes where animals and plant species can thrive, reproduce and flourish.”
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Newhall Ranch Owner Goes Bankrupt;

One of two largest land owners in L.A. County

CalPERS-backed LandSource files for Chapter 11
From L.A. Times Staff and Wire Reports

June 10, 2008

A California real estate partnership that the California Public Employees' Retirement System poured about $1 billion into has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

LandSource Communities Development's assets include 15,000 acres of undeveloped land in the Santa Clarita Valley, among the largest land deals to falter amid the national housing glut. The land was appraised at $2.6 billion at the time of the CalPERS investment, but has dropped considerably in value since then.

CalPERS, the nation's biggest pension fund, provides pension, healthcare and other retirement services for about 1.5 million public employees. CalPERS did not immediately return calls Monday. Last month, its president, Rob Feckner, told the Los Angeles Times he hoped to forestall a bankruptcy filing but stressed that "if we incur any losses, they will be minor" because the pension fund is "very well diversified, in good shape."

LandSource issued a news release late Sunday to announce its filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.

Santa Clarita-based LandSource had been trying for months to restructure a $1.24-billion debt, the company said. It received a default notice on April 22 after missing a payment when a decline in the assessed value of that northern Los Angeles County land holding triggered an additional charge.

"LandSource believes Chapter 11 provides the most effective means for the partnership to preserve the values of its business . . . while it works with creditors to achieve a long-term restructuring," spokeswoman Tamara Taylor said in the release.

Attempts to reach Taylor and LandSource were unsuccessful.

LandSource operates in California, Arizona, Florida, New Jersey, Nevada and Texas.

The partnership announced that it had received a $135-million line of credit from a group of lenders led by Barclays Bank, allowing it to fund operations during the Chapter 11 period.

CalPERS, with $254.8 billion in assets, is involved in LandSource through its participation in MW Housing Partners, an investment fund managed by MacFarlane Partners.

MW Housing Partners acquired 68% of the Santa Clarita property, along the Interstate 5 corridor 30 miles north of Los Angeles, from home builder Lennar Corp. and LNR Property Corp., a unit of Cerberus Capital Management.

Lennar and LNR each maintained a 16% interest in LandSource.
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a comment on the Times' website reveal more:

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/laland/2008/06/bankruptcy-for.html

About 2 weeks ago, Standard & Poors reported that LandSource, Newhall Land's parent company, had $25 Million in cash left in their bank accounts. Standard & Poors had conducted a 'private audit' of LandSource's financial condition at the request of LandSource's mortgage lender, Barclays Bank. So the $25Million cash was real, not funny money.

Yet, in filing Chapter 11, LandSource and Newhall Land chose to royally scr*w all of their California trade creditors by not paying them, even though that $25 Million is cash was available. Now, these local companies are unlikely to ever be paid.

Adding insult to injury, LandSource and their mortgage lender have done a prepackaged Debtor In Possession financing, which is scheduled to be approved at 10AM on Tuesday 6/10, without any meaningful notice to the unsecured California trade creditors, since the bankruptcy was filed in Delaware even though the vast majority of the assets, and all the major unsecured creditors, are in California.

Showing their contempt for their unsecured creditors, LandSource also had the nerve to create a creditors notice website at www.kccllc.net/landsource and purport to provide copies of all of the bankruptcy petitions for the 21 entities, BUT they conveniently left off the most important bankruptcy petition, the one for the parent company LandSource Communities Development LLC.

So the California unsecured creditors who were stiffed should be asking "Where did the last $25 Million go?" From the unsecured creditors schedules on the actual bankruptcy petitions, here are just some of the local companies stiffed by LandSource:

PCL Construction, Glendale, $6,060,480
Park West Landscape, Pacoima $1,245,062
Oak Ridge Landscape, North Hills $`,056,303
Hunsaker & Assoc., Valencia $905,156
Psomas & Assoc., Santa Clarita $816,033
John Burgeson Contractors, Canyon Country $800,157
RC Becker & Sons, Santa Clarita $800,151

There are many more local service providers and contractors from Ventura County, Orange County and LA County south of Mulholland also cheated out of what was due them, while the $25 Million was frittered away, or horded to pay Newhall Land's generous employee payroll and benefit package. See the schedules to the bankruptcy petitions at the website established by LandSource at http://kccllc.net/landsource

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

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More Details of Pacific Lumber Deal:


Marathon-Mendocino plan confirmed

by John Blakeley
Jun-9-2008

http://www.thedeal.com/servlet/ContentServer?cid=1212755507222&pagename=TheDeal%2FNWStArticle&c=TDDArticle

After weeks of contested confirmation hearings in the Pacific Lumber Co. bankruptcy, a Texas judge has confirmed a reorganization plan led by hedge fund Marathon Structured Finance Fund LP.

Marathon and Mendocino Redwood Co. LLC, a lumber distributor owned by Gap Inc. founder Donald Fisher, will pay at least $580 million cash for the 210,000 acres of timberlands owned by Palco affiliate Scotia Pacific Co. LLC

Judge Richard Schmidt of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas in Corpus Christi confirmed the plan in a Friday, June 6, order, cramming down objections from the only other plan proponent remaining in the case, Bank of New York Trust Co. NA.

In a 119-page opinion, Schmidt estimated the timberlands, Palco's main asset, to be worth no more than $510 million.

BNY, the indenture trustee for $713.8 million in notes issued by Scopac and secured by Palco's timberlands, must therefore be paid at least $510 million through Marathon's plan, according to Schmidt's order.

In its plan, BNY proposed selling Palco's timberlands and lumber mill through one or more bankruptcy auctions. Schmidt, however, seemed concerned about the plan's impact on the town of Scotia, Calif., which Palco owns, and neighboring communities.

"If confirmed, the mill would likely be shut down and liquidated, along with the town of Scotia and the debtors' remaining assets, resulting in a loss of jobs for the community and a way of life in the town of Scotia," Schmidt said in his opinion. "The noteholders were not required to propose a plan that reorganized the timberlands and the milling operations. It was no secret, however, that the citizens of California and the vast majority of creditors wanted a solution that preserves the operation of both Scopac and Palco debtors."

Under Marathon's plan, Mendocino, which operates more than 220,000 acres of timberlands in California's Mendocino and Sonoma counties, will take over Palco's commercial timberland and saw mill operations. In his opinion, Schmidt called Mendocino "an experienced, environmentally responsible operator with a proven track record."

Prepetition lender Marathon, which provided Palco a $75 million debtor-in-possession loan during the bankruptcy, will split the debtors into two reorganized corporations: one which would own and operate the 210,000 acres of timberlands and Palco's lumber mill, and one which would own the town of Scotia.

Marathon will pay Scopac's noteholders $510 million, and use at least $7.5 million of its investment to improve Palco's mill, according to the Chapter 11 plan. The New York hedge fund will also convert some $160 million in pre- and postpetition debt into equity.

Unsecured creditors will be paid through a litigation trust, for which Marathon is contributing $500,000. The official committee of unsecured creditors supported Marathon's plan.

Marathon's plan does not contemplate an exit financing facility, though Schmidt left room for approval of such a facility in his order should Marathon solicit postpetition financing.

Palco, which filed for Chapter 11 with Scopac and four other affiliates on Jan. 18, had filed its own plan.

Its plan also anticipated the sale of the redwoods, but Palco abandoned the plan in favor of Marathon's after Schmidt made it clear that it couldn't be confirmed over objections from several creditor classes.

Palco, which is a unit of Maxxam Inc., cited enhanced regulatory restrictions on its timber harvesting operations that cut into revenue when it filed for Chapter 11.

Friday, June 6, 2008

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Texas Judge Kicks Maxxam Out of Humboldt County!!


Dear readers,

Friday, June 6, 2008--This morning's decision by a Texas bankruptcy court judge to hand the 200,000 acres of Pacific Lumber's Humboldt County forests over to a creditor's group led by the Mendocino Redwood Company means that Californians will be running our largest remaining privately-owned redwood forests. Mendocino Redwood co. is the largest timberland owner in Mendocino County, having acquired those lands a decade ago. Over a month ago, Charles Hurwitz's Maxxam corporation dropped their own bankruptcy reorganization plan and agreed to accept $2.5 million in exchange for supporting the plan backed by Mendo. Redwoods Co.

Maxxam has profited over the last 20 years to the tune of between $1.5 to $4 billion from clearcutting ancient redwood groves, depending on which news account you read. Thousands of people have joined in civil disobedience and tree-sits to halt Maxxam's "liquidation logging", which has not only decimated the local economy by using up the natural resources too fast, but also wrecked the company itself.

There's a big parallel here with the energy crisis faced by Californians in 2001, in which multi-national power companies PG & E and Edison International sold off most of the state's electrical power plants to Texas based power firms, which faked a power shortage and jacked up rates, leaving the price-controlled local subsidiaries of PG & E and Edison bankrupt. The only reason the local power companies were bankrupt is because they had transferred several billions from the sales of their power plants to their parent companies, and could not absorb the impacts of the electricity deregulation law that they wrote and shepherded through the state legislature in 1996. The parent companies didn't go bankrupt, however, and kept all these billions of dollars, while the local ratepayers and taxpayers got screwed and had to take the entire burden of keeping the local power system in business.

So while Maxxam is not running Pacific Lumber anymore, what the bankruptcy case doesn't resolve is where did all the billions of dollars from Charles Hurwitz's 20 year disastrous reign go?

--the editor, Rex Frankel



Map of Mendocino Redwood Company holdings in Mendocino County--in Brown.
Note--the other major private owner, Hawthorne Timber which is shown in dark blue, sold their northern-most 50,000 acre holding to the Redwood Forests Foundation last year.
------------------------------------

Dear EPIC Alert List members!

After 23 long years of fighting Maxxam's destructive policies in Humboldt, we can finally wave goodbye to Charles Hurwitz. Please take a minute to read the press release below, that we sent out to media earlier today.

The Mendocino Redwood Company will assume control of Pacific Lumber. While the bankruptcy judge hasn't ruled yet, he did indicate his intention to confirm the MRC/Marathon Reorganization plan.

This is a better time than ever for people to engage in local issues. Even with Hurwitz and the extreme liquidation logging practices of Maxxam's PL out of the picture, we face extraordinary challenges to ensure a healthy environment and stable economy for future generations.

EPIC would like to invite you to get involved!

The opportunity is ripe this summer to rekindle a movement in Humboldt to protect our natural legacy.

Thanks for all of your continued support!

~the EPIC team

To get more involved with EPIC projects, please contact Kerul Dyer at epic@ wildcalifornia.org or call 707.822.7711. To make a secure online donation, go to "support" at our website at http://wildcalifornia.org/. We need your support!

-----------------------------
For Immediate Release: June 6, 2008

For Further Information:
EPIC Sam Johnston 415-377-0415
Sierra Club Paul Mason 916-557-1100 x120, Cell 916-214-1382

A New Era in Humboldt County:
Mendocino Redwood Company to Assume Control of Pacific Lumber

Humboldt County, CA – Ending a 23-year drama, Texas bankruptcy Judge Richard S. Schmidt will announce that he favors a sustainable and economically viable plan for north coast forests formerly held by now-bankrupt Pacific Lumber Company.

Judge Schmidt’s ruling for bankrupt Pacific Lumber Company and its 220,000 acres of Humboldt County forests, expected to be filed later today, represents real progress for the region, environmental groups say.

After the ruling is filed, within a few weeks the Mendocino Redwood Company will take over Pacific Lumber operations, including logging on lands now held by the Scotia Pacific Company and the Pacific Lumber mill in Scotia. The Environmental Protection Information Center and the Sierra Club have battled Pacific Lumber’s destructive logging practices since Texas-based Maxxam Corp took over the timber company 23 years ago.

“At long last, Maxxam is gone,” said Sam Johnston, Private Lands Campaigner for EPIC. “This marks a new era for both the people and forests of Humboldt County.”

“This is a positive development for the forested watersheds and people of Humboldt County,” said Paul Mason with the Sierra Club. “We look forward to working with a company that has a much stronger track record of responsible management than its predecessor.”

To protect the ongoing health of the local community, the local economy, and the working forests of this region, Sierra Club and EPIC hope to see: 1) no more cutting of old growth, (2) recovery of species habitat, (3) use of selection harvest methods (4) permanent maintenance of timberland, and (5) permanent protection for key resource areas, such as the Marbled
Murrelet Conservation Areas.

Sierra Club and EPIC are optimistic that Mendocino Redwood Company can meet these challenges and recover this important area, according to Johnston.

“MRC inherits a landscape that has suffered grievously from more than two decades of serious abuse,” said EPIC’s Johnston. “We appreciate MRC’s background in restoration-focused forestry, and want to work with MRC to build a truly sustainable timber company for the long term. MRC needs to make dramatic changes from Pacific Lumber’s practices to fulfill the
commitments they have made.”

One of the first tasks MRC will face will be to deal with destructive PL logging plans already in the pipeline, such as the disastrous “Railcar” logging plan to clear-cut redwoods next to Humboldt Redwoods State Park. MRC also needs to perform extensive restoration work on damaged watersheds such as Elk River, Freshwater and Bear Creek.

The decision, expected to be finalized later today, resolves vast uncertainties that had loomed heavily over the bankruptcy proceedings as creditors staked their positions about who should take over Pacific Lumber and its subsidiary, Scotia Pacific. Pacific Lumber’s abandoned plan would have subdivided and sold some 21,000 acres of prime timberlands for development. The plan by the largest secured creditors of the company, the “Noteholders,” would have entailed a risky auction that could have divided forestland and mill, or forced an inflated price resulting in
unsustainable harvest levels.

The MRC Plan comes closest to implementing the standards EPIC advocates for timber management in the Redwood Region. These standards flow from three core principles for timberland management: recovery of high-quality timberland and wildlife habitat for salmon & steelhead and other aquatic, terrestrial, and avian wildlife; recovery of an economy based on these resources and full integration of the region's human communities in these
efforts.

EPIC & Sierra Club look forward to working with MRC, and are pleased that Judge Schmidt and the bankruptcy court recognized that the MRC plan affords a solid opportunity to realize long-term, sustainable forestry.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

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U.S.Congress Passes Land Conservation Tax Incentive for Family Farms and Ranches



June 2, 2008

(For more information visit http://LCSLO.org or call (805) 544-9096.)

The hotly debated Farm Bill, which Congress enacted last month with an override of the President’s veto, renews a powerful tax incentive which has helped conserve a million or more acres of farms, ranches and natural areas across the US. The incentive had expired January 1st, but is now retroactive to the beginning of the year and will last through 2009.

“The new incentives are designed to benefit family farmers and ranchers of modest income by increasing tax benefits for voluntary conservation. Tax savings can then be used to supplement incomes or enhance agricultural operations. This is a great way to help keep valuable agricultural land in production” - Brian Stark, Executive Director, Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County.

The renewed incentive, which applies to a landowner’s federal income tax, will:
o- Raise the deduction a donor can take for donating a voluntary conservation agreement from 30% of their income in any year to 50%;
o- Allow farmers and ranchers to deduct up to 100% of their income; and
o- Increase the number of years over which a donor can take deductions from 6 to 16 years.

Landowner donations to conservation organizations, such as The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County, a local non-profit land trust, have resulted in millions of acres of working lands and natural areas being conserved for the future. Land conservation protects clean air, clean water, natural areas, local food sources, historic landscapes and scenic beauty.

Land Conservancy Conservation Director, Bob Hill states “Two recent Land Conservancy projects, a 55-acre donated easement along Graves Creek in Atascadero (2006) and another 150-acre easement donation located in the Templeton Gap (2007) are both a direct result of the initial conservation easement tax provisions. In addition, current negotiations to permanently protect 3,000 acres of ranch land adjacent to the Los Padres National Forest have weighed heavily on the extension of this incentive.”

The local Land Conservancy has protected more than 9,500 acres in San Luis Obispo County since 1984 and aims to nearly double that amount by the end of 2010. According to the Land Trust Alliance, land trusts in America have together saved more than 36 million acres from development, an area the size of New England.

Monday, June 2, 2008

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Congressman's Bill May End Mining Threat to Connection Between North L.A. County Wildlife Areas


By Stephen K. Peeples

Santa Clarita Valley Signal Online Editor
May 18, 2008 .
http://www.the-signal.com/news/article/1921/

At a news conference outside his Santa Clarita Valley office on April 25, U.S. Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon unveiled a breakthrough agreement that could halt a nearly decade-long battle between the city of Santa Clarita and global mining company Cemex, Inc. over a planned large-scale mine in Soledad Canyon.

For the first time, Cemex is on board with new legislation that McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, has introduced that would effectively end any chance the company could mine at the Soledad Canyon site.

As it stands right now, Cemex has two, 10-year mining contracts with the federal Bureau of Land Management, and is authorized to mine up to 5 million tons of sand and gravel annually on 400 acres of land in Soledad Canyon.

The city of Santa Clarita has long opposed the mine as a scourge that would add pollution and unwanted traffic to Hwy. 14. To date, the city has spent more than $8 million fighting the plans and in February 2007, the city and Cemex announced a truce to allow all the parties work out an agreement through legislation.

The resulting bill, HR 5887, tagged the Soledad Canyon Mine Act of 2008, is McKeon's fourth attempt to reach an agreement through legislation, but it's the first bill Cemex has supported.

HR 5887 would cancel the Cemex-BLM contracts. In exchange, Cemex would be given thousands of acres of BLM-controlled land in Victorville equivalent to the value of the contracts. Cemex would then be able to sell the land to the city of Victorville and other private buyers for purposes other than mining, which would be a separate agreement between those two parties.

At the news conference, representatives from Cemex, Victorville and Santa Clarita joined McKeon to call the proposed legislation a "win-win-win."

Local delegation
HR 5887 may be a creative solution resulting from years of blood, sweat and tears, but it still needs to gain support from both of California's U.S. senators, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Barabara Boxer, D-Calif., be OK'd (or at least not opposed) by the BLM, approved in Washington by Congress, and signed into law by the president.

"We know there are many potential obstacles," McKeon conceded at the news conference. "There are lots of steps and we'll be working to be as expeditious as possible. With all the major players on board, we have a strong team to take this legislation proposal back to Washington and begin the uphill process of working it through Congress."

A week later, a contingent of city officials including Santa Clarita Mayor Bob Kellar, Councilwoman Laurie Ender, Intergovernmental Relations Officer Mike Murphy, Assistant City Manager Ken Striplin and city lobbyist Cy Jamison were in Washington, D.C. and sat in on a strategy session with McKeon's staff and Cemex reprsentatives.

"We just sat down and went through the normal things you go through when a bill is introduced, and said, ‘OK, what do we need to do in terms of getting the bill moved through the congressional legislative process?'" Murphy said.

On May 8, between votes on the floor of the House of Representatives, McKeon provided a closer look into the first steps being taken.

"The process has started," he confirmed. "I hand-delivered copies of the bill to the chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources (Nick Rayhall, D-W.Va.) and the next senior member of the committee, George Miller, D-Calif., also chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor. They gave the bill to the committee staff, and they have already jumped on it. They've contacted my office to get background on the bill and what we're trying to accomplish, and to see what they can do help us in moving it forward. I have followed back up with (Rayhall) and let him know that this is very important to me and we need to move on it as quickly as we can."

The Resources Committee could take one of a few different paths from here, McKeon said. "They could hold a hearing about the bill, they could hold a markup on the bill, or they could even try to move it under a suspension, which would mean it's a non-controversial bill and it is brought to the floor."

Quickest, easiest way

Bills moved to the floor under suspension usually pass, but need a two-thirds majority. "That would be the quickest, easiest way because you don't have to go to the Rules Committee and then bring it to the floor, where people have a chance to pick it apart and change it," McKeon said. "So (suspension) would be my first preference."

If not fast-tracked, the committee would schedule a hearing. "We would get experts from the community to testify on (the bill's behalf,) but I'm trying to speed the process by avoiding (a hearing) if we can," he said.

Along with hand-delivering HR 5887 in Washington, McKeon and his staff have sent letters to California legislators seeking co-sponsorhip of the bill, which will improve chances of its passage, and he has followed up. "I have talked with a few of them personally to ask them to co-sponsor," he said.

If the Resources Committee determines it doesn't want to consider HR 5887 as a free-standing bill, they could attach it to another bill that may be moving through the process. "That's not a real strategy, but more of an option," McKeon said. "In the House, you can't attach a non-germane item, but in the Senate, you can add anything to a bill."

McKeon is also trying to determine where the BLM - an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior that manages more land (258 million surface acres) than any other federal agency - will stand on this round of legislation.

Ten years ago, he said, the BLM director told him in one of multiple meetings that the agency's legal counsel said the BLM could not support a bill then being proposed. The latest bill has a much better chance, plus there's now a different Interior Secretary, Dirk Kempthorne, and a different BLM director, Jim Caswell.

"I've met with the Secretary and he's been supportive to this point," McKeon said. "That doesn't mean that he would support this specific bill, but he's been supportive of our efforts, and we're hopeful that if the BLM don't support the bill at least they remain neutral and don't oppose it."

McKeon and his staff are looking to Santa Clarita officials to help rally support on the city and state levels in California, and win the backing of Sen. Feinstein, who has had reservations about previous efforts to block additional mining in and around Soledad Canyon. "Ultimately, the bill has to pass in both (the House and Senate), so it'll be very important for the city to put their efforts toward working with her," he said.

Cemex was among the issues city officials discussed with Sen. Feinstein when she visited the city last year, and she had reservations about blocking future mining in the Soledad Canyon area.

"Her concern I think first of all is the availability of aggregate in the state of California," Murphy said. "The other issue was the exchange of values and resources, and how the mechanics of that would work. Basically, under federal law, if the BLM were to sell that property outright to a buyer, a minimum of 80 percent of the proceeds of the sale would come back into the state of California for use to purchase or to enhance federal lands. So we needed to look at a strategy that in essence creates a zero sum gain for the exchange."

"(Sen. Feinstein) gave the city some recommendations, some of which they have proceeded forward with and some of which were not feasible," McKeon said. "That's why it's important for them to follow up now and let her know they have endorsed (HR 5887) and fully support it, as do the city of Victorville and Cemex."

Both McKeon and Murphy urged Santa Clarita Valley citizens to contact both Sen. Feinstein and Sen. Boxer to let them know the community is behind the latest legislative effort, with Victorville and Cemex now on board.

"We want to address issues they may view from the Senate's side, so that by the time we get the bill over there we will have resolved those issues," Murphy said.

More lobbying planned
Murphy added that city officials are planning another trip to Washington next week to follow up with members of Congress and/or their representatives, to make sure they've received McKeon's letter seeking co-sponsorship, and be available to talk about the bill and answer any questions potential sponsors may have.

Locally, Murphy said, "We're reaching out to a number of groups and organizations that have previously supported our efforts, and identifying groups or individuals we would like to have on board in support of the bill, asking them to support the measure."

The city's outreach extends beyond the Santa Clarita Valley. "If local residents have family or friends in other parts of the state or the country, they can urge them to communicate with their own members of Congress that they think the bill is a good thing," Murphy said. "The more they hear about it in Congress, the better."

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912 Acre Oak Preserve Completed in Placer County


from the California Oak Report

http://www.californiaoaks.org/html/oak_report_04-08.html

Preserving Placer County Oaks
Placer Land Trust, in partnership with the California Wildlife Foundation, COF, Emigrant Trails Greenway Trust and others, announced the completion of its largest conservation project to date, the 912 acre Garden Bar Preserve, situated along the Bear River in rural Lincoln.

Garden Bar Preserve is part of Placer County’s largest remaining contiguous oak woodlands. The conservation easement will permanently protect the property's diverse natural and agricultural values, including two miles of Bear River frontage, rangeland and oak woodlands.

"Oak woodlands make up the greatest habitat biodiversity in the foothills, including over 350 vertebrates," said Jeff Darlington, the trust's executive director. "The landowner had an interest in seeing this land continue to be open space long after they were gone."

Funding for the conservation easement and ongoing land stewardship was provided by the California Wildlife Foundation, working with partner organizations like Placer Land Trust to protect the state's rich diversity of wildlife species by acquiring, restoring, and managing sufficient habitat to sustain healthy wildlife populations over time.
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What Looks Like a River but Isn't?


A Sneak Attack on the Clean Water Act at the L.A. River by Federal Bureaucrats could Crush Efforts to Restore Urban Creeks and Rivers Throughout California and the USA. By redefining protected rivers as only ones wet and deep enough to be "navigated", a major hurdle for developers could be removed



Is the L.A. River up a creek?

If the waterway is not officially deemed to be 'navigable,' many of its tributaries could lose important protections.

By Deborah Schoch, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
June 1, 2008

Over the years, the Los Angeles River has been redrawn, clad in concrete, tainted with chemicals, invaded by countless Hollywood car chases, dismissed as a glorified storm drain.

Now comes the latest slap. The city's river can't even float enough boats to qualify as a full-fledged navigable waterway, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

River advocates are outraged.

"They're just wrong. That's the simple version of it. We've done kayak trips from the Valley to Long Beach a dozen times in the past 10 years," said poet and writer Lewis MacAdams, founder of Friends of the Los Angeles River.

It doesn't end there. What might seem a minor bureaucratic tweak by the Corps could have a domino effect across the river's 834-square-mile watershed, say worried environmentalists and some federal, state and local officials.

Critics say the draft decision issued by Corps regulators weakens federal water protections for many seasonal streams that feed the river. They say this could translate into more mountain development and more dirty runoff flowing through cities to the Pacific.

"Practically speaking, the March 20 decision would open up a number of tributaries and streams to the argument that the Clean Water Act doesn't apply," said David Beckman, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

But how is the Clean Water Act -- among the strongest federal laws guarding rivers, lakes and streams -- linked to the ability to float a boat down the Los Angeles River?

The answer is cloaked in bureaucracy and court rulings.

A 2006 U.S. Supreme Court decision weakened the power of the Clean Water Act to protect certain seasonal streams. Federal regulators who decide whether a stream is protected by the law must first find the closest navigable waterway. Then they have to decide whether the stream has any effect on that waterway.

If it doesn't, landowners may not be required to obtain certain federal permits before building homes, roads or other projects over those seasonal streams. Their plans, however, would still be subject to local zoning laws and building codes.

In a case involving the Los Angeles River, regulators determined that most of it isn't navigable in the first place. So some streams on the edges of its watershed -- most in the mountains and foothills ringing Los Angeles -- may lose some federal protection, critics say.

The local Corps officials who wrote the March 20 draft decision say they strictly followed guidelines developed after the Supreme Court decision.

"When we looked at the L.A. River, we did not find evidence of navigation" beyond the Pacific Coast Highway bridge in Long Beach, two miles north of the ocean, said Aaron Allen, the regulator who wrote the draft decision.

He stressed that the decision does not weaken any federal laws that protect the water in the river, which is fed in part by reclaimed water from sewage treatment plants. He agreed that seasonal streams far up in the watershed, however, could have less protection.

But in the face of critics' concerns, the Corps has withdrawn the navigable river decision pending further study. The results of that review are expected within days.

Col. Thomas Magness, commander of the Corps office that oversees part of the Southwest, emphasized that the Corps is working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on a final decision.

He promised, "it's going to be something we can all understand and defend." He said it was "purely speculative" to conclude that designating the Los Angeles River as nonnavigable would lead to more lax development standards over streams. "I would not begin to throw in the towel and submit to that conclusion."

Any proposal to fill in or build over streams will still be reviewed on a case-by-case basis "on its own merits," he said.

Yet the Los Angeles River case is attracting interest in Washington and elsewhere in part because it's among the first in the nation after the Supreme Court decision.

"The implications of these decisions could be quite large," said David Smith, chief of wetlands regulation at the EPA southwest region, who has met twice with Corps officials while trying to change their decision.

Los Angeles River defenders such as Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) and Nancy Sutley, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's top environmental deputy, have written letters to federal officials, criticizing the river ruling.

"If the Corps of Engineers applies a similar approach to other rivers, protections against water pollution that are now taken for granted could be seriously eroded throughout the nation," Waxman wrote in a letter to the EPA. He said the draft decision could undercut Clean Water Act rules governing waste discharges, dredging, oil spill prevention and water quality standards in much of the Los Angeles River basin.

Meanwhile, local river enthusiasts are rushing to collect photos and videos of friends and relatives paddling on the river in canoes and kayaks.

Their goal is to prove that yes, indeed, just like the Mississippi and the Potomac, Los Angeles' river is worthy of navigation -- maybe not by cargo ships, but at least by canoes.

Web of tributaries

The drama got its start not on the river but in a far-flung web of tributaries in the Santa Susana Mountains north of Chatsworth.

There, rancher Wayne Fishback hoped to fill some seemingly dry stream beds to build a road and prevent erosion on his sweeping mountain property above Brown Canyon Wash, a tributary of the Los Angeles River. He asked for guidance from the Corps of Engineers, which regulates parts of the Clean Water Act.

Fishback's request landed on the desk of Aaron Allen, chief of the Corps' North Coast office in Ventura, who holds a UCLA doctorate in fluvial geomorphology, or how streams shape the land.

Ten years ago, Allen's job would have been easier. In those days, federal clean-water laws typically covered the seasonal streams, marshes and pools common in the arid West.

All that changed with the 2006 Supreme Court decision in which Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that the Clean Water Act would apply to a water body if it had a "significant nexus" with "traditional navigable waters."

So Allen's review ballooned into a full-scale review of the Los Angeles River. He concluded that only 1.75 miles of the river upstream from the ocean is navigable.

The remaining 49-mile stretch -- which cuts north through southern Los Angeles County and then west into the San Fernando Valley -- did not meet the legal test of being navigable, he wrote.

"Presently, the occasional use of kayaks and/or canoes on other reaches of the river are sporadic and do not support any associated commerce," Allen wrote in the March 20 memorandum. Nor could he find evidence of historical navigation.

"Finally, the capacity to provide navigation at some point in the future is highly doubtful given the river's configuration, hydrology and fundamental use as a flood control channel."

Memo leaked

For Fishback, that was good news: His land lies so far upstream from the PCH bridge that he probably can fill four of his streams without navigating the time-consuming permit process.

But when the Corps memorandum was leaked to river advocates in April, the uproar ensued.

George Wolfe, a Venice-based kayaker who founded the satire website www.lalatimes.com, helped create a video last year featuring him commuting by kayak on the river in a business suit.

"As a boater with some 30-plus years of boating I can honestly say that it's a perfectly navigable river," he said in a letter submitted to the Corps along with the video.

Some local officials are urging the Corps to conduct its review in public.

"My agency wasn't consulted, wasn't made aware of it," said Tracy Egoscue, executive officer of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, who learned about the decision from the EPA and criticized the lack of citizen input.

Magness said the Corps invested countless hours in the decision and conferred with other federal, state and local officials. "By no means have we done anything without public involvement."

But for Egoscue and others, the designation reaches beyond the thicket of environmental bureaucracy.

Egoscue characterizes the Corps' decision as showing "a fundamental lack of understanding and respect for the resource to come in and make a decision without citizen involvement."

"It's not just about the law and the permits this board writes," she said. "It's about the perception of the river. . . . The Los Angeles River is our Potomac."
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Ancient Redwoods at Risk!! Caltrans is conducting an Environmental Impact Report for Highway 101-Richardson Grove widening project
--Submit your comments by June 10th, 2008!

from the Environmental Protection Information Center

Richardson Grove State Park, covering approximately 2,000 acres, stands at Humboldt County's southern gate, welcoming travelers to this side of "the Redwood Curtain." A canopy of majestic old-growth redwoods welcomes northbound travelers as they wind along the Eel River. Because the ancient redwoods squeeze the highway at several points along this curvy section of state Highway 101, interstate-size trucks are currently prohibited from traveling along this route. Caltrans has designed a project that would realign the road--putting more curves in
the road so that vehicles would come at the tight spots at less acute angles--thus opening up the County for more interstate truck traffic.

CalTrans has decided to prepare an Environmental Impact Report for the Richardson Grove widening project, as we and many others have been urging it to do over the past year and a half. It is crucial that we impress upon Caltrans how important a resource this Grove is to our community. Now that Caltrans has decided to conduct an EIR, we need to provide initial
scoping comments about what we believe the EIR must consider.


The deadline to submit scoping comments to Caltrans is June 10th. Write a letter to Caltrans today. Make specific comments. Ask specific questions. Caltrans is required to respond to your written concerns in their EIR.

Visit our webpage for points to include in your letter:

http://www.wildcalifornia.org/pages/page-271, or use the template at
http://www.wildcalifornia.org/actions/number-68 to
copy and paste into your word-processing software and print out a letter.

Please also send a copy of your letter to Congressman Mike Thompson and Governor Schwarzenegger at the addresses below. Caltrans has asked for snail-mail, rather than email.

This is the first opportunity to provide comment. When Caltrans issues the Draft EIR, which it expects to do in October 2008, we will be able to submit more detailed comments about its adequacy and the project as presented in the Draft EIR.

Call (707)822-7711 or write epic@wildcalifornia.org for more information.
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More Fallout from the Tejon Ranch-New Sprawl Deal


Tejon Ranch gets condor experts' silence in land deal

By NOAKI SCHWARTZ – May 25, 2008

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Biologist Noel Snyder got an intriguing call from
a development-company representative a day after it announced it was
moving forward with plans to build nearly 3,500 luxury homes, condos
and hotels on land used by the endangered California condor.

Would he like to make $3,000 for just one day's work reviewing the
company's plan to safeguard the condor from the development?

There was just one catch: Snyder would have to sign a promise not to
publicly criticize the Tejon Ranch Co. project.

"My jaw dropped to the floor," said Snyder, one of the foremost
experts on North America's largest flying bird. "It was very clear to
me I could've asked for $10,000. I could've asked for $50,000."

The Portal, Ariz., scientist said he turned the job down for fear it
might prevent him from objectively evaluating the plan and, if he
disagreed, from testifying against it in court. He has since decided
the project could significantly harm the condor.

But others have taken the offer from Tejon (TAY-hone). The developer
has retained the services — and secured the public silence — of
three
condor experts. That's a significant portion of the half-dozen or so
scientists specializing in condors on Tejon, according to the
developer's chief consultant on the bird, Peter Bloom.

In truth, many environmentalists are delighted by the deal, under
which Tejon will set aside an extraordinary 375 square miles for the
bird and other wildlife. It would be the biggest parcel in California
history to be designated for conservation.

Five of the nation's most influential environmental groups, including
the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Audubon
California, helped negotiate the plan and gave it their blessing when
it was announced earlier this month.

But critics say that with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake,
Tejon is systematically trying to stifle any remaining opposition to
its plans, which are still awaiting approval from various government
entities.

"Given the small number of experts with knowledge of this land and
given Tejon's behavior to now, I think one of their tactics is to
bottle up some or all of those experts so there can be no dissent if
this lands in court," said Adam Keats, an attorney with the Center
for Biological Diversity, which is considering suing over the project.

Tejon spokesman Barry Zoeller bristled at the criticism.

"If there is any assertion or implication that any attempt was made
to get an opinion or buy an opinion from someone, that is absolutely
incorrect and flies in the face of the independent evaluation" of the
conservation groups, he said. "They're putting their credibility on
the line as well."

Zoeller said Tejon routinely requires consultants to sign
confidentiality agreements because information leaks can harm the
company's stock and its shareholders.

Companies often hire environmental experts as consultants with the
expectation they will give an honest assessment but not publicly bash
a plan. In the past decade, however, developers have increasingly
required consultants to actually sign contracts with clauses
preventing them from speaking out, said Tom Scott, a former
biological consultant who is now a natural resources specialist at
the University of California, Berkeley.

The condor has near-mythical status in California and virtually any
project seen as even remotely threatening to its habitat faces stiff
opposition. Getting the conservation groups and the condor experts to
sign off on the deal — and, in the case of the experts, not publicly

criticize any parts of it — gives the project a major boost.

David Clendenen, a condor expert who declined to work for Tejon,
criticized those who accepted the consulting job, saying the
arrangement "destroys their credibility completely."

"For us, the ultimate line in the sand is you don't allow development
in designated critical habitat, and it's that simple," he said.

Tejon Ranch Co. is a publicly traded company dating to 1936. Its
primary asset is Tejon Ranch, a 426-square-mile area about 60 miles
north of Los Angeles that is the largest unbroken expanse of land
under single ownership in California.

The land was mainly used for farming and ranching for decades. In
2000, the company began looking to develop parts of the property but
ran into resistance from environmentalists.

The project to build 3,450 housing units on land used as a feeding
ground by condors is just one piece of far larger Tejon Ranch Co.
plan to build what amounts to a mid-size city that could eventually
bring more than 70,000 people to the area.

Two years ago, the company began negotiating a compromise with the
environmental groups, ultimately agreeing to set aside a huge tract
atop the Tehachapi Mountains that is home to elk, wild turkeys,
coyotes, bears, eagles and the California condor.

"We had to give up something and we gave up the right to oppose the
development," said Joel Reynolds, an attorney at the Defense Council.

The California condor nearly went extinct in the 1980s. In 1987, the
last 22 wild condors were trapped and taken to zoos for a breeding
program that raised their numbers to just under 300. Now there are
some 200 in the wild, with about 60 in California, many of which use
Tejon for foraging.

As for the consultants hired by Tejon, "experts expect to get paid
and it doesn't mean their integrity goes by the wayside," Reynolds
said.

Bloom, who previously worked on condor issues for the National
Audubon Society
, was Tejon's lead condor consultant during the
confidential negotiations. He said he was paid "a healthy amount" but
would not be more specific, saying it would "taint people's opinion"
about a deal he feels provides adequate protection.

Lloyd Kiff, who once called Tejon Ranch Co. the "anti-Christ for
condors," was hired to scrutinize the condor plan about a month
before the agreement was made public.

He, too, declined to say what he was paid but said he was persuaded
to take the job because of the impressive roster of environmental
groups that signed off on it. Kiff said he endorsed the plan only
after Tejon incorporated many of his suggestions.

Bob Risebrough, the third hired condor consultant, said he was
pleased with the final product but declined to comment on his deal
with Tejon, citing the confidentiality agreement.

-----------------

Sierra Club's Local Groups in Uproar over Tejon Ranch Deal

By Patric Hedlund

From the Frazier Mountain Enterprise, May 16, 2008

http://mountainenterprise.com/atf.php?sid=2904

The bright lights of worldwide media were focused on the unveiling Thursday, May 8 of a secret deal that will shape the future of this entire mountain region and a substantial part of California. (See map of the Tejon Ranch Conservation and Land Use Plan)

After two years of secrecy, word spread quickly of the conservation deal between Tejon Ranch Company (TRC) and some of the largest Big Green organizations in the United States to save 240,000 of TRC's 270,000 acres as contiguous wildlife habitat.

'The Ranch' flew in the ultimate celebrity visitor—movie star and governor in one package—Arnold Schwarzenegger, to congratulate Tejon's CEO Bob Stine alongside those who had joined in the negotiations on behalf of the state and environmental groups.

By Tuesday morning, TRC shareholders reading the New York Times' editorial on the subject received an almost breathy and vaguely naive glimpse at the significance of the deal ["Saving Tejon Ranch"] in comparison to more nuanced analyses from the Los Angeles Times ["Tejon Ranch pact would allow 26,000 homes on the range"] and local mountain pundits who are aware that there is a long road yet ahead—both to bring the proposed conservation structure into reality and to see TRC implement its development goals.

But there is no doubt that the legal obstacle course for TRC appears to have cleared significantly. The Sierra Club, Audubon California, the Planning and Conservation League, the Endangered Habitats League, the Resources Opportunity Group and the Conservation Biology Institute were on the podium for the announcement, shoulder to shoulder with Schwarzenegger and Stine.

The agreement requires that none of these groups appear in court or in any other proceedings to argue against TRC's developments.

Plans for the 23,000-home Centennial project in northern Los Angeles County and Kern County's Tejon Mountain Village in Lebec (an anticipated 3,400 multimillion dollar ranchettes with resort hotels clustered around Castac Lake) must still go through the state's CEQA procedure and county planning department gauntlets. Additional development at the base of the Grapevine around the Tejon Industrial Complex is also expected, and comment from the green groups will be prohibited as the company moves through entitlement toward full buildout of 30,000 acres (which actually incorporates 33,000 more acres called "open space" adjacent to the three large development areas).

The deal itself has not yet been published in its entirety, although maps are becoming available. "The finishing touches are still being put on the agreement...to finalize a signature copy...," TRC Vice President of Corporate Communications Barry Zoeller said Wednesday, May 14. He said it is about 120 pages long and that attorneys for all sides expect that it will be done in about two weeks.

At the moment, there is notable ambiguity in the terms which have been released. Fracture lines developed within the Sierra Club chapters from Los Angeles through Kern County over continuing directives from its attorney for members to maintain secrets—even on the subjects they are being asked to keep quiet about.

Bill Corcoran, senior regional representative in the Los Angeles Field Office of the Sierra Club—one of the parties to the negotiations—attributes the discord to overzealous "legalese" on the part of the group's attorney in his emails to members telling them not to discuss the issues.

But ecological Biologist Lynn Stafford resigned as a member of the executive committee for the Condor Group of the Sierra Club (based in Pine Mountain) almost three weeks before the announcement. "I was in a 'second tier' of people consulted on some aspects of the agreement, and just became uncomfortable with the secrecy," he said.

UCLA Statistician Jan de Leeuw of Cuddy Valley resigned from the governing board of the Kern-Kaweah chapter of the Sierra Club a week before the May 8 event to protest the parent group's decision not to consult with local members who are most knowledgeable about this region and will be most affected by the accord and the developments Tejon plans to build.

Zoeller says, "Once that final document is signed...It will definitely be public." The agreement will be posted online through the Securities and Exchange Commission's EDGAR site.

Meanwhile, preliminary analysis shows that TRC will offer options to buy easements for five separate areas, for which the option period will expire in 2010. At the press conference it was suggested that these options might be acquired using state funds, with a state approved appraisal.

Additional easements are to be acquired over 30 years, as TRC gets its development permits. Unhappy members of the Sierra Club say "that is a long time to stay quiet."

"I am very concerned that this agreement says nothing about sprawl," Mary Ann Lockhart of the Condor Group said. The Condor Group met Monday to decide whether to disband. They decided to continue as a local branch of the Sierra Club and to continue their activities that are unrelated to Tejon Ranch. No details are available yet as to how they can speak about cumulative impact concerns.

Within hours of that meeting, de Leeuw sent out an email announcing that another group, the TriCounty Watchdogs (http://www.cuddyvalley.org), "welcomes activists from the Sierra Club and is willing to reconstitute itself as a larger group. It remains committed to opposing developments that negatively impact our communities, and that take more than they give." He added that "TriCounty Watchdogs is also committed to environmentally sensible projects that enhance economic opportunities on the mountain."

De Leeuw wrote: "We will seek alliances with outside environmental groups and individuals that share our goals." He said they would be announcing meetings soon.

--------------------

to read more, see http://www.cuddyvalley.org/blogs/nimby/

---------------

The devil's in the details for Tejon's land plan

May 10, 2008, the Bakersfield Californian

http://people.bakersfield.com/home/Blog/noholdsbarred/26385

I’d love to be happy about the recently announced conservation of 240,000 acres of land on Tejon Ranch.

It’s described as a jolly win-win by all those involved. Our esteemed governor praised it as an example of the good that can come when groups work together.

I agree it’s better to see groups working together than suing each other. And it is a phenomenal amount of wilderness — 90 percent of the ranch.

But I can’t help thinking the environmental groups that signed off on this deal may come to regret it.

The Sierra Club, Audobon California, Endangered Habitats League, Natural Resources Defense Council and Planning and Conservation League all agreed to drop their opposition to Tejon’s massive 23,000-house Centennial project, its Tejon Mountain Village project set in critical California Condor habitat and its I-5 Tejon Industrial Complex expansion projects in exchange for conservation easements on 178,000 acres and the option of buying easements on another 62,000 acres.

Some things about the agreement hit me as cockeyed.

First and foremost, none of the groups have seen the environmental impact reports on these projects. EIRs give exacting details on how projects will be developed, how developers plan to alleviate pollution and habitat destruction, where roads will go and where they’re getting their water.

These environmental groups, which all preach reading the fine print, haven’t read the EIRs because they aren’t done yet. Perhaps by fall, Tejon spokesman Barry Zoeller told me.

Wow. Isn’t that like buying the cow before you know if it has milk?

Bill Corcoran, the Sierra Club’s regional director who was key in negotiating the deal, said attorneys on their side of the table worked out issues they had with the developments and they can go to court to enforce those issues. So they don’t expect any nasty surprises.

Local Sierra Club rep Gordon Nipp said negotiations like this have become common locally. There are 29 such agreements in Kern County alone where the club dropped opposition in exchange for better environmental consideration.

“This is a comprehensive agreement that addresses numerous far-ranging issues,” Nipp said of the Tejon deal. “This is a great thing for the entire state.”

Maybe so. But without the EIRs in hand that’s going a little too much on faith for my comfort.

The other thing that hit me right away was that Tejon had already pledged to preserve 100,000 acres in a widely touted 2003 deal with Trust for Public Land.

That leaves 140,000 acres. And of that, about 78,000 acres wasn’t developable. Tejon CEO Bob Stine himself told this paper years ago that more than half of the ranch could never be developed because of the steep canyons and hillsides.

Which brings us down to the 62,000 “optional” acres. This land is broken up into five chunks scattered around the ranch. It is developable.

But the environmental groups have to buy easements on that land. And they have three years to do it.

Much was also made of a 49,000-acre state park. But it would partially be in one of those five chunks of “optional” land. If they can’t get the easement, what happens to the park?

Don’t know. A summary of the agreement on the website www.tejonpreserve.com just says all parties must “commit to work” toward establishing a park, not that it’s a sure thing.

No one knows how much those easements will cost. I’m betting they won’t be cheap. I also wonder how the state can create a new park — even years from now — when we’re talking about closing parks due to our never-ending budget woes.

So, essentially, it looks to me like these enviro groups gave up their ability to oppose Tejon’s developments for the mere chance to buy easements on 62,000 acres.

The money to buy those easements isn’t in hand, but several environmental reps said Thursday they wouldn’t have made the deal if they weren’t confident they could do it.

Hmmm. Getting even further out there on the faith bridge.

When I asked Corcoran where the money would come from, he quickly answered, “state bonds.”

I have a slight problem with that but I’ll let Corcoran make my point by citing what he told us in 2003 when he criticized the deal between Tejon and Trust for Public Land:

“There are a lot of questions that need to be answered before state bond money should be given to Tejon Ranch or the Trust for Public Land,” he said then. “A portion of the ranch is undevelopable because of its topography. It would not be a wise expenditure of scarce bond funds if we’re merely setting aside what cannot be developed anyway.”

He also bemoaned the idea that Tejon would turn around and use that taxpayer money to fund its development plans and enrich its shareholders.

And that’s changed how?

Here’s what hasn’t: the Centennial project is still sprawl at its worst.

Tejon touts it as self-sustaining, with a jobs-housing ratio that will keep people from having to commute to Los Angeles. History has shown us these “new town” concepts take decades to actually attract the jobs necessary to keep people out of their cars.

In those decades, our air pollution will worsen, traffic will be even more of a nightmare and the already crumbling I-5 will further deteriorate.

Even though the Tejon Mountain Village is much smaller (only about 3,000 houses), traffic and air are still critical issues.

As is habitat for the California Condor, on which taxpayers have spent tens of millions of dollars to bring back from the brink of extinction, according to Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity, which was approached by Tejon to be a part of this alliance but declined because its mission is to protect species and this deal doesn’t do that.

Anderson was quick to say the deal was a “large leap forward” from the old 100,000-acre proposal.

But “they’re still building in a significant amount of critical habitat for these birds,” she said.

Air and traffic come up again on the Industrial Complex at the base of the Grapevine, with an eventual buildout of 20 million square feet of warehouse and retail space. Right now it’s about 5 million square feet.

Zoeller and others point out this agreement in no way keeps others from opposing the projects, commenting on the EIRs or even suing.

Yes. But not the big hitters with the money, the resources, the experience and the expertise to actually make a difference.

While I hope all the parties are right and their faith hasn’t been misplaced, I’m just jaded enough to wonder if, as some in the environmental community have grumbled, this isn’t a “deal with the devil.”

Meanwhile, as each piece of Tejon’s development chess match moves forward, the Sierra Club and others will stay mum and gather another easement on another portion of the ranch.

It’ll take 30 years to complete. That’s a long time to keep quiet.

Lois Henry’s column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. E-mail her at lhenry@bakersfield.com

----------------------------

Secret Negotiation between Tejon Developers and 'Big Green' Groups Sprouts Deal

Article includes a transcript of the press conference

By Patric Hedlund, 5/9/2008
The Frazier Mountain Enterprise

http://www.mountainenterprise.com/printatf.php?sid=2871

FRAZIER PARK [May 6, 2008] As we are going to press this week, a coalition of 'Big Green' environmental groups is joining Tejon Ranch Company (TRC) and its development partners May 8 to announce an agreement which will provide a green light for Tejon Mountain Village and the Centennial project to move forward with substantially fewer legal hurdles.

In a series of interviews with individuals across the country, The Mountain Enterprise confirmed last week (and put on its website www.MountainEnterprise.com) that secret negotiations have been conducted for over a year that are likely to entail developers pledging to preserve additional wildlife habitat.

In exchange, large environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Audubon California, the Planning and Conservation League and the Endangered Habitats League are expected to agree not to oppose Tejon's major projects, which could accelerate the developers' ability to move more swiftly through entitlement and on to building and profitability

Some groups and individuals have stepped away from the negotiations. They express concern that, without consulting their members, staff of the nation's largest environmental groups secretly agreed not to participate in the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process.

The Center for Biological Diversity refused to sign a second round of confidentiality agreements after concluding that their primary concerns regarding conflict between California condor habitat and plans for Tejon Mountain Village "were not being dealt with in a serious way," sources said.

A tug-of-war has been waged over the habitat of 35 endangered animal and plant species—including the California condor—that have been identified as seriously threatened by the company's plans. Tejon's 270,000 acres contain the primary wildlife corridors between California's coastal ranges, the Mojave Desert, the San Joaquin Valley and the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

TRC's prior development plans carve endangered species into "genetic islands" too isolated from each other to survive, scientists say.

While the nation's environmental groups have expressed urgency about avoiding what many see as an environmental tragedy, the developers announced Wednesday, May 7 that, "the size, location and rich natural heritage of Tejon Ranch have made it the most sought-after conservation property in the state of California."

To many observers, that language—on the eve of the announcement of a deal—translates into a major push to obtain public money, perhaps over $200 million dollars, to ensure habitat preservation from the developers.

As a result of such initiatives as the Prop. 84 "Rebuilding California State Parks Program," public money may still be available for acquisition of critical natural habitat, even while Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is threatening existing state parks with closure because of inadequate operational and maintenance funds due to the current budget crisis.

Schwarzenegger announced late Wednesday that he would attend the Thursday morning announcement. The conference will be streamed live at www.gov.ca.gov.[see transcript at the end of this story.]

It is expected that an intense political lobbying campaign will be launched statewide to secure funding to implement the plan.

Both developers and environmental groups have said they entered this kind of negotiation because of 'blackmail'—but of different kinds.

Behind the scenes, developers say they are being threatened with prolonged and costly legal harassment by environmental groups trying to "tell us what we can do with our own private property."

Environmental groups say developers are holding endangered species hostage, forcing the public to pay a ransom so endangered wildlife has a chance to survive.

Two years ago the Wildlands Conservancy (which created the Wind Wolves preserve) may have blazed the trail toward this week's announcement by putting together a coalition of 12 conservation groups to propose a 245,000-acre "Tejon Natural Heritage Park." Conservancy Associate Director Dan York said, "We aren't in these [current] negotiations, but many of the people who were involved in the proposal two years ago are."

The 2006 Tejon Natural Heritage Park initiative was a response to widespread disappointment at Tejon Ranch Company's widely publicized claim in 2005 that 100,000 acres designated as a "preserve" could adequately protect the condor and other species.

"The problem is, it's not the right 100,000 acres," critics objected.

Unfortunately for the California condor—and for the $43 million in public money already invested to rescue the species from the brink of extinction—plans for Tejon Mountain Village occupy the core habitat of North America's most majestic bird.

The sweeping western ridges of the Tehachapi Mountains provide nesting areas and help create the updraft conditions which are part of the large birds' strategy for gliding with its 9.5 foot wingspan on thermals high above the hills and valleys below , foraging for food.

The Conservancy's coalition urged that if public money was to be invested to preserve habitat, then Tejon Ranch's development footprint needed to be redrawn.

Their goal was to move building away from the most sensitive environmental areas. In exchange, the environmental groups said they would not sue to impede the developers' projects.

York said in an interview Tuesday, May 5, "We had a component by a Wall Street analyst showing the advantage to Tejon shareholders of reaching a master plan for development with a global environmental plan. It showed they could reach profitability far more quickly if they were not forced to waste time in court."

The Mountain Enterprise discussed that theory with Wall Street investors who own Tejon Ranch Company stock.

Though they asked not to be named, they agreed that there was likely to be benefit in being able to come to an accord with environmental groups rather than spending a decade and perhaps millions of dollars in litigation.

Read related news: New Public Comment Period for Tejon Ranch Incidental Take Permit to be Opened and the Federal Register for Tehachapi Uplands Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan.


TRANSCRIPT OF May 8 PRESS CONFERENCE at Tejon Ranch with Governor Schwarzenegger

Time: 10:30 a.m.
Date: Thursday, May 8, 2008
Event: Press Conference, Tejon Ranch Company Headquarters, 4436 Lebec Road, Lebec, CA

GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER:

I always knew that Gary Hunt is funny, but I didn't know he was that funny. (Laughter) And Gary, if you are really worried about your hair color all you have to do is go to my hairdresser; he can change it. (Laughter) So don't worry about it. This is a new time and a new era.

Anyway, it is great to be here. First of all, I want to say thank you very much to Gary Hunt for the wonderful work that he has done in these negotiations, playing all those different roles. I also want to thank Bob Stein for his extraordinary work and generosity. And I want to thank also Secretary Linda Adams from the Cal/EPA for being here today and working very hard on this. Ruth Coleman, the director of the Department of Parks, for her great work and great leadership, we want to thank her and Don Koch, director of the Department of Fish and Game. And the list goes on and on. There are so many important people here; I want to thank them all. I want to thank also all of you for being here today. I want to thank the media for coming all the way out here and witnessing this great historic event here.

I'm thrilled to be here because of the historic conservation agreement that illustrates something that I have been talking about now since I got elected governor in 2003 and that is that we can do both, protect the environment and protect the economy at the same time and the Tejon Ranch is a perfect example of that.

I mean, let's face it; environmentalists and land developers usually don’t get along very well. They do a lot of arguing and fighting. The problem is that, as their battles play out, each side gets bloodied, costs skyrocket and no one feels good after the outcome. But when forward-thinking people, like the people that are standing here with me today, are willing to sit down and make something positive happen, those old battle lines can be terminated. In other words, there is a better way and that better way is in full display right here today at this stunning California landscape. Tejon Ranch landowners, the Sierra Club, Audubon California, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Planning and Conservation League and the Endangered Habitats League, they all came together and they negotiated and negotiated and worked on this and eliminated their differences ahead of time.

The result is an agreement that will give us the largest privately conserved parcel in California history -- and we are talking about 270,000 acres. The Tejon Ranch is a vast California treasure and just to tell you how big this is -- because people sometimes don't understand what 270,000 acres really is -- well, it's seven times the size of San Francisco. Think about that, seven times the size of San Francisco -- with an astonishing diversity and extraordinary beauty. Aside from being a home to the California condor and countless other plant and animal species, the ranch includes four of our most important ecological regions; the Sierra Nevada, the Mojave Desert, the Coastal Range and the San Joaquin Valley. Only in California.

And thanks to the vision and hard work of the people up here today up to 90 percent of this will be preserved for future generations. With our 2005 action to conserve Hearst Ranch and last month's designation of California's National Landmark, the Irvine Ranch, California's conservation legacy now matches the grandeur of its natural beauty. But at the same time the Tejon Ranch agreement also allows its landowners to develop enough ranch to create thousands of jobs, millions of dollars of revenues and an exciting and beautiful place for people to live.

And I know that you have spent two years hammering out this agreement here and working very hard, but it is exactly the kind of collaboration and partnership that I was talking about in my speech just last month at Yale University's Conference on Climate Change. I said that, "We cannot let perfect become the enemy of possible." Environmental activists and businesses must sit down, work out their differences and create opportunities and assets for California. We have done that remarkably well right here at the Tejon Ranch and my administration will continue to work with you to make sure that this far-sighted plan comes to fruition.

So, on behalf of all Californians I'm excited to be the first one to say thank you very much and congratulations. Thank you. (Applause)

GARY HUNT:

At this time I'd like to introduce Joel Reynolds, who is the senior legal director for the NRDC, who will have some comments. And then we'll be introducing the other members of the resources groups that have been working over the last two years -- tirelessly, I might add -- to make today successful. Joel? (Applause)

JOEL REYNOLDS:

Thank you, Gary. On behalf of the NRDC and its 1.2 million members and activists, it's a privilege to be here. And it's a privilege to stand with all of the environmental resource organizations that for two years have worked intensively with Bob Stein and his partners to achieve the agreement that we're announcing today.

And I'd like to take a moment to introduce this extraordinary group of colleagues, all of whom were at the negotiating table during this two-year period:

· From the Sierra Club, Bill Corcoran. (Applause)
· From Audubon California, Graham Chisholm, director of conservation. (Applause)
· From the Planning and Conservation League, Gary Patton, general counsel and Terry Watt, planning consultant. (Applause)
· From the Endangered Habitats League, Dan Silver, executive director. (Applause)
· From Resources Opportunity Group, David Myerson. (Applause)
· And from the Conservation Biology Institute, Mike White. (Applause)

All of us consider this agreement on the future of Tejon Ranch one of the great conservation achievements in California history. This agreement is the Mt. Everest of conservation in California and I'll tell you why. Tejon Ranch is the crossroads of biodiversity, a Garden of Eden unparalleled in California. We are preserving forever, in one piece, the junction between no less that four major California ecosystems, from the wildflower fields and native grasslands of the Mojave Desert and Antelope Valley, up to the ancient woodlands of giant oaks and pines in the rugged Tehachapi Mountains, which join the Coastal Range to the southern Sierra Nevada and sloping down again to the level grasslands of the San Joaquin Valley, the last remaining natural habitat around the southern rim of the valley.

For species, for habitat, for future generations in California, this is an extraordinary result, a once-in-a-lifetime achievement in wildlife conservation. You've heard that this agreement will protect 240,000 acres, but it does more. It isn't enough simply to prevent development, it isn't enough simply to let the grass grow. If our goal is conservation and restoration and it is, our horizon is not just years but decades to come. On a property of this magnitude and biological diversity conservation will not succeed without an independent conservancy with an adequate and identified source of funding, with a single mission to protect and restore the land. This agreement establishes and funds the Tejon Ranch Conservancy for that purpose.

And this agreement isn't just about conservation:

· All parties have agreed that the public access to the ranch is essential. And not just minimally, but significant public access in the form of a new state park, potentially in the range of 49,000 acres,
· Realignment of the Pacific Crest Trail on 10,000 acres through the heart of the ranch,
· Docent-led tours to sensitive habitat in the interior of the property,
· And a public access plan developed by the conservancy.

Our intention and our mutual commitment is to ensure that Tejon Ranch becomes a part of California that Californians can actually use and truly enjoy, a place they can experience for themselves.

To say that this agreement was a challenge to achieve is a major understatement. It presented endless complexities. We agreed to meet for six months, which eventually became two years. We met regularly with Bob Stein, Eneas Kane of DMB, Gary Hunt and others on the ranch team, to understand the biology of the land, understand the potential for development on the entire property and determine whether and where common ground could be found. The agreement announced here is the result of that unusual collaboration.

While we celebrate this achievement today there is much to be done and we look forward to working with the state of California to ensure that the agreement is fully implemented and we thank Governor Schwarzenegger for his personal commitment to that goal today.

Thank you very much. And now I'd like to introduce Bill Corcoran, senior regional representative from the Sierra Club. (Applause)

BILL CORCORAN:

This was a difficult agreement to get to, but the outcome has made it all worth it. Joel, I got to discover your taste for scotch; I really appreciate learning that. We share that. Plus, I love these press conferences with no ties.

So, the Sierra Club is proud of the legacy that this agreement, reached through leadership on both sides of the table, gives to the state of California. California is blessed by natural beauty and is supremely blessed on Tejon Ranch. Here, the Sierra Nevada rolls into the Coastal Range and the San Joaquin Valley and the Mojave join together across 7,000-foot-high mountains. In one day, a visitor can see fields of poppies in the Antelope Valley, travel through a dense Joshua tree forest, roam ridgetops of white fir and incense cedar, descend through unsurpassed oak woodlands and cross a vast plain with views to distant peaks at the western edge of the Central Valley. There is truly no place like this in California. Tejon Ranch is California as it was and in special places still is; wild and achingly beautiful.

Tejon Ranch is the keystone for the long-term protection of Southern California's natural legacy. Its vast scale and unique combination of rolling plains, steep ridges and rounded, oak-studded hills, have made protection of the ranch the long-dreamed prize of conservationists. Realizing that dream has gained urgency as global warming changes the world we know. Now it is more important than ever to protect large places like Tejon Ranch so that our native wildlife and plants are given their best chance to adapt to what will be far-reaching change. Because of leadership on both sides of the table, that protection has been achieved.

In the 19th century, travelers crossing the desert would ascend to Tejon Creek and follow its oak-filled canyon bottom to the Central Valley. For millennia, Native Americans knew the land as home and the history of their experience, joyful and sad, has played out here. Now, in the 21st century, Tejon Ranch begins a new journey. With today's historic agreement, 90 percent of the ranch will be conserved for the public to enjoy forever. Working together, we will ensure that all Californians can experience the riches of the land's superlative natural legacy and its outstanding cultural and historical heritage.

Joel mentioned the creation of the independent conservancy. And I would just add that rarely does a conservancy have the opportunity this one has, to work with a place of such vast scale and natural diversity. Getting to this agreement has been a challenge to both sides. It is risky to step out of accustomed roles. Talking in good faith for nearly two years, we have agreed not only to protect 90 percent of the ranch but to invest in the future of an unparalleled example of California's past.

I now want to introduce Graham Chisholm, who is the conservation director for California Audubon. (Applause)

GRAHAM CHISHOLM:

Thank you, Bill and thank you all for joining us here today. Audubon California is part of a nationwide network that includes Audubon chapters in 48 communities throughout California and it's with pleasure that I speak on behalf of Audubon today.

Audubon has had an almost 50-year relationship with the Tejon Ranch, going back to the 1960s when our condor wardens worked closely with the Tejon Ranch in order to ensure an important habitat for the condor would be protected and to do the monitoring work that was needed to ensure that those birds would be protected.

Today is truly and extraordinary day in the sense that we are now celebrating, I believe, a conservation agreement that represents the 21st century. In this agreement we are agreeing, as others have said, to set aside 375 square miles. It's truly a scale of conservation that I think very few have ever had the opportunity to work at and it's humbling.

I would say that for Audubon California one of the key issues that we came into these negotiations thinking about was a species, the California condor and our concerns about the potential impacts the developments on this ranch might have for that species. I'm happy to say that during the course of the negotiations we had opportunities to engage with and work closely with, a number of condor experts who made us feel comfortable that the types of changes that we developed during the course of these discussions -- that included some pullbacks in development on some important foraging ridges for this species and the protection of the vast backcountry of this ranch -- really allayed our concerns about the impact that the projects here on this ranch would have for the California condor.

In addition, the protection of the public interest here and the public benefits associated with the agreement really fall to the new Tejon Ranch Conservancy and it's with pleasure that I have accepted the role as being the convening chairman of this new group. And we'd like to share with you -- (Applause) Thank you. We'd like to share with you some of the details.

The Tejon Ranch Conservancy will have twelve board members, four selected by the Tejon Ranch and its partners: Gary Hunt, Roberta Marshall, Kathy Perkinson and Randall Lewis. And four seats from the environmental groups: Jim Dotson, Dan Silver, Gary Patton and myself. In addition, we will be working together to select four independent board members.

It's been important for us, from the beginning, to ensure the integrity of the conservancy, to ensure that it was an independent organization. And that came through in the board structure but it also comes through in a very important element, through the long-term and sustained funding that the conservancy will be receiving, both through commitments upfront from the Tejon Ranch and its partners, but also long-term through the transfer fee structure.

The conservancy will be tasked with monitoring conservation easements, working with the ranch on land restoration and land management. It will also be tasked, as Joel and others have mentioned, with developing a public access plan in order to ensure that this is a victory not just for the condor, golden eagle and all the species, but also truly a victory for all Californians to enjoy and appreciate.

On a personal note, I want to speak to the challenges that I think we face here in California as we grow from 37 million to 50 million people. I think the critical issue that we face as Californians and I would say as we face as members of the environmental community, is how it is that we get out ahead and try to anticipate the needs of California, legitimate needs and at the same time really help ensure that the quality of life here in California is protected. It is a huge pressure that we all face as we look at any individual piece of land. And in particular the Tejon Ranch, more than any other, has been a piece of land, a ranch, a landscape, that has been in the eyes of the conservation community, environmental community, the most important here in California.

So I want to say that it is -- that it took a great deal of courage for Bob Stein, Eneas Kane and all the partners at Tejon Ranch and others around the table in the development community, to be willing to open the door to discussions. But I also think it took great courage on the part of my colleagues, who were willing to try something different and who were willing to step back and to think about how important this place is and not allow us to fall back into the trap of a fight, project by project. This ranch could have become contested terrain and I'm really pleased to say that this agreement really shows a different way.

I think this agreement, by protecting 97 percent of the ranch, not only is a tremendous victory for our environment, for California, but for Californians of future generations. And at the same time, it also protects the ranch's ability to have an economic return for its shareholders. We recognize the importance of that; we understood that it would be a challenge to get to that point, but I'm really pleased to say today that we got there. We stand behind this agreement and we can't wait to show you the ranch. Thank you. (Applause)

GARY HUNT:

Ladies and gentlemen, I think you understand why Graham was the unanimous choice by the new board to serve as our chairman. He has done an outstanding job representing the ERGs, representing the Audubon. And on a personal note, it has been an incredible personal pleasure to make your friendship. You've done a great job, my friend. (Applause)

It's now my pleasure to introduce Rhea Suh, who is conservation program officer at the David and Lucille Packard Foundation. Rhea? (Applause)

RHEA SUH:

Good morning, everyone. On behalf of the David and Lucille Packard Foundation I want to express our appreciation and gratitude for this landmark conservation agreement. Thanks to your hard work, today a remarkable piece of California's natural and cultural history will be permanently preserved. Climate change, population growth and unfettered development threaten much of the West's iconic landscapes. Protecting these wild places requires bold visions and actions to match. Today, by ensuring protection of 90 percent of the ranch, you have taken a first and monumentally important step.

The David and Lucille Packard Foundation has a long-standing commitment to conservation in California and the West. The founders, Dave and Lucille, were pioneers in so many ways, including with their efforts to protect important landscapes. They believed that philanthropic institutions played a unique role in promoting conservation, including playing a complementary role to both government and the private sector in opportunities just like this one.

So I'm pleased to announce that the Packard Foundation, in partnership with the Resources Legacy Fund, will be pleased to support the continuing efforts by the public agencies and the parties working to ensure that the conservancy has the financial and technical capacities it needs to steward and protect this natural treasure in the years ahead. (Applause)

Again, we congratulate you and thank you for this terrific achievement. (Applause)

GARY HUNT:

And now I'd like to invite the Governor and Bob Stein back to the podium.

BOB STINE:

Thank you. Governor, we really appreciate your being here today because of the significance of this historic day for not only Tejon Ranch but for all of California. We wanted to present you with this commemorative photo of the wildflowers on Tejon Ranch. (Applause)

GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER:

That's beautiful, thank you.

GARY HUNT:

And now, ladies and gentlemen, we'll --

GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER:

Thank you all. (Laughter)

QUESTION/ANSWER:

GARY HUNT: We'll now be able to spend a few moments taking some questions. In the back? First question, from any members of the press.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) from the NRDC, was this -- oh, thank you. Was this a matter of both sides being worn down over time, or was there a point where a rock was pulled and you saw this development rapidly come together? At what point was this deal made?

JOEL REYNOLDS: This deal was made two days ago. And I'm not kidding, really. It's a very interesting process and I think each of the people here on the podium could speak to it themselves from personal experience. We began this process, as I said earlier, thinking that we would give these negotiations a try for about six months. But it became very, very clear after that period expired that we had only begun to scratch the surface in terms of understanding the issues that we needed to understand if there was going to be a positive result.

But I think one of the things that Gary Hunt and I said to each other at the very beginning was, the only way you can make this happen is if you recognize you take one step at a time and that if you try to take giant leaps too soon, you simply won't get there. And I think, more than any metaphor, that's the one that works for me. It's a series of steps towards a common goal. Not necessarily the same goal, because for the resource organizations our fundamental purpose here was conservation on a grand scale. But Bob Stein also realized at the outset that we needed to talk about the grand scale. We could not succeed if we were just going to look at one development at a time. And so that was a fundamental precondition to the negotiations; all parties bought into that. We were going to look at the entire ranch.

During the course of the two-year period, there were some very difficult moments. I would have to say there was some acrimony. But there was also some very good times, particularly when Gary Hunt was tending bar. But we have been working literally around the clock, as have our lawyers at the Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger firm and the Coblentz firm, for the ranch to pull together not just the framework, but the actual language of a very complicated agreement and accompanying documents. And as I said, we finally resolved the last major points of contention the day before yesterday.

GARY HUNT: A follow up real quick? Could you identify who you're with?

QUESTION: I’m sorry, I'm with NBC Los Angeles. What were you looking at? If this agreement didn't take place, what were the conservation groups looking at potentially in terms of development here? What bullet did you dodge?

JOEL REYNOLDS: One of the issues that we had to come to terms with, one of the areas of focus, of education throughout this process, was what was the company's development plan, not just for five years, not just for 10 years, but for the next 100 years? And that is a very difficult thing to understand not just for us, but for the company itself. And so we began to focus intensively on what parts of the ranch would be most compatible with development and we came up with a number of areas throughout the property.

But ultimately, to make the deal work from our side of the table, we needed a commitment that the only projects that would go forward were those currently planned in the short term, that you see reflected on the maps on the western edge of the property along the I-5 corridor and that the remaining areas throughout the ranch, from White Wolf at the top to Bi- and Tricentennial at the bottom, would be put on the table for acquisition for public benefit and conservation and that is a critical part of this agreement. And we are looking forward to working with the Governor, with Secretary Chrisman, with John Donnelly at the Wildlife Conservation Board, to acquire those future development areas and we expect to succeed in that.

GARY HUNT: A question over here.

QUESTION: For the Governor -- there's talk of having a state park as part of that, of this project. What would you envision for a state park in this area?

GOVERNOR: We haven't really talked about that. I think this came up during the negotiations. Obviously, I think it's a great idea and we want to be supportive of that but we really haven't gotten into that to give you any details on that, okay? Yes?

QUESTION: With 48 parks scheduled for closure, how feasible is it to bring on another state park if that comes to fruition?

GOVERNOR: Well, I think that you always have to think about short-term problems and then long-term vision. You know, I'm a visionary and I think that we should have as many parks as possible. I think that the people of California deserve it. We have the most beautiful place, the most beautiful state. There is no better place and I've traveled the world over and over again, including Austria. There is no better place than California and that's why so many people want to come here. It's that simple. (Applause)

And so I'm a big supporter of parks, but I'm also a big supporter of education and of higher education and of law enforcement and keeping our people locked up in the prisons. I'm supporting all of those ideas. But when we have a budget system that doesn't work and we only have a limited amount of money, I cannot go out and promise the people I'm going to give you all the money. We're going to keep the parks open, we're going to go and give all the money to law enforcement, all the money for education. We don’t have that money.

Now, the legislators maybe could find the money. And that's why I've proposed that we should fix the budget system because it's inexcusable that for decades we have a budget system that when we bring in revenues and we have a surge in revenues we spend it all without putting any money aside for the rainy day fund. So now we would need that money for the rainy day fund so we don’t have to make all cuts, so we have extra money available.

But I think that this budget crisis that we have, which is a serious crisis, cannot be solved with just cuts. I've made that clear, that it has now gotten to the stage where we need revenues. But I'm against increasing taxes, so the legislators and we all have to get creative on how we're going to solve that, with having extra revenues and making the cuts but not raising taxes, because when the economy is down like this it would be the worst thing you can do, is raise taxes on the people, on the businesses and all that. Thank you. (Applause)

GARY PATTON: I'm Gary Patton from the Planning and Conservation League and I just want to follow up on that very appropriate question at a critical time in the budget history of the state of California. You know, what has happened here is an opportunity arose. The ranch and the resource conservation organizations seized that opportunity and we, through this agreement, have created a future opportunity for the people of the state of California to make a park on this property possible. This agreement doesn't set up a park. Parks take a long time to create. But we've now got the commitment that will let the people of the state of California, as we go into this new century, have something that will be of inestimable value for your grandchildren and mine, thanks to the work that's being commemorated here today. (Applause)

GARY HUNT: One last question. Another question? Had a question over here? Yes. Could you identify yourself, please?

QUESTION: Hi. My name is Stacey Shepard and I'm a reporter with the Bakersfield Californian. Tejon Ranch made an announcement a couple years ago about conserving a big chunk of land; I believe it was 100,000 acres, something over that. And there were some talks with the Trust for Public Lands -- I was just wondering if someone could explain a little bit about that and how this announcement is different from the original one.

GARY PATTON: Our stewardship and our conservation planning is over a long horizon; it's not a given day, week, month or year, it's a long horizon. When we began our master planning for the ranch overall we felt initially that declaring 100,000 acres of the ranch would be -- I'll use the word “sufficient” -- for some period of time. Because frankly, we just didn't have the time and the resources to study the rest of the ranch -- 425 square miles is huge, I've been here 12 years and I haven't seen all of the ranch yet -- and so we focused on certain areas.

I think that what we realized after a while in talking with the folks here to my right in the resource community was that rather than working on a piecemeal basis we needed to broaden the scope. And so essentially that 100,000 acres, that we announced four years ago now with the Trust for Public Land, is essentially folded into this ranch-wide agreement. It's a positive increase, if you will and fully supported, obviously, by the Trust for Public Land, whose executive director is sitting right in front of me. So it's a good thing, again, for the state, for conservation and for our company.

GARY HUNT: We'll take one more question, please. Yes, ma'am?

QUESTION: Hello. My name is Patric Hedlund, I'm the editor of The Mountain Enterprise, which serves this area. And I first, of course, want to congratulate the Tejon Ranch Company and all of you for your efforts. But we still have concerns among the people that live up in this region and we want to ask Mr. Corcoran, perhaps he'll step forward -- does this mean that your organizations will not be willing to, or able to participate in the CEQA process in regard to significant issues such as water, air and traffic concerns for this section of California?

BILL CORCORAN: Thanks for your question, Patric. The Sierra Club and the conservation groups that have signed today's agreement agreed -- and it was a difficult choice -- but in the end agreed that this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect the keystone of southern California's natural legacy was an opportunity we could not forgo, understanding that the developments that have been proposed are not done. They will move through their normal regulatory processes and citizens and those groups who choose to can be involved with them. And we'll be looking to the county and other accountable agencies to ensure that the law is fully enforced for those developments.

GARY HUNT: Next question and the final question, please.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. This question is for the Governor. Governor, from this historic spirit of cooperation between all these competing interests to come to this agreement -- I'm curious. What can you take from your experience in these negotiations and apply it to the ongoing debate over fixing the Delta, creating new surface storage, perhaps new conveyance systems, so that our farmers and our communities here in southern California get the water they're entitled to? Going forward in this debate, can you take anything from this and apply it to that debate?

GOVERNOR: Well, as I said in my speech before, that I wanted to congratulate everyone that participated in these negotiations, because no one got a straight 10 except the people of California. So they all had to kind of pull back a little bit and compromise. Everyone has to do that when you negotiate those kinds of things. And I think the same is with the challenges that we face, if it has to do with the water supply for California, it if has to do with our power lines and transmission lines that we need for renewable energy, all of those issues have to be addressed. All of those issues are very important, big challenges for the future of California.

And as I said, where there's a will there's a way and we all have to sit down and talk about those things and find a compromise. Because I think everyone recognizes the face that we have an increase in population. We will have, by the year 2050, 50 million, 55 million people here in California and we've got to prepare. And it is the responsibility of the governor to really think about that and not to just think about what can I accomplish during my term in office, but what can we accomplish for the next few decades?

I've got to make sure that California has enough water. That's why I proposed a 20 percent increase in conservation of water, because we have to cover it from every angle. We have to go and have water storage, above the ground and below the ground. We have to have a water delivery system. We have to fix the Delta, the ecosystem.

We have to do all of those things and we have to do it together, not just me. We all have to do it together. These are all very dedicated people that are behind me here and I believe in them. But as a governor you have to think about the whole picture, about the economy, about the population increase and all of those things. So we're going to get it done, no matter what, because I think where's the will there's a way. (Applause)

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Tejon Ranch sprawl?

Environmentalists accepted development in exchange for land. But their work isn't done.

How heartening it is, the sound of environmentalists and developers harmoniously agreeing on new construction. That's what first came to mind when the Tejon Ranch Co. and such environmental heavyweights as the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council jointly announced plans to both build on and preserve swaths of the 270,000-acre ranch that straddles Los Angeles and Kern counties. If all goes as intended, more than 200,000 acres would be preserved, with some as a state park and most under private conservancy.

In an increasingly built-out state where there's always a fight about a "last coastal canyon" or a "disappearing critical habitat," Tejon is nonetheless environmentally unique. It forms the bottom of the giant U that connects the Sierra Nevada with the coastal mountains, enabling wildlife to cross from one to the other. It includes favored soaring ground for the endangered California condor. And it's the last big undeveloped link between the Los Angeles metropolitan area and the San Joaquin Valley.

Considering that public officials in both counties are likely to approve some development, the preservationists cannily chose pragmatism, gaining what land they could. In doing so, however, they have cornered themselves: They now cannot officially oppose a project that they openly find objectionable. Adding nearly 80,000 new residents to the far reaches of the Los Angeles region, the Tejon Ranch plan exemplifies sprawl, with all the attendant concerns about water, traffic, air quality and fire risks. These potential problems cannot be overlooked, no matter how much land is conserved.

One of the three Tejon projects makes sense. The industrial zone at the base of the Grapevine would be located near the junction of Interstate 5 and state Highway 99, already major thoroughfares for trucking. A second project, an upscale resort-type development of 3,000 homes scattered through a canyon area in southern Kern County, should have minimal impact on water and traffic. It is well within condor territory, however, and its remote location makes it a wildfire disaster waiting to happen. Of primary concern, though, is the Centennial project: 23,000 homes plus commercial development at the northern end of L.A. County.

With a projected 70,000 residents, Centennial plunks a moderately-sized city in the hinterlands. Residents will work where they live, the developer says; the State Water Project will cover much of their thirst; and the county and state can handle the fires. But what happens when companies change their plans? (Remember Dreamworks and Playa Vista?) Typically, residents join the freeway creep to the nearest job center, about 50 miles away in this case. Water supplies already are being cut back, and last fall, the region was overwhelmed by multiple simultaneous fires.

If Centennial should be built at all, first there needs to be serious discussion about xeriscaped yards and golf links, alternative-fuel mass transit to Los Angeles, solar-powered homes and a well-equipped fire district funded by the new residents. As much as we applaud diligent work by the Sierra Club and its colleagues to preserve land, we hope there are other activists around to make those discussions happen.