Secret Dealings Over Condor's Fate Must Be Unveiled
4/23/2009--After the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refused to disclose documents that could be critical to the future of the endangered California condor, last Wednesday the Center for Biological Diversity formally appealed the rebuff of our call to view them under the Freedom of Information Act. The documents concern secret negotiations between the feds and Tejon Ranch Company, which owns a huge swath of California land where condors fly, over the ranch's plans to develop protected condor habitat. We seek not only the information to fill in the gaps in data showing condors' use of Tejon Ranch -- which would obviously be affected by development -- but also to shed light on exactly what promises the Service has made concerning the company's request for a permit to "take" (in this case, harass or harm) condors and a related "habitat conservation plan" involving little (if any) conservation.
"Something stinks here," said Center senior counsel Adam Keats. "The public has a right to these documents that concern Tejon's application for a permit to harm California condors and destroy their habitat."
Check out our press release and learn more about California condors and our campaign to save Tejon Ranch.
January 23, 2009 – The Center files its fifth Freedom of Information Act request seeking documents related to Tejon Ranch and the proposed plan.
February 4, 2009 – The Service publishes its Notice of Availability of the Draft plan and environmental impact statement in the Federal Register and announces that the deadline for comments has been extended to May 5, 2009.
April 8, 2009 – Fish and Wildlife denies the Center's Jan. 23 request, disclosing only four miscellaneous documents in addition to those found on the agency website for the draft plan. The Service's denial follows two separate notices of delay that are due, according to the agency, to the voluminous records and complexity of the legal issues regarding the records. Fish and Wildlife Service's denial again cites the protective order, stating that it "prohibits the disclosure of all documents and records created and produced in relation to and for the purposes of developing the recently submitted [plan]…"