Urban Sprawl and Industrialization of Wilderness vs. Condors and other birds: the battle continues...
By Rex Frankel,
An issue we have followed very closely in the past has been attempts to connect the concrete sprawl of Los Angeles with the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento metropolises. Most active has been the desert and oil field County of Kern, home to Bakersfield.
The two largest landholdings at play in Kern are the 270,000 acre Tejon ranch and the 68,000 acre Onyx Ranch. I have covered them both quite extensively:
Tejon's owners want to build around 30,000 homes in the mountains east of Frazier Park along the 5 freeway (the Grapevine) in three separate projects which straddle the San Andreas Fault. Two are in Kern County and the largest is proposed in L.A. County. The two Kern county projects have faced unanimous approval by Kern County's elected politicians. The L.A. County project, called Centennial, faces a less certain future. So far, the economic likelihood of the housing projects going up at Tejon is very low, as the far north L.A. County economy has yet to recover from the end of the Cold War in the 1990's.
Onyx Ranch, on the other hand, is a desolate desert wilderness east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains which is now going to be split between windmill farms on the south half and an off-road vehicle park on the north, surrounded by an existing federal dune buggy and motorcycle play zone called Jawbone.
Here is the latest on these projects from the web:
Condor advocates, conservationists and American Indians this week notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service they intend to sue over the agency’s approval of a “habitat conservation plan” that will destroy 14,000 acres of designated critical habitat for the California condor, one of the world’s most endangered birds. The habitat is entirely located on Tejon Ranch, north of Los Angeles, and will be destroyed by the development of the proposed Tejon Mountain Village resort project. Tejon Ranch encompasses some of the most important and essential foraging habitat for condors, much of it protected since 1977.
Eastern Kern County Property Acquisition complete by State Parks Department for Off-Roader Park
BELOW: parcels in red were purchased by the State Parks Department. The parcels in gray to the south were kept by the landowner to be developed as windmill farms.
By Susan Barr / excerpted from the Kern Valley Sun
... the OHMVR Division hoped to acquire was approximately 28,275 privately-owned acres in eastern Kern County. The 59 parcels proposed for acquisition were largely interspersed in a checkerboard fashion, with the bulk of the land owned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), with some parcels adjoining the Sequoia National Forest or lands under other private or public ownership. (See Parcel Map.) The proposed project parcels were used primarily for off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation, grazing, camping, wildlife viewing/birding, and other activities.
Motorized travel, including OHV recreation, occurs throughout much of the area, largely on designated roads and trails. A few of the project parcels were within the Jawbone Canyon open area, in which vehicles are not restricted to designated routes.
By acquiring the parcels, the OHMVR Division would be able to improve overall management of the area as land managers would have complete access to manage and support the recreational uses, protect sensitive resources, and restore and rehabilitate damaged areas...
Dan Canfield, Manager - Planning Office, OHMVR Division, out of Sacramento, confirmed yesterday in a telephone interview with the Sun, that the exchange of funds has taken place and escrow has been completed with regards to payment for land acquired for the East Kern Land Acquisition Project. The largest land owner was the Renewable Resources Group (RRG).
Canfield clarified that the process of Eminent Domain was not utilized, despite the fact that lengthy negotiations were required to come to a purchase price agreement with some of the land owners.
Canfield stated that he anticipates a seamless transition and that the focus will now be on assuring how lands in the acquisition can be conserved for future generations, while continuing recreational use as it has existed in the past. He added that the public should not expect to see new roads or trails becoming available.
Final approval document, 10/4/2013
MORE ON THE NATURAL VALUES OF ONYX RANCH:
From east to west, the lands rise from the high floor of the western Mojave Desert into the southern Sierra Nevada and Piute Mountains. In general, the area is rugged and dominated by desert scrub habitat in the east and by woodland in the west. Unique biological resources include Butterbredt Spring, a significant migratory bird stopover site, habitat for listed species such as the desert tortoise, and a raptor migratory corridor between the Kern River Valley and the Mojave River. The lands are also rich in cultural resources. The area is used for motorized recreation, open range grazing, camping, wildlife viewing/birding, and other activities