2003 resolution #28
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TEJON RANCH PUBLIC ACQUISITION PROCESS
The Tejon Ranch in the Tehachapi Mountains of central California is the key component of the only existing corridor between the California Coastal Bioregion, the Mojave Desert, and the Sierra Nevada bioregions. It serves as an irreplaceable habitat for many species of plants and animals, including the California condor. These resources are critical to the future environmental integrity of California.
The 270,000-acre Tejon Ranch is the largest contiguous private land holding in California. Until recently, the ranch has been used for cattle grazing, farming and hunting by private parties. The ranch, now an investor-owned corporation listed on the New York Stock Exchange, has recently hired a new CEO who plans to develop the ranch. Currently a large industrial park is being developed on ranch property along Interstate 5 south of Bakersfield. Plans have been announced for a new town of 23,000 homes and a destination resort--to be called Tejon Mountain Village, all in a remote undeveloped area which is midway between Bakersfield and Los Angeles.
The Tejon Ranch consists mostly of oak grasslands that extend from the floor of the Central Valley south of Bakersfield to the crest of the Tehachapi Mountains (rising to elevations of over 6000 feet). Islands of coniferous forests cap the highest peaks. The region has been identified as irreplaceable habitat for 57 listed and sensitive plant and animal species. Included among them are the San Joaquin kit fox, the blunt-nosed leopard lizard, the California red-legged frog, the Mexican flannel bush, the striped adobe lily, and the Bakersfield cactus.
The area includes critical habitat for the California condor, all of which were captured and removed from the wild, successfully subjected to captive breeding, and are now being released at many locations in the west, including the Tehachapi Mountains. Condors released as a result of the captive-breeding program have been foraging on the Tejon Ranch and the surrounding areas for the past few years.
Tule elk and pronghorn, which once roamed the Central Valley in the hundreds of thousands, have been released and are thriving on the ranch. Other wildlife include pronghorn, mountain lions, mule deer and various species of wildlife which require large tracts of wildlands to survive.
It has been recently announced that the Tejon Ranch and the Trust for Public Land (TPL) have begun negotiations to purchase 100,000 acres of the ranch to be set aside for environmental purposes. There are far more than 100,000 acres of environmentally critical land on the ranch which need to be preserved to maintain the important biological corridor and the habitat for wildlife.
The Trust for Public Land would, in turn, sell the land they purchase to the State of California. It is very likely that the money the Tejon Ranch corporation would receive from TPL's purchase would be used to finance development of the remaining lands for large-scale leapfrog, urban sprawl.
Before any final agreement is reached, key environmental resources on the ranch must be inventoried with scientific input, and alternatives such as purchase of easements should be considered. Since the money ultimately will come from the public, any purchase must be part of a public process. Any agreement must not be considered as a "green light" for development of any part of the ranch. Clear objective criteria, with public input, must be used for purchase for all, or any part, of the ranch.
The Federation of Western Outdoor Clubs believes that any purchase of all, or part of, the Tejon Ranch for environmental protection must rely on a scientific inventory which uses carefully developed criteria. Because funds for the transaction will ultimately come from the public, the entire process must be made public, with opportunities for public input.
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