Conservation easements purchased for massive Tejon Ranch tract
The state on Thursday approved the purchase of conservation easements on 62,000 acres in Tejon Ranch, the first step in implementing an agreement that would protect up to 240,000 acres of wildlands in one of the largest pieces of private property in California.
The $15.8-million grant from the state Wildlife Conservation Board will establish one of the largest conservation easements in California history.
“If the Tejon Ranch is the Holy Grail of conservation in California -- and it is -- the Wildlife Conservation Board is the people’s knight in shining armor,” said Joel Reynolds of the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the five conservation groups that signed the 2008 agreement with the Tejon Ranch Co., which owns the 270,000-acre ranch that stretches from Los Angeles to Kern County and is thought to contain some of the state’s most ecologically rich landscapes.
The Conservation Board’s grant will be used by the Tejon Ranch Conservancy, which was created to manage the newly protected lands, to buy easements on five parcels that include Joshua tree woodlands, oak woodlands, Mojave Desert grasslands, riparian woodlands and San Joaquin Valley grasslands.
Graham Chisholm, chair of the Tejon Ranch Conservancy board of directors and executive director of Audubon California, said Thursday’s announcement ensured the original deal is honored.
“While the 2008 agreement was a landmark achievement for the conservation of these lands, the purchase of these easements really cements the victory,” he said.
The conservation easements will prevent the Tejon Ranch Co. from future development of the properties but allows the ranching and hunting activities to continue. The Conservancy will have authority to plan for conservation of the land and public access to the property.
The Tejon Ranch Co. has agreed to place 178,000 acres in conservation easements, but that process is dependent on approval of the company’s development projects elsewhere on the ranch.
-- Julie Cart
Photo: A mule deer in Tejon Ranch in 2008. Credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times