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Conservation plan for Tejon Ranch condors [UPDATED]

January 20, 2009 |  4:20 pm

Tejon_condor

Updated, 6:42 p.m., Jan. 21: Go here for an updated version of this post.

A developer’s draft conservation proposal aimed at clearing the way for approval of a construction project  in the Tehachapi Mountains would prohibit the issuing of permits to kill condors, mandate the burial of new utility lines, and create condor feeding stations away from a proposed complex of luxury homes, hotels and golf courses.

The Tejon Ranch Co.’s plan for protecting the California condor on 142,000 acres of the largest chunk of privately owned wilderness in Southern California  also provides protections for 26 other species, including the yellow-blotched salamander and striped adobe lily. Hanging in the balance is approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to proceed with Tejon Mountain Village, a development that would consume about 8% of the critical habitat for condors in a nearly pristine landscape about 60 miles north of Los Angeles.

"Our goal is to provide the protections to endangered species necessary to move forward with our various activities including development," said Barry Zoeller, spokesman for the ranch.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to release a draft environmental impact statement of the ranch’s development plans sometime next month.

In May, the ranch and a coalition of environmental groups agreed on a landmark strategy to preserve 90% of the entire 270,000-acre spread, where gray foxes and bobcat prowl secluded meadows and great horned owls roost in the boughs of 11 species of oak. In exchange, environmental groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and Audubon California will not oppose the company’s overall plans to build three urban centers, including more than 26,000 homes, at the western and southwestern edges of the ranch.

Some biologists, however, are strongly opposed to Tejon Mountain Village, which they worry would result in substantial harm to condors and weaken the concept of federally designated critical habitat for endangered species.

In an earlier interview, Adam Keats, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, which specializes in fighting development projects, said Tejon Mountain Village "should not be allowed to happen.... We’ve rolled up our sleeves and we’re fighting the hell out of it."

--Louis Sahagun

Photo: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times

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