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20,000 acres of original Irvine Ranch become public parkland in O.C.

June 29, 2010 | 12:57 pm

A rugged, 20,000-acre parcel of the original Irvine Ranch – a pristine landscape of steep canyons, native grassland and cypress woodland that is home to golden eagles, mountain lions and dozens of rare and endangered species of plants and animals – became public property Tuesday in an historic deal that increases Orange County parkland by more than half.

The open-space land, a gift from Donald Bren’s Irvine Co., was officially accepted Tuesday by the Orange County Board of Supervisors, which also approved a long-term plan to manage the natural habitat, designated a national natural landmark four years ago.

The transfer from the developer to the county marked the culmination of an effort that Bren, 78, launched more than three decades ago when he took control of the 94,000-acre Irvine Ranch, which covers about a fifth of Orange County.

"In terms of its biological and geologic value, it is truly priceless,” said Michael O’Connell, executive director of the Irvine Ranch Conservancy. “It’s a world-class piece of land.”

-- Scott Kraft in Santa Ana

Photo: An April 2002 photo of rugged Fremont Canyon, part of the  20,000-acre parcel of the original Irvine Ranch that has became public property. Credit: Don Kelsen / Los Angeles Times