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Lawsuit Launched to Halt Destruction of 14,000 Acres of Condor Habitat at Tejon Ranch
SAN FRANCISCO— 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.
“The land on Tejon Ranch is critical to the survival of California condors, but only if it’s not turned into tennis courts, swimming pools and parking lots,” said Adam Keats, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Urban Wildlands program. “Rather than enabling sprawl development, the Fish and Wildlife Service ought to be doing everything it can to protect the few pieces of remaining condor habitat that are left. It’s troubling to see the agency sign off on the destruction of 14,000 acres of designated critical habitat.”
Notice was given to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and to Dan Ashe, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, about the upcoming lawsuit to be filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Wishtoyo Foundation and Delia “Dee” Dominguez, chair of the Tinoqui-Chalola Council of Kitanemuk and Yowlumne Tejon Indians, a California Indian tribe.
“Condors and the lands of Tejon Ranch have long played an important part in the lives of California’s native peoples,” said Mati Waiya, Chumash ceremonial elder and executive director of the Wishtoyo Foundation. “Tejon Mountain Village is incompatible with the protection of this species, and thus of the cultural practices of the Chumash and multiple Native American tribes.”
“My ancestors lived on Tejon Ranch, watching condors soar overhead and roost in the great old trees,” said Dee Dominguez. “This permit, authorizing the destruction of this last little bit of condor habitat, makes no sense. Due to the hard work of condor preservation programs in place, condors still soar overhead and roost in the trees on Tejon Ranch. And we should do everything we can to make sure that remains the case.”
The federal Endangered Species Act imposes strict prohibitions against the destruction of designated critical habitat. The proposed Tejon Mountain Village development will be fundamentally incompatible with any use of the habitat by condors, and as such constitutes illegal destruction of the habitat, which could help drive condors back to the brink of extinction. The Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2013 approval of an “incidental take permit” as part of the habitat conservation plan for the resort violates both the spirit and the letter of the Act.
Today’s notification complies with a provision in the law requiring 60 days’ notice before filing suit.
To learn more about the Center’s long history of fighting to protect the California condor and its habitat, including Tejon Ranch, visit http://savetejonranch.org/ and http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/birds/California_condor/index.html.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Wishtoyo Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit grassroots organization with over 700 members consisting Chumash Native Americans, and Ventura, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara County residents. Wishtoyo’s mission is to preserve and protect Chumash culture, the culture of indigenous communities, and the environment that our current and future generations depend upon. Visit us at: http://www.wishtoyo.org
July 17, 2014