The showdown at Tejon Ranch in Southern California is a story of superlatives. In the biggest conservation deal in the state’s history, 240,000 acres—or 90 percent—of the ranch is being set aside for land conservation. At the same time, the agreement among environmental groups and the Tejon Ranch Corporation paves the way for the largest single development ever proposed in California. After years of negotiations, the environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and Audubon California, agreed not to challenge the proposed development planned for the remaining land in exchange for the 240,000 acres.
The Mojave Desert, Sierra Nevada Mountains, Central Valley and southern forests converge at Tejon Ranch, located about 60 miles north of Los Angeles. Among its native wildlife and plants are elk, wild turkeys, eagles and critical habitat for condors.
The Center for Biological Diversity did not sign on to the agreement because they say the deal, in addition to creating “leapfrog development” would permit a luxury vacation resort to be built in designated critical habitat for condors. “Coupled with the hit that condor will take, this agreement deals away one of the greatest environmental opportunities that California has ever seen,” said Center staff biologist Ileene Anderson in a statement. “And it will be lost forever.”
However, Sierra Club senior regional rep Bill Corcoran told the Associated Press, “It’s a near certainty that California will never again see a private land conservation agreement of this size and ecological importance.”