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Tejon Ranch Project Could Affect 27 Plants and Animals

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For those of you with one eye on the periphery, the Santa Clarita Valley Signal reports movement on the Tejon Ranch project in southern Kern County, one of the most controversial development plans in the state. Public comment is open on two draft documents that address environmental impacts, especially relating to 27 plant and animal species in the area (most notably, the California Condor). The documents--a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement and the Draft Tehachapi Uplands Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan--are available for public review and comment until May 3, 2012. The Tejon Ranch's biggest component is the Centennial town project, which would include "more than 23,000 condominiums, apartments, and single-family homes, along with commercial developments."

The current SDEIS updates the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and MSHCP released in February 2009. The revised SDEIS addresses public comments and considers a 2010 analysis by the US Geological Survey about the impacts of the development on California Condors. The documents are required because the developer, the Tejon Ranch Company, is asking for an "incidental take permit covering 27 listed and unlisted species, including the California condor, which may be taken or otherwise affected by on-going ranch activities and proposed low-density residential and commercial development activities on a portion of Tejon Ranch," according to a press release from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. A take is defined by the Federal Endangered Species Act (Act) as anything that will "harass, harm, pursue, wound, kill, hunt, capture, shoot, trap or collect a threatened or endangered species, or attempt to do any of these activities."

The SDEIS also incudes a revised No Action Alternative, meaning that "development of Tejon Mountain Village and other future commercial or residential development allowed within the lands proposed to be covered by the permit would not occur, and that existing ranch uses would continue at current levels into the future," according to a press release about from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The property owned by the Tejon Ranch Company totals 141,886 acres, of which they're hoping to develop "approximately 5,533 acres of mountain resort and other development adjacent to the Interstate 5 corridor and Lebec community." The current scope of the plan was determined by the 2008 Ranchwide Agreement between the Tejon Ranch Company, the Sierra Club, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Endangered Habitats League, and Planning and Conservation League. That agreement, which created a rift between the state's environmental groups, prohibited development on "93,522 acres, including a 37,100-acre ridge-line area of the ranch used by condors and that is part of a Condor Study Area." In addition, "approximately 23,001 acres would be preserved as open space within the proposed Tejon Mountain Village." Image via Center for Biological Diversity
· Fish And Wildlife Service Announces The Opening Of A Public Comment Period On Tejon Ranch Environmental Documents [US Fish and Wildlife Service]
· Commenting opens on Tejon Ranch development [Santa Clarita Valley Signal]
· Condors Debated: Tejon Ranch Divides Environmentalists [Curbed LA]
· Tejon Ranch Deal Reached, Centennial Likely Coming [Curbed LA]