More Fallout from the Tejon Ranch-New Sprawl Deal
Tejon Ranch gets condor experts' silence in land deal
By NOAKI SCHWARTZ – May 25, 2008
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Biologist Noel Snyder got an intriguing call from
a development-company representative a day after it announced it was
moving forward with plans to build nearly 3,500 luxury homes, condos
and hotels on land used by the endangered California condor.
Would he like to make $3,000 for just one day's work reviewing the
company's plan to safeguard the condor from the development?
There was just one catch: Snyder would have to sign a promise not to
publicly criticize the Tejon Ranch Co
"My jaw dropped to the floor," said Snyder, one of the foremost
experts on North America's largest flying bird. "It was very clear to
me I could've asked for $10,000. I could've asked for $50,000."
The Portal, Ariz
., scientist said he turned the job down for fear it
might prevent him from objectively evaluating the plan and, if he
disagreed, from testifying against it in court. He has since decided
the project could significantly harm the condor.
But others have taken the offer from Tejon (TAY-hone). The developer
has retained the services — and secured the public silence — of
condor experts. That's a significant portion of the half-dozen or so
scientists specializing in condors on Tejon, according to the
developer's chief consultant on the bird, Peter Bloom.
In truth, many environmentalists are delighted by the deal, under
which Tejon will set aside an extraordinary 375 square miles for the
bird and other wildlife. It would be the biggest parcel in California
history to be designated for conservation.
Five of the nation's most influential environmental groups, including
the Sierra Club
, the Natural Resources Defense Council and AudubonCalifornia
, helped negotiate the plan and gave it their blessing when
it was announced earlier this month.
But critics say that with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake,
Tejon is systematically trying to stifle any remaining opposition to
its plans, which are still awaiting approval from various government
"Given the small number of experts with knowledge of this land and
given Tejon's behavior to now, I think one of their tactics is to
bottle up some or all of those experts so there can be no dissent if
this lands in court," said Adam Keats, an attorney with the Center
for Biological Diversity, which is considering suing over the project.
Tejon spokesman Barry Zoeller bristled at the criticism.
"If there is any assertion or implication that any attempt was made
to get an opinion or buy an opinion from someone, that is absolutely
incorrect and flies in the face of the independent evaluation" of the
conservation groups, he said. "They're putting their credibility on
the line as well."
Zoeller said Tejon routinely requires consultants to sign
confidentiality agreements because information leaks can harm the
company's stock and its shareholders.
Companies often hire environmental experts as consultants with the
expectation they will give an honest assessment but not publicly bash
a plan. In the past decade, however, developers have increasingly
required consultants to actually sign contracts with clauses
preventing them from speaking out, said Tom Scott, a former
biological consultant who is now a natural resources specialist at
the University of California, Berkeley
The condor has near-mythical status in California
and virtually any
project seen as even remotely threatening to its habitat faces stiff
opposition. Getting the conservation groups and the condor experts to
sign off on the deal — and, in the case of the experts, not publicly
criticize any parts of it — gives the project a major boost.
David Clendenen, a condor expert who declined to work for Tejon,
criticized those who accepted the consulting job, saying the
arrangement "destroys their credibility completely."
"For us, the ultimate line in the sand is you don't allow development
in designated critical habitat, and it's that simple," he said.Tejon Ranch Co
. is a publicly traded company dating to 1936. Its
primary asset is Tejon Ranch
, a 426-square-mile area about 60 miles
north of Los Angeles
that is the largest unbroken expanse of land
under single ownership in California
The land was mainly used for farming and ranching for decades. In
2000, the company began looking to develop parts of the property but
ran into resistance from environmentalists.
The project to build 3,450 housing units on land used as a feeding
ground by condors is just one piece of far larger Tejon Ranch Co
plan to build what amounts to a mid-size city that could eventually
bring more than 70,000 people to the area.
Two years ago, the company began negotiating a compromise with the
environmental groups, ultimately agreeing to set aside a huge tract
atop the Tehachapi Mountains that is home to elk, wild turkeys,
coyotes, bears, eagles and the California condor.
"We had to give up something and we gave up the right to oppose the
development," said Joel Reynolds, an attorney at the Defense Council.
The California condor nearly went extinct in the 1980s. In 1987, the
last 22 wild condors were trapped and taken to zoos for a breeding
program that raised their numbers to just under 300. Now there are
some 200 in the wild, with about 60 in California
, many of which use
Tejon for foraging.
As for the consultants hired by Tejon, "experts expect to get paid
and it doesn't mean their integrity goes by the wayside," Reynolds
Bloom, who previously worked on condor issues for the National
, was Tejon's lead condor consultant during the
confidential negotiations. He said he was paid "a healthy amount" but
would not be more specific, saying it would "taint people's opinion"
about a deal he feels provides adequate protection.
Lloyd Kiff, who once called Tejon Ranch Co
. the "anti-Christ for
condors," was hired to scrutinize the condor plan about a month
before the agreement was made public.
He, too, declined to say what he was paid but said he was persuaded
to take the job because of the impressive roster of environmental
groups that signed off on it. Kiff said he endorsed the plan only
after Tejon incorporated many of his suggestions.
Bob Risebrough, the third hired condor consultant, said he was
pleased with the final product but declined to comment on his deal
with Tejon, citing the confidentiality agreement.
-----------------Sierra Club's Local Groups in Uproar over Tejon Ranch Deal
By Patric Hedlund
From the Frazier Mountain Enterprise, May 16, 2008
The bright lights of worldwide media were focused on the unveiling Thursday, May 8 of a secret deal that will shape the future of this entire mountain region and a substantial part of California. (See map of the Tejon Ranch Conservation and Land Use Plan)
After two years of secrecy, word spread quickly of the conservation deal between Tejon Ranch Company (TRC) and some of the largest Big Green organizations in the United States to save 240,000 of TRC's 270,000 acres as contiguous wildlife habitat.
'The Ranch' flew in the ultimate celebrity visitor—movie star and governor in one package—Arnold Schwarzenegger, to congratulate Tejon's CEO Bob Stine alongside those who had joined in the negotiations on behalf of the state and environmental groups.
By Tuesday morning, TRC shareholders reading the New York Times' editorial on the subject received an almost breathy and vaguely naive glimpse at the significance of the deal ["Saving Tejon Ranch"] in comparison to more nuanced analyses from the Los Angeles Times ["Tejon Ranch pact would allow 26,000 homes on the range"] and local mountain pundits who are aware that there is a long road yet ahead—both to bring the proposed conservation structure into reality and to see TRC implement its development goals.
But there is no doubt that the legal obstacle course for TRC appears to have cleared significantly. The Sierra Club, Audubon California, the Planning and Conservation League, the Endangered Habitats League, the Resources Opportunity Group and the Conservation Biology Institute were on the podium for the announcement, shoulder to shoulder with Schwarzenegger and Stine.
The agreement requires that none of these groups appear in court or in any other proceedings to argue against TRC's developments.
Plans for the 23,000-home Centennial project in northern Los Angeles County and Kern County's Tejon Mountain Village in Lebec (an anticipated 3,400 multimillion dollar ranchettes with resort hotels clustered around Castac Lake) must still go through the state's CEQA procedure and county planning department gauntlets. Additional development at the base of the Grapevine around the Tejon Industrial Complex is also expected, and comment from the green groups will be prohibited as the company moves through entitlement toward full buildout of 30,000 acres (which actually incorporates 33,000 more acres called "open space" adjacent to the three large development areas).
The deal itself has not yet been published in its entirety, although maps are becoming available. "The finishing touches are still being put on the agreement...to finalize a signature copy...," TRC Vice President of Corporate Communications Barry Zoeller said Wednesday, May 14. He said it is about 120 pages long and that attorneys for all sides expect that it will be done in about two weeks.
At the moment, there is notable ambiguity in the terms which have been released. Fracture lines developed within the Sierra Club chapters from Los Angeles through Kern County over continuing directives from its attorney for members to maintain secrets—even on the subjects they are being asked to keep quiet about.
Bill Corcoran, senior regional representative in the Los Angeles Field Office of the Sierra Club—one of the parties to the negotiations—attributes the discord to overzealous "legalese" on the part of the group's attorney in his emails to members telling them not to discuss the issues.
But ecological Biologist Lynn Stafford resigned as a member of the executive committee for the Condor Group of the Sierra Club (based in Pine Mountain) almost three weeks before the announcement. "I was in a 'second tier' of people consulted on some aspects of the agreement, and just became uncomfortable with the secrecy," he said.
UCLA Statistician Jan de Leeuw of Cuddy Valley resigned from the governing board of the Kern-Kaweah chapter of the Sierra Club a week before the May 8 event to protest the parent group's decision not to consult with local members who are most knowledgeable about this region and will be most affected by the accord and the developments Tejon plans to build.
Zoeller says, "Once that final document is signed...It will definitely be public." The agreement will be posted online through the Securities and Exchange Commission's EDGAR site.
Meanwhile, preliminary analysis shows that TRC will offer options to buy easements for five separate areas, for which the option period will expire in 2010. At the press conference it was suggested that these options might be acquired using state funds, with a state approved appraisal.
Additional easements are to be acquired over 30 years, as TRC gets its development permits. Unhappy members of the Sierra Club say "that is a long time to stay quiet."
"I am very concerned that this agreement says nothing about sprawl," Mary Ann Lockhart of the Condor Group said. The Condor Group met Monday to decide whether to disband. They decided to continue as a local branch of the Sierra Club and to continue their activities that are unrelated to Tejon Ranch. No details are available yet as to how they can speak about cumulative impact concerns.
Within hours of that meeting, de Leeuw sent out an email announcing that another group, the TriCounty Watchdogs (http://www.cuddyvalley.org), "welcomes activists from the Sierra Club and is willing to reconstitute itself as a larger group. It remains committed to opposing developments that negatively impact our communities, and that take more than they give." He added that "TriCounty Watchdogs is also committed to environmentally sensible projects that enhance economic opportunities on the mountain."
De Leeuw wrote: "We will seek alliances with outside environmental groups and individuals that share our goals." He said they would be announcing meetings soon.
to read more, see http://www.cuddyvalley.org/blogs/nimby/
The devil's in the details for Tejon's land plan
May 10, 2008, the Bakersfield Californianhttp://people.bakersfield.com/home/Blog/noholdsbarred/26385
I’d love to be happy about the recently announced conservation of 240,000 acres of land on Tejon Ranch.
It’s described as a jolly win-win by all those involved. Our esteemed governor praised it as an example of the good that can come when groups work together.
I agree it’s better to see groups working together than suing each other. And it is a phenomenal amount of wilderness — 90 percent of the ranch.
But I can’t help thinking the environmental groups that signed off on this deal may come to regret it.
The Sierra Club, Audobon California, Endangered Habitats League, Natural Resources Defense Council and Planning and Conservation League all agreed to drop their opposition to Tejon’s massive 23,000-house Centennial project, its Tejon Mountain Village project set in critical California Condor habitat and its I-5 Tejon Industrial Complex expansion projects in exchange for conservation easements on 178,000 acres and the option of buying easements on another 62,000 acres.
Some things about the agreement hit me as cockeyed.
First and foremost, none of the groups have seen the environmental impact reports on these projects. EIRs give exacting details on how projects will be developed, how developers plan to alleviate pollution and habitat destruction, where roads will go and where they’re getting their water.
These environmental groups, which all preach reading the fine print, haven’t read the EIRs because they aren’t done yet. Perhaps by fall, Tejon spokesman Barry Zoeller told me.
Wow. Isn’t that like buying the cow before you know if it has milk?
Bill Corcoran, the Sierra Club’s regional director who was key in negotiating the deal, said attorneys on their side of the table worked out issues they had with the developments and they can go to court to enforce those issues. So they don’t expect any nasty surprises.
Local Sierra Club rep Gordon Nipp said negotiations like this have become common locally. There are 29 such agreements in Kern County alone where the club dropped opposition in exchange for better environmental consideration.
“This is a comprehensive agreement that addresses numerous far-ranging issues,” Nipp said of the Tejon deal. “This is a great thing for the entire state.”
Maybe so. But without the EIRs in hand that’s going a little too much on faith for my comfort.
The other thing that hit me right away was that Tejon had already pledged to preserve 100,000 acres in a widely touted 2003 deal with Trust for Public Land.
That leaves 140,000 acres. And of that, about 78,000 acres wasn’t developable. Tejon CEO Bob Stine himself told this paper years ago that more than half of the ranch could never be developed because of the steep canyons and hillsides.
Which brings us down to the 62,000 “optional” acres. This land is broken up into five chunks scattered around the ranch. It is developable.
But the environmental groups have to buy easements on that land. And they have three years to do it.
Much was also made of a 49,000-acre state park. But it would partially be in one of those five chunks of “optional” land. If they can’t get the easement, what happens to the park?
Don’t know. A summary of the agreement on the website www.tejonpreserve.com just says all parties must “commit to work” toward establishing a park, not that it’s a sure thing.
No one knows how much those easements will cost. I’m betting they won’t be cheap. I also wonder how the state can create a new park — even years from now — when we’re talking about closing parks due to our never-ending budget woes.
So, essentially, it looks to me like these enviro groups gave up their ability to oppose Tejon’s developments for the mere chance to buy easements on 62,000 acres.
The money to buy those easements isn’t in hand, but several environmental reps said Thursday they wouldn’t have made the deal if they weren’t confident they could do it.
Hmmm. Getting even further out there on the faith bridge.
When I asked Corcoran where the money would come from, he quickly answered, “state bonds.”
I have a slight problem with that but I’ll let Corcoran make my point by citing what he told us in 2003 when he criticized the deal between Tejon and Trust for Public Land:
“There are a lot of questions that need to be answered before state bond money should be given to Tejon Ranch or the Trust for Public Land,” he said then. “A portion of the ranch is undevelopable because of its topography. It would not be a wise expenditure of scarce bond funds if we’re merely setting aside what cannot be developed anyway.”
He also bemoaned the idea that Tejon would turn around and use that taxpayer money to fund its development plans and enrich its shareholders.
And that’s changed how?
Here’s what hasn’t: the Centennial project is still sprawl at its worst.
Tejon touts it as self-sustaining, with a jobs-housing ratio that will keep people from having to commute to Los Angeles. History has shown us these “new town” concepts take decades to actually attract the jobs necessary to keep people out of their cars.
In those decades, our air pollution will worsen, traffic will be even more of a nightmare and the already crumbling I-5 will further deteriorate.
Even though the Tejon Mountain Village is much smaller (only about 3,000 houses), traffic and air are still critical issues.
As is habitat for the California Condor, on which taxpayers have spent tens of millions of dollars to bring back from the brink of extinction, according to Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity, which was approached by Tejon to be a part of this alliance but declined because its mission is to protect species and this deal doesn’t do that.
Anderson was quick to say the deal was a “large leap forward” from the old 100,000-acre proposal.
But “they’re still building in a significant amount of critical habitat for these birds,” she said.
Air and traffic come up again on the Industrial Complex at the base of the Grapevine, with an eventual buildout of 20 million square feet of warehouse and retail space. Right now it’s about 5 million square feet.
Zoeller and others point out this agreement in no way keeps others from opposing the projects, commenting on the EIRs or even suing.
Yes. But not the big hitters with the money, the resources, the experience and the expertise to actually make a difference.
While I hope all the parties are right and their faith hasn’t been misplaced, I’m just jaded enough to wonder if, as some in the environmental community have grumbled, this isn’t a “deal with the devil.”
Meanwhile, as each piece of Tejon’s development chess match moves forward, the Sierra Club and others will stay mum and gather another easement on another portion of the ranch.
It’ll take 30 years to complete. That’s a long time to keep quiet.
Lois Henry’s column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org
----------------------------Secret Negotiation between Tejon Developers and 'Big Green' Groups Sprouts Deal
Article includes a transcript of the press conference
By Patric Hedlund, 5/9/2008
The Frazier Mountain Enterprisehttp://www.mountainenterprise.com/printatf.php?sid=2871
FRAZIER PARK [May 6, 2008] As we are going to press this week, a coalition of 'Big Green' environmental groups is joining Tejon Ranch Company (TRC) and its development partners May 8 to announce an agreement which will provide a green light for Tejon Mountain Village and the Centennial project to move forward with substantially fewer legal hurdles.
In a series of interviews with individuals across the country, The Mountain Enterprise confirmed last week (and put on its website www.MountainEnterprise.com) that secret negotiations have been conducted for over a year that are likely to entail developers pledging to preserve additional wildlife habitat.
In exchange, large environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Audubon California, the Planning and Conservation League and the Endangered Habitats League are expected to agree not to oppose Tejon's major projects, which could accelerate the developers' ability to move more swiftly through entitlement and on to building and profitability
Some groups and individuals have stepped away from the negotiations. They express concern that, without consulting their members, staff of the nation's largest environmental groups secretly agreed not to participate in the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process.
The Center for Biological Diversity refused to sign a second round of confidentiality agreements after concluding that their primary concerns regarding conflict between California condor habitat and plans for Tejon Mountain Village "were not being dealt with in a serious way," sources said.
A tug-of-war has been waged over the habitat of 35 endangered animal and plant species—including the California condor—that have been identified as seriously threatened by the company's plans. Tejon's 270,000 acres contain the primary wildlife corridors between California's coastal ranges, the Mojave Desert, the San Joaquin Valley and the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
TRC's prior development plans carve endangered species into "genetic islands" too isolated from each other to survive, scientists say.
While the nation's environmental groups have expressed urgency about avoiding what many see as an environmental tragedy, the developers announced Wednesday, May 7 that, "the size, location and rich natural heritage of Tejon Ranch have made it the most sought-after conservation property in the state of California."
To many observers, that language—on the eve of the announcement of a deal—translates into a major push to obtain public money, perhaps over $200 million dollars, to ensure habitat preservation from the developers.
As a result of such initiatives as the Prop. 84 "Rebuilding California State Parks Program," public money may still be available for acquisition of critical natural habitat, even while Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is threatening existing state parks with closure because of inadequate operational and maintenance funds due to the current budget crisis.
Schwarzenegger announced late Wednesday that he would attend the Thursday morning announcement. The conference will be streamed live at www.gov.ca.gov.[see transcript at the end of this story.]
It is expected that an intense political lobbying campaign will be launched statewide to secure funding to implement the plan.
Both developers and environmental groups have said they entered this kind of negotiation because of 'blackmail'—but of different kinds.
Behind the scenes, developers say they are being threatened with prolonged and costly legal harassment by environmental groups trying to "tell us what we can do with our own private property."
Environmental groups say developers are holding endangered species hostage, forcing the public to pay a ransom so endangered wildlife has a chance to survive.
Two years ago the Wildlands Conservancy (which created the Wind Wolves preserve) may have blazed the trail toward this week's announcement by putting together a coalition of 12 conservation groups to propose a 245,000-acre "Tejon Natural Heritage Park." Conservancy Associate Director Dan York said, "We aren't in these [current] negotiations, but many of the people who were involved in the proposal two years ago are."
The 2006 Tejon Natural Heritage Park initiative was a response to widespread disappointment at Tejon Ranch Company's widely publicized claim in 2005 that 100,000 acres designated as a "preserve" could adequately protect the condor and other species.
"The problem is, it's not the right 100,000 acres," critics objected.
Unfortunately for the California condor—and for the $43 million in public money already invested to rescue the species from the brink of extinction—plans for Tejon Mountain Village occupy the core habitat of North America's most majestic bird.
The sweeping western ridges of the Tehachapi Mountains provide nesting areas and help create the updraft conditions which are part of the large birds' strategy for gliding with its 9.5 foot wingspan on thermals high above the hills and valleys below , foraging for food.
The Conservancy's coalition urged that if public money was to be invested to preserve habitat, then Tejon Ranch's development footprint needed to be redrawn.
Their goal was to move building away from the most sensitive environmental areas. In exchange, the environmental groups said they would not sue to impede the developers' projects.
York said in an interview Tuesday, May 5, "We had a component by a Wall Street analyst showing the advantage to Tejon shareholders of reaching a master plan for development with a global environmental plan. It showed they could reach profitability far more quickly if they were not forced to waste time in court."
The Mountain Enterprise discussed that theory with Wall Street investors who own Tejon Ranch Company stock.
Though they asked not to be named, they agreed that there was likely to be benefit in being able to come to an accord with environmental groups rather than spending a decade and perhaps millions of dollars in litigation. Read related news: New Public Comment Period for Tejon Ranch Incidental Take Permit to be Opened
and the Federal Register for Tehachapi Uplands Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan
.TRANSCRIPT OF May 8 PRESS CONFERENCE at Tejon Ranch with Governor Schwarzenegger
Time: 10:30 a.m.
Date: Thursday, May 8, 2008
Event: Press Conference, Tejon Ranch Company Headquarters, 4436 Lebec Road, Lebec, CA
I always knew that Gary Hunt is funny, but I didn't know he was that funny. (Laughter) And Gary, if you are really worried about your hair color all you have to do is go to my hairdresser; he can change it. (Laughter) So don't worry about it. This is a new time and a new era.
Anyway, it is great to be here. First of all, I want to say thank you very much to Gary Hunt for the wonderful work that he has done in these negotiations, playing all those different roles. I also want to thank Bob Stein for his extraordinary work and generosity. And I want to thank also Secretary Linda Adams from the Cal/EPA for being here today and working very hard on this. Ruth Coleman, the director of the Department of Parks, for her great work and great leadership, we want to thank her and Don Koch, director of the Department of Fish and Game. And the list goes on and on. There are so many important people here; I want to thank them all. I want to thank also all of you for being here today. I want to thank the media for coming all the way out here and witnessing this great historic event here.
I'm thrilled to be here because of the historic conservation agreement that illustrates something that I have been talking about now since I got elected governor in 2003 and that is that we can do both, protect the environment and protect the economy at the same time and the Tejon Ranch is a perfect example of that.
I mean, let's face it; environmentalists and land developers usually don’t get along very well. They do a lot of arguing and fighting. The problem is that, as their battles play out, each side gets bloodied, costs skyrocket and no one feels good after the outcome. But when forward-thinking people, like the people that are standing here with me today, are willing to sit down and make something positive happen, those old battle lines can be terminated. In other words, there is a better way and that better way is in full display right here today at this stunning California landscape. Tejon Ranch landowners, the Sierra Club, Audubon California, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Planning and Conservation League and the Endangered Habitats League, they all came together and they negotiated and negotiated and worked on this and eliminated their differences ahead of time.
The result is an agreement that will give us the largest privately conserved parcel in California history -- and we are talking about 270,000 acres. The Tejon Ranch is a vast California treasure and just to tell you how big this is -- because people sometimes don't understand what 270,000 acres really is -- well, it's seven times the size of San Francisco. Think about that, seven times the size of San Francisco -- with an astonishing diversity and extraordinary beauty. Aside from being a home to the California condor and countless other plant and animal species, the ranch includes four of our most important ecological regions; the Sierra Nevada, the Mojave Desert, the Coastal Range and the San Joaquin Valley. Only in California.
And thanks to the vision and hard work of the people up here today up to 90 percent of this will be preserved for future generations. With our 2005 action to conserve Hearst Ranch and last month's designation of California's National Landmark, the Irvine Ranch, California's conservation legacy now matches the grandeur of its natural beauty. But at the same time the Tejon Ranch agreement also allows its landowners to develop enough ranch to create thousands of jobs, millions of dollars of revenues and an exciting and beautiful place for people to live.
And I know that you have spent two years hammering out this agreement here and working very hard, but it is exactly the kind of collaboration and partnership that I was talking about in my speech just last month at Yale University's Conference on Climate Change. I said that, "We cannot let perfect become the enemy of possible." Environmental activists and businesses must sit down, work out their differences and create opportunities and assets for California. We have done that remarkably well right here at the Tejon Ranch and my administration will continue to work with you to make sure that this far-sighted plan comes to fruition.
So, on behalf of all Californians I'm excited to be the first one to say thank you very much and congratulations. Thank you. (Applause)
At this time I'd like to introduce Joel Reynolds, who is the senior legal director for the NRDC, who will have some comments. And then we'll be introducing the other members of the resources groups that have been working over the last two years -- tirelessly, I might add -- to make today successful. Joel? (Applause)
Thank you, Gary. On behalf of the NRDC and its 1.2 million members and activists, it's a privilege to be here. And it's a privilege to stand with all of the environmental resource organizations that for two years have worked intensively with Bob Stein and his partners to achieve the agreement that we're announcing today.
And I'd like to take a moment to introduce this extraordinary group of colleagues, all of whom were at the negotiating table during this two-year period:
· From the Sierra Club, Bill Corcoran. (Applause)
· From Audubon California, Graham Chisholm, director of conservation. (Applause)
· From the Planning and Conservation League, Gary Patton, general counsel and Terry Watt, planning consultant. (Applause)
· From the Endangered Habitats League, Dan Silver, executive director. (Applause)
· From Resources Opportunity Group, David Myerson. (Applause)
· And from the Conservation Biology Institute, Mike White. (Applause)
All of us consider this agreement on the future of Tejon Ranch one of the great conservation achievements in California history. This agreement is the Mt. Everest of conservation in California and I'll tell you why. Tejon Ranch is the crossroads of biodiversity, a Garden of Eden unparalleled in California. We are preserving forever, in one piece, the junction between no less that four major California ecosystems, from the wildflower fields and native grasslands of the Mojave Desert and Antelope Valley, up to the ancient woodlands of giant oaks and pines in the rugged Tehachapi Mountains, which join the Coastal Range to the southern Sierra Nevada and sloping down again to the level grasslands of the San Joaquin Valley, the last remaining natural habitat around the southern rim of the valley.
For species, for habitat, for future generations in California, this is an extraordinary result, a once-in-a-lifetime achievement in wildlife conservation. You've heard that this agreement will protect 240,000 acres, but it does more. It isn't enough simply to prevent development, it isn't enough simply to let the grass grow. If our goal is conservation and restoration and it is, our horizon is not just years but decades to come. On a property of this magnitude and biological diversity conservation will not succeed without an independent conservancy with an adequate and identified source of funding, with a single mission to protect and restore the land. This agreement establishes and funds the Tejon Ranch Conservancy for that purpose.
And this agreement isn't just about conservation:
· All parties have agreed that the public access to the ranch is essential. And not just minimally, but significant public access in the form of a new state park, potentially in the range of 49,000 acres,
· Realignment of the Pacific Crest Trail on 10,000 acres through the heart of the ranch,
· Docent-led tours to sensitive habitat in the interior of the property,
· And a public access plan developed by the conservancy.
Our intention and our mutual commitment is to ensure that Tejon Ranch becomes a part of California that Californians can actually use and truly enjoy, a place they can experience for themselves.
To say that this agreement was a challenge to achieve is a major understatement. It presented endless complexities. We agreed to meet for six months, which eventually became two years. We met regularly with Bob Stein, Eneas Kane of DMB, Gary Hunt and others on the ranch team, to understand the biology of the land, understand the potential for development on the entire property and determine whether and where common ground could be found. The agreement announced here is the result of that unusual collaboration.
While we celebrate this achievement today there is much to be done and we look forward to working with the state of California to ensure that the agreement is fully implemented and we thank Governor Schwarzenegger for his personal commitment to that goal today.
Thank you very much. And now I'd like to introduce Bill Corcoran, senior regional representative from the Sierra Club. (Applause)
This was a difficult agreement to get to, but the outcome has made it all worth it. Joel, I got to discover your taste for scotch; I really appreciate learning that. We share that. Plus, I love these press conferences with no ties.
So, the Sierra Club is proud of the legacy that this agreement, reached through leadership on both sides of the table, gives to the state of California. California is blessed by natural beauty and is supremely blessed on Tejon Ranch. Here, the Sierra Nevada rolls into the Coastal Range and the San Joaquin Valley and the Mojave join together across 7,000-foot-high mountains. In one day, a visitor can see fields of poppies in the Antelope Valley, travel through a dense Joshua tree forest, roam ridgetops of white fir and incense cedar, descend through unsurpassed oak woodlands and cross a vast plain with views to distant peaks at the western edge of the Central Valley. There is truly no place like this in California. Tejon Ranch is California as it was and in special places still is; wild and achingly beautiful.
Tejon Ranch is the keystone for the long-term protection of Southern California's natural legacy. Its vast scale and unique combination of rolling plains, steep ridges and rounded, oak-studded hills, have made protection of the ranch the long-dreamed prize of conservationists. Realizing that dream has gained urgency as global warming changes the world we know. Now it is more important than ever to protect large places like Tejon Ranch so that our native wildlife and plants are given their best chance to adapt to what will be far-reaching change. Because of leadership on both sides of the table, that protection has been achieved.
In the 19th century, travelers crossing the desert would ascend to Tejon Creek and follow its oak-filled canyon bottom to the Central Valley. For millennia, Native Americans knew the land as home and the history of their experience, joyful and sad, has played out here. Now, in the 21st century, Tejon Ranch begins a new journey. With today's historic agreement, 90 percent of the ranch will be conserved for the public to enjoy forever. Working together, we will ensure that all Californians can experience the riches of the land's superlative natural legacy and its outstanding cultural and historical heritage.
Joel mentioned the creation of the independent conservancy. And I would just add that rarely does a conservancy have the opportunity this one has, to work with a place of such vast scale and natural diversity. Getting to this agreement has been a challenge to both sides. It is risky to step out of accustomed roles. Talking in good faith for nearly two years, we have agreed not only to protect 90 percent of the ranch but to invest in the future of an unparalleled example of California's past.
I now want to introduce Graham Chisholm, who is the conservation director for California Audubon. (Applause)
Thank you, Bill and thank you all for joining us here today. Audubon California is part of a nationwide network that includes Audubon chapters in 48 communities throughout California and it's with pleasure that I speak on behalf of Audubon today.
Audubon has had an almost 50-year relationship with the Tejon Ranch, going back to the 1960s when our condor wardens worked closely with the Tejon Ranch in order to ensure an important habitat for the condor would be protected and to do the monitoring work that was needed to ensure that those birds would be protected.
Today is truly and extraordinary day in the sense that we are now celebrating, I believe, a conservation agreement that represents the 21st century. In this agreement we are agreeing, as others have said, to set aside 375 square miles. It's truly a scale of conservation that I think very few have ever had the opportunity to work at and it's humbling.
I would say that for Audubon California one of the key issues that we came into these negotiations thinking about was a species, the California condor and our concerns about the potential impacts the developments on this ranch might have for that species. I'm happy to say that during the course of the negotiations we had opportunities to engage with and work closely with, a number of condor experts who made us feel comfortable that the types of changes that we developed during the course of these discussions -- that included some pullbacks in development on some important foraging ridges for this species and the protection of the vast backcountry of this ranch -- really allayed our concerns about the impact that the projects here on this ranch would have for the California condor.
In addition, the protection of the public interest here and the public benefits associated with the agreement really fall to the new Tejon Ranch Conservancy and it's with pleasure that I have accepted the role as being the convening chairman of this new group. And we'd like to share with you -- (Applause) Thank you. We'd like to share with you some of the details.
The Tejon Ranch Conservancy will have twelve board members, four selected by the Tejon Ranch and its partners: Gary Hunt, Roberta Marshall, Kathy Perkinson and Randall Lewis. And four seats from the environmental groups: Jim Dotson, Dan Silver, Gary Patton and myself. In addition, we will be working together to select four independent board members.
It's been important for us, from the beginning, to ensure the integrity of the conservancy, to ensure that it was an independent organization. And that came through in the board structure but it also comes through in a very important element, through the long-term and sustained funding that the conservancy will be receiving, both through commitments upfront from the Tejon Ranch and its partners, but also long-term through the transfer fee structure.
The conservancy will be tasked with monitoring conservation easements, working with the ranch on land restoration and land management. It will also be tasked, as Joel and others have mentioned, with developing a public access plan in order to ensure that this is a victory not just for the condor, golden eagle and all the species, but also truly a victory for all Californians to enjoy and appreciate.
On a personal note, I want to speak to the challenges that I think we face here in California as we grow from 37 million to 50 million people. I think the critical issue that we face as Californians and I would say as we face as members of the environmental community, is how it is that we get out ahead and try to anticipate the needs of California, legitimate needs and at the same time really help ensure that the quality of life here in California is protected. It is a huge pressure that we all face as we look at any individual piece of land. And in particular the Tejon Ranch, more than any other, has been a piece of land, a ranch, a landscape, that has been in the eyes of the conservation community, environmental community, the most important here in California.
So I want to say that it is -- that it took a great deal of courage for Bob Stein, Eneas Kane and all the partners at Tejon Ranch and others around the table in the development community, to be willing to open the door to discussions. But I also think it took great courage on the part of my colleagues, who were willing to try something different and who were willing to step back and to think about how important this place is and not allow us to fall back into the trap of a fight, project by project. This ranch could have become contested terrain and I'm really pleased to say that this agreement really shows a different way.
I think this agreement, by protecting 97 percent of the ranch, not only is a tremendous victory for our environment, for California, but for Californians of future generations. And at the same time, it also protects the ranch's ability to have an economic return for its shareholders. We recognize the importance of that; we understood that it would be a challenge to get to that point, but I'm really pleased to say today that we got there. We stand behind this agreement and we can't wait to show you the ranch. Thank you. (Applause)
Ladies and gentlemen, I think you understand why Graham was the unanimous choice by the new board to serve as our chairman. He has done an outstanding job representing the ERGs, representing the Audubon. And on a personal note, it has been an incredible personal pleasure to make your friendship. You've done a great job, my friend. (Applause)
It's now my pleasure to introduce Rhea Suh, who is conservation program officer at the David and Lucille Packard Foundation. Rhea? (Applause)
Good morning, everyone. On behalf of the David and Lucille Packard Foundation I want to express our appreciation and gratitude for this landmark conservation agreement. Thanks to your hard work, today a remarkable piece of California's natural and cultural history will be permanently preserved. Climate change, population growth and unfettered development threaten much of the West's iconic landscapes. Protecting these wild places requires bold visions and actions to match. Today, by ensuring protection of 90 percent of the ranch, you have taken a first and monumentally important step.
The David and Lucille Packard Foundation has a long-standing commitment to conservation in California and the West. The founders, Dave and Lucille, were pioneers in so many ways, including with their efforts to protect important landscapes. They believed that philanthropic institutions played a unique role in promoting conservation, including playing a complementary role to both government and the private sector in opportunities just like this one.
So I'm pleased to announce that the Packard Foundation, in partnership with the Resources Legacy Fund, will be pleased to support the continuing efforts by the public agencies and the parties working to ensure that the conservancy has the financial and technical capacities it needs to steward and protect this natural treasure in the years ahead. (Applause)
Again, we congratulate you and thank you for this terrific achievement. (Applause)
And now I'd like to invite the Governor and Bob Stein back to the podium.
Thank you. Governor, we really appreciate your being here today because of the significance of this historic day for not only Tejon Ranch but for all of California. We wanted to present you with this commemorative photo of the wildflowers on Tejon Ranch. (Applause)
That's beautiful, thank you.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, we'll --
Thank you all. (Laughter)
GARY HUNT: We'll now be able to spend a few moments taking some questions. In the back? First question, from any members of the press.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) from the NRDC, was this -- oh, thank you. Was this a matter of both sides being worn down over time, or was there a point where a rock was pulled and you saw this development rapidly come together? At what point was this deal made?
JOEL REYNOLDS: This deal was made two days ago. And I'm not kidding, really. It's a very interesting process and I think each of the people here on the podium could speak to it themselves from personal experience. We began this process, as I said earlier, thinking that we would give these negotiations a try for about six months. But it became very, very clear after that period expired that we had only begun to scratch the surface in terms of understanding the issues that we needed to understand if there was going to be a positive result.
But I think one of the things that Gary Hunt and I said to each other at the very beginning was, the only way you can make this happen is if you recognize you take one step at a time and that if you try to take giant leaps too soon, you simply won't get there. And I think, more than any metaphor, that's the one that works for me. It's a series of steps towards a common goal. Not necessarily the same goal, because for the resource organizations our fundamental purpose here was conservation on a grand scale. But Bob Stein also realized at the outset that we needed to talk about the grand scale. We could not succeed if we were just going to look at one development at a time. And so that was a fundamental precondition to the negotiations; all parties bought into that. We were going to look at the entire ranch.
During the course of the two-year period, there were some very difficult moments. I would have to say there was some acrimony. But there was also some very good times, particularly when Gary Hunt was tending bar. But we have been working literally around the clock, as have our lawyers at the Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger firm and the Coblentz firm, for the ranch to pull together not just the framework, but the actual language of a very complicated agreement and accompanying documents. And as I said, we finally resolved the last major points of contention the day before yesterday.
GARY HUNT: A follow up real quick? Could you identify who you're with?
QUESTION: I’m sorry, I'm with NBC Los Angeles. What were you looking at? If this agreement didn't take place, what were the conservation groups looking at potentially in terms of development here? What bullet did you dodge?
JOEL REYNOLDS: One of the issues that we had to come to terms with, one of the areas of focus, of education throughout this process, was what was the company's development plan, not just for five years, not just for 10 years, but for the next 100 years? And that is a very difficult thing to understand not just for us, but for the company itself. And so we began to focus intensively on what parts of the ranch would be most compatible with development and we came up with a number of areas throughout the property.
But ultimately, to make the deal work from our side of the table, we needed a commitment that the only projects that would go forward were those currently planned in the short term, that you see reflected on the maps on the western edge of the property along the I-5 corridor and that the remaining areas throughout the ranch, from White Wolf at the top to Bi- and Tricentennial at the bottom, would be put on the table for acquisition for public benefit and conservation and that is a critical part of this agreement. And we are looking forward to working with the Governor, with Secretary Chrisman, with John Donnelly at the Wildlife Conservation Board, to acquire those future development areas and we expect to succeed in that.
GARY HUNT: A question over here.
QUESTION: For the Governor -- there's talk of having a state park as part of that, of this project. What would you envision for a state park in this area?
GOVERNOR: We haven't really talked about that. I think this came up during the negotiations. Obviously, I think it's a great idea and we want to be supportive of that but we really haven't gotten into that to give you any details on that, okay? Yes?
QUESTION: With 48 parks scheduled for closure, how feasible is it to bring on another state park if that comes to fruition?
GOVERNOR: Well, I think that you always have to think about short-term problems and then long-term vision. You know, I'm a visionary and I think that we should have as many parks as possible. I think that the people of California deserve it. We have the most beautiful place, the most beautiful state. There is no better place and I've traveled the world over and over again, including Austria. There is no better place than California and that's why so many people want to come here. It's that simple. (Applause)
And so I'm a big supporter of parks, but I'm also a big supporter of education and of higher education and of law enforcement and keeping our people locked up in the prisons. I'm supporting all of those ideas. But when we have a budget system that doesn't work and we only have a limited amount of money, I cannot go out and promise the people I'm going to give you all the money. We're going to keep the parks open, we're going to go and give all the money to law enforcement, all the money for education. We don’t have that money.
Now, the legislators maybe could find the money. And that's why I've proposed that we should fix the budget system because it's inexcusable that for decades we have a budget system that when we bring in revenues and we have a surge in revenues we spend it all without putting any money aside for the rainy day fund. So now we would need that money for the rainy day fund so we don’t have to make all cuts, so we have extra money available.
But I think that this budget crisis that we have, which is a serious crisis, cannot be solved with just cuts. I've made that clear, that it has now gotten to the stage where we need revenues. But I'm against increasing taxes, so the legislators and we all have to get creative on how we're going to solve that, with having extra revenues and making the cuts but not raising taxes, because when the economy is down like this it would be the worst thing you can do, is raise taxes on the people, on the businesses and all that. Thank you. (Applause)
GARY PATTON: I'm Gary Patton from the Planning and Conservation League and I just want to follow up on that very appropriate question at a critical time in the budget history of the state of California. You know, what has happened here is an opportunity arose. The ranch and the resource conservation organizations seized that opportunity and we, through this agreement, have created a future opportunity for the people of the state of California to make a park on this property possible. This agreement doesn't set up a park. Parks take a long time to create. But we've now got the commitment that will let the people of the state of California, as we go into this new century, have something that will be of inestimable value for your grandchildren and mine, thanks to the work that's being commemorated here today. (Applause)
GARY HUNT: One last question. Another question? Had a question over here? Yes. Could you identify yourself, please?
QUESTION: Hi. My name is Stacey Shepard and I'm a reporter with the Bakersfield Californian. Tejon Ranch made an announcement a couple years ago about conserving a big chunk of land; I believe it was 100,000 acres, something over that. And there were some talks with the Trust for Public Lands -- I was just wondering if someone could explain a little bit about that and how this announcement is different from the original one.
GARY PATTON: Our stewardship and our conservation planning is over a long horizon; it's not a given day, week, month or year, it's a long horizon. When we began our master planning for the ranch overall we felt initially that declaring 100,000 acres of the ranch would be -- I'll use the word “sufficient” -- for some period of time. Because frankly, we just didn't have the time and the resources to study the rest of the ranch -- 425 square miles is huge, I've been here 12 years and I haven't seen all of the ranch yet -- and so we focused on certain areas.
I think that what we realized after a while in talking with the folks here to my right in the resource community was that rather than working on a piecemeal basis we needed to broaden the scope. And so essentially that 100,000 acres, that we announced four years ago now with the Trust for Public Land, is essentially folded into this ranch-wide agreement. It's a positive increase, if you will and fully supported, obviously, by the Trust for Public Land, whose executive director is sitting right in front of me. So it's a good thing, again, for the state, for conservation and for our company.
GARY HUNT: We'll take one more question, please. Yes, ma'am?
QUESTION: Hello. My name is Patric Hedlund, I'm the editor of The Mountain Enterprise
, which serves this area. And I first, of course, want to congratulate the Tejon Ranch Company and all of you for your efforts. But we still have concerns among the people that live up in this region and we want to ask Mr. Corcoran, perhaps he'll step forward -- does this mean that your organizations will not be willing to, or able to participate in the CEQA process in regard to significant issues such as water, air and traffic concerns for this section of California?
BILL CORCORAN: Thanks for your question, Patric. The Sierra Club and the conservation groups that have signed today's agreement agreed -- and it was a difficult choice -- but in the end agreed that this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect the keystone of southern California's natural legacy was an opportunity we could not forgo, understanding that the developments that have been proposed are not done. They will move through their normal regulatory processes and citizens and those groups who choose to can be involved with them. And we'll be looking to the county and other accountable agencies to ensure that the law is fully enforced for those developments.
GARY HUNT: Next question and the final question, please.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. This question is for the Governor. Governor, from this historic spirit of cooperation between all these competing interests to come to this agreement -- I'm curious. What can you take from your experience in these negotiations and apply it to the ongoing debate over fixing the Delta, creating new surface storage, perhaps new conveyance systems, so that our farmers and our communities here in southern California get the water they're entitled to? Going forward in this debate, can you take anything from this and apply it to that debate?
GOVERNOR: Well, as I said in my speech before, that I wanted to congratulate everyone that participated in these negotiations, because no one got a straight 10 except the people of California. So they all had to kind of pull back a little bit and compromise. Everyone has to do that when you negotiate those kinds of things. And I think the same is with the challenges that we face, if it has to do with the water supply for California, it if has to do with our power lines and transmission lines that we need for renewable energy, all of those issues have to be addressed. All of those issues are very important, big challenges for the future of California.
And as I said, where there's a will there's a way and we all have to sit down and talk about those things and find a compromise. Because I think everyone recognizes the face that we have an increase in population. We will have, by the year 2050, 50 million, 55 million people here in California and we've got to prepare. And it is the responsibility of the governor to really think about that and not to just think about what can I accomplish during my term in office, but what can we accomplish for the next few decades?
I've got to make sure that California has enough water. That's why I proposed a 20 percent increase in conservation of water, because we have to cover it from every angle. We have to go and have water storage, above the ground and below the ground. We have to have a water delivery system. We have to fix the Delta, the ecosystem.
We have to do all of those things and we have to do it together, not just me. We all have to do it together. These are all very dedicated people that are behind me here and I believe in them. But as a governor you have to think about the whole picture, about the economy, about the population increase and all of those things. So we're going to get it done, no matter what, because I think where's the will there's a way. (Applause)
Tejon Ranch sprawl?
Environmentalists accepted development in exchange for land. But their work isn't done.
How heartening it is, the sound of environmentalists and developers harmoniously agreeing on new construction. That's what first came to mind when the Tejon Ranch Co. and such environmental heavyweights as the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council jointly announced plans to both build on and preserve swaths of the 270,000-acre ranch that straddles Los Angeles and Kern counties. If all goes as intended, more than 200,000 acres would be preserved, with some as a state park and most under private conservancy.
In an increasingly built-out state where there's always a fight about a "last coastal canyon" or a "disappearing critical habitat," Tejon is nonetheless environmentally unique. It forms the bottom of the giant U that connects the Sierra Nevada with the coastal mountains, enabling wildlife to cross from one to the other. It includes favored soaring ground for the endangered California condor. And it's the last big undeveloped link between the Los Angeles metropolitan area and the San Joaquin Valley.
Considering that public officials in both counties are likely to approve some development, the preservationists cannily chose pragmatism, gaining what land they could. In doing so, however, they have cornered themselves: They now cannot officially oppose a project that they openly find objectionable. Adding nearly 80,000 new residents to the far reaches of the Los Angeles region, the Tejon Ranch plan exemplifies sprawl, with all the attendant concerns about water, traffic, air quality and fire risks. These potential problems cannot be overlooked, no matter how much land is conserved.One of the three Tejon projects makes sense
. The industrial zone at the base of the Grapevine would be located near the junction of Interstate 5 and state Highway 99, already major thoroughfares for trucking. A second project, an upscale resort-type development of 3,000 homes scattered through a canyon area in southern Kern County, should have minimal impact on water and traffic. It is well within condor territory, however, and its remote location makes it a wildfire disaster waiting to happen. Of primary concern, though, is the Centennial project: 23,000 homes plus commercial development at the northern end of L.A. County.
With a projected 70,000 residents, Centennial plunks a moderately-sized city in the hinterlands. Residents will work where they live, the developer says; the State Water Project will cover much of their thirst; and the county and state can handle the fires. But what happens when companies change their plans? (Remember Dreamworks and Playa Vista?) Typically, residents join the freeway creep to the nearest job center, about 50 miles away in this case. Water supplies already are being cut back, and last fall, the region was overwhelmed by multiple simultaneous fires.
If Centennial should be built at all, first there needs to be serious discussion about xeriscaped yards and golf links, alternative-fuel mass transit to Los Angeles, solar-powered homes and a well-equipped fire district funded by the new residents. As much as we applaud diligent work by the Sierra Club and its colleagues to preserve land, we hope there are other activists around to make those discussions happen.