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Saturday, January 31, 2009

An Update on L.A. Developments from the Sierra Club


San Gabriel Valley Task Force

A proposal that has Task Force attention is the Pacific Heights Housing development planned for Hacienda Heights. This project proposes to build 47 homes on 114 acres of open space in the Puente Hills. The property is adjacent to Schabarum Regional Park on the east and open space of the wildlife corridor managed by the Native Habitat Authority to the South. If permitted, 126 oak trees as well as a grove of sycamore trees will be removed and there will be extensive modification of the topography. The property is included in an SEA and is deemed a fire hazard area by the State. The Task force favors purchase of this property and its addition to the local wildlife corridor as land under management of the Native Habitat Authority in the Puente-Chino Hills. A resolution was submitted to and approved by the Conservation Committee supporting the preservation of this land. A letter has been submitted to the Los Angeles County Planning Commission asking for delay of approval of the DEIR (expected to be submitted by the developer in December) until release of the revised Hacienda Heights Community Plan (expected in January, 2009). Contacts have been established with the Puente-Chino Hills Task Force of Sierra Club, the Hacienda Heights Improvement Association, the Native Habitat Authority, and local residents, all groups with potential interest in stopping or modifying this development.

Another project we are currently interested in are plans to be developed for preservation and development of Cattle Canyon located in the San Gabriel Mountains for recreation by the Watershed Council. Letters of support have also been sent by the Task Force to Rivers and Mountains Conservancy supporting grants to the City of Duarte and City of El Monte for trail projects within the Emerald Necklace. Visits to the sites of these projects were made by members of the Task Force prior to submission of letters.

Save the Montebello Hills Task Force

In 2008 the Save the Montebello Hills Sierra Club Task force remained very active and faced numerous new challenges as the city began preparing the draft EIR for the developer's proposed 1200 dwelling unit project on the last remaining open space Montebello Hills. Challenges facing us in 2009 include the release of the city's draft general plan and the release of the draft EIR for the Montebello Hills Specific Plan. In addition to responding to those events, we will continue with our outreach and public notification activities as well as with our numerous other activities in this effort as listed above.

The Santa Monica Mountains Task Force:

1) COASTAL SLOPE TRAIL – Joined with the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council and several local conservation and trails groups to appeal to the Malibu City Council the Malibu Planning Commission’s approval of a subdivision on the crest of a very scenic coastal mountain and its refusal to require the developer to dedicate a key segment of the proposed Coastal Slope Trail. Outcome: we refused to make concessions demanded by the developers and were successful in persuading the City Council to require an EIR for the subdivision. The developers, a world famous rock group, ultimately abandoned the project.

2) CORRAL CANYON – Supported the use of Proposition 84 funds by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and State Parks to purchase 800 acres of Corral Canyon in Malibu, designated by the Chapter as a high priority park acquisition in 1995. Outcome: the land has been purchased. Over two-thirds of the Corral Canyon watershed is now in public ownership.

3) SOKA/KING GILLETTE – 600 acres of oak woodlands and meadows is a spectacular mountain setting recognized by all park agencies as the premier site for a visitor center and interpretive facility for the Santa Monica Mountains park system. The Task Force and the Chapter took a lead role in the struggle to block major urban development here and find the funding to acquire this very costly property. It was a long struggle that included successful lawsuits against Los Angeles County and the Coastal Commission, but we finally prevailed when the land was acquired three years ago by a consortium of the National Park Service, State Parks, and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. The park agencies have now started the process of public outreach and planning for future uses of this crown jewel of the Santa Monica Mountains. The Santa Monica Mountains Task Force is taking a major part in these planning sessions to ensure that the 4000 oak trees on the property and the abundant and very visible wildlife are protected, but also to ensure that the highest and best use of the property remains as an overnight outdoor education facility for urban schoolchildren. Outcome: this planning process is just beginning this week, and will take up a lot of our attention in coming months.

4) TRANCAS LAGOON – We are supporting efforts by park agencies to acquire 7 acres just north of Pacific Coast Highway at the mouth of Trancas Canyon in West Malibu which will help protect and restore a small wetland and provide a trail linkage between heavily used Zuma County Beach and the National Park Service’s 7000 acre Zuma-Trancas unit in the mountains to the north. The property is a 1995 Chapter priority acquisition and a National Park Service priority for acquisition. The Santa Monica Mountains Task Force has sent letters to the Santa Bay Restoration Commission and the State Rivers and Parkways Grant Program urging them to allocate Proposition 84 funds to acquire the 7 acres. Outcome: this matter is still pending.

5) MALIBU VALLEY FARMS – The Task Force submitted lengthy testimony to the Coastal Commission this year and last year opposing Coastal Commission approval of a large, open-ended horse facility virtually on the very banks of a stream draining directly into Soka and Malibu Creek State Park. This approval violates water quality and riparian habitat protection policies in the Coastal Act and the Local Coastal Plan, but the Commission approved it nonetheless. The Santa Monica Mountains Task Force has offered to help finance litigation to overturn this outrageous decision and to assist efforts to persuade the Coastal Commission to revoke the permit approval.

6) TEMESCAL CANYON – This canyon in Pacific Palisades is the most heavily used trail access into the Santa Monica Mountains from the Los Angeles Basin. Public access is now threatened by aggressive, pre-existing private uses. The Task Force has testified in support of restricting these private uses in order to maintain pubic trailhead parking and trail access from the Basin into the Mountains.

7) TRAIL ACCESS – Subdivision and mansion development has long threatened to block trails which have historically provided hikers access to various parts of the Santa Monica Mountains. The Task Force has taken a lead role in efforts to keep these trails open to the public, specifically in the Westwood area.

8) LOWER TOPANGA – The Task Force was active a few years back in supporting acquisition of this valuable property by CA State Parks. Throughout this year, our Task Force volunteers have spent many hours/days removing non-natives from this land, watering the new plantings, and joining in clean-up efforts. This activity is on-going.


Santa Clarita Group

2008 has been a year of great success for the Santa Clarita Valley Group.

NEWHALL RANCH: Members began the year organizing letter-writing campaigns and trips to the Los Angeles Planning Commission to voice concerns regarding the looming threat of the proposed Newhall Ranch. Although, the proposed Newhall Ranch project was not stopped — it has slowed down. This is especially true considering how the company backing this proposed development has fallen into extreme economic troubles. We have high hopes that this will translate into a serious delay of the project and more time to continue negotiating for smart growth.

LAS LOMAS: We were also thrilled to see the years of work to stop the Las Lomas project pay off. Working with other Sierra Club members in the San Fernando Valley, we met with numerous neighborhood councils to explain reasons to NOT support the builder's project. We were also part of building a large coalition consisting of elected officials, individuals, neighborhoods, and groups to oppose the project. The proposed Las Lomas development would have sat in the Newhall Pass at the northeast corner of the Interstate 5 and State Route 14 interchange and would have been the epitome of SPRAWL. The 555-acre housing and commercial development project would have dramatically increased traffic congestion in Newhall Pass and would have destroyed a major wildlife corridor. With the additional concerns of building in a Fire and Earthquake Hazard Area, air quality, etc. the Los Angeles City Council, led by Greig Smith, stopped the Las Lomas project from moving forward.

TEJON RANCH: Also, members of the Sierra Club (Angeles and Kern-Kaweah chapters), Audobon, NRDC, Endangered Habitats League, and the Planning and Conservation League worked together with the Tejon Ranch Company in a rare opportunity to preserve one of the most valuable unprotected natural resources in the state. Tejon Ranch, the largest contiguous privately owned portion of land left in California will now have an unprecedented 90% of its breathtaking scenery conserved for the future. Joel Reynolds, senior attorney and director of the Southern California Program of the NRDC stated, “This was an extremely complicated deal, but also a once-in-a-lifetime conservation opportunity.” Additionally, this agreement creates an independent 12 member Tejon Ranch Conservancy. These environmental partners will manage the preserved land in perpetuity.

SOLEDAD CANYON MINE -- CEMEX CORP.: We also successfully passed a motion recommending that the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club support HR 5887 (McKeon), the Soledad Canyon Mine Act. In 1990, contractual rights to mine a site in Soledad Canyon for sand and gravel was granted by Bureau of Land Management (BLM). These would permit the current owner of the contracts, CEMEX, to extract 56 million tons of sand and gravel from the site over a maximum of 20 years. The City of Santa Clarita was joined in opposition by the Santa Clarita Group, as well as many other groups and organizations. Many lawsuits ensued over CEQA compliance, including air quality, nearness of local schools and housing, traffic and road damage, contamination of the Santa Clara River and local aquifers, and quality of life issues. This solution was crafted by the Secretary of the Interior, the City of Victorville, the City of Santa Clarita, and CEMEX. The bill will cancel CEMEX’s two existing Soledad Canyon mining contracts with the BLM. At the same time it will fairly compensate CEMEX by providing the company with designated BLM land of equal value in the Victorville area. No mining will be allowed on these Victorville sites. After receiving the land near Victorville, CEMEX has agreed to sell the land to the City of Victorville to be developed in accordance with local land use and economic development goals. We are actively working for passage of this bill which will be reincarnated next year.

WILDERNESS PROTECTION: We are also continuing to work on the Eastern Sierra wilderness Bill. Members have worked in the community to increase awareness, as well as lobbying in Washington DC. This bill will permanently protect over 470,000 acres wilderness and 52 miles of wild & scenic rivers in the Eastern Sierra and San Gabriel Mountains. We are still hoping for passage this year. Another accomplishment of our group has been our continued work in the community. Many of our programs have been informational on local issues, such as MRFs, land use issues of the local hospital expansion, and Tejon Ranch. Our group also participates in community events such as the Annual River Rally, College of the Canyons Environmental Awareness Day, and partners with the local Community Hiking Club (offered through the Placerita Nature Center). We are constantly working to introduce families and members of the community to the joys of hiking an protecting nature. For year 2009 we anticipate continuing to push the Wilderness and CEMEX bills in Congress in addition to fighting a number of proposed developments.

An Update on the Proposed Chevron-Coyote Hills Development in North Orange County

by the Sierra Club's Coyote Hills Task Force


West Coyote Hills is located in north Orange County at the border of Los Angeles County in the city of Fullerton. It is a rectangular 510-acre parcel with an adjacent 72- acre nature park. The site has two mitigation areas for prior development by the owner: a section 4D and a section 7 totaling 34 acres. However, the EIRs name another 30 acres which we are investigating.

The flora and fauna are unique because this is one of the last intact parcels of Coastal Sage Scrub remaining (95 percent of this ecosystem has been destroyed by development). The site has four very threatened habitats, a California Fully Protected Species (White-tailed Kite), a Federally Threatened Species California Gnatcatcher (60 pairs, 212 birds at most recent count), a healthy population of Coastal Cactus Wrens which are presently in rapid decline (69 family groups at last count). The Cactus Wren is one of 13 California Species of Special Concern in the West Coyote Hills. It is on the Pacific Flyway and 160 species have been recorded by one individual. Plant surveys have been perfunctory and lacking in protocol but still 91 native species have been counted. Animal surveys have also not been scientifically conducted, but the Coyote is present as the keystone species. The site is connected by the Brea Creek Corridor (no culverts) to the Puente Hills.

Property is owned by Chevron Corporation fully-owned subsidiary Pacific Coast Homes (PCH). PCH has submitted a proposal to build 760 units plus commercial which would level the heart of the site. This was one of the richest oil extraction sites in California. Chevron ceased all operations by 1994. There are 230 well sites plus other toxic areas.

We have been working to preserve West Coyote Hills since 2001. Three Draft EIRs have been issued, in 2003, 2006 and 2008. The 2003 DEIR was superceded by the 2006 Revised DEIR which had four sections revised in the 2008 Revised Recirculated DEIR. The Task Force hired Shute Mihaly and Weinberger (SMW) to respond to all three along with various experts in biology, hydrology, etc. We also visited various state and Federal agencies and asked them to submit comments. Some of these were the AQMD, Toxic Substances Control Board, USGS and California Earthquake Safety Board. We are told that the Final EIR should be out any time which means that it will go to the Planning Commission for a recommendation and then to the City Council for a vote.

Most recently Chevron submitted an application for a 404 Permit from US Army Corp of Engineers to fill the ephemeral creeks on the site. We also hired SMW to respond. When we requested to see the ACE response to the comments submitted, we were happy to find that the EPA submitted a strong response requesting that the permit be denied due to noncompliance with the Clean Water Act.

Currently Fullerton is revising its General Plan and the Planning Dept. did not include Coyote Hills as a focus area. It is currently zoned Oil and Gas and as part of its development application Chevron has requested rezoning. We have been lobbying from the beginning to have Coyote Hills included as a Focus Area. Citizens attended the input sessions and asked that this area be preserved—to no avail. Finally, the General Plan Advisory Commission (GPAC) has put this issue on the agenda and is supposed to discuss it on December 1.

Right along we have been visiting our legislators from city council members to our county supervisors (Coad then Norby), to Ackerman (state senate) and Dunn, Duvall and Corea (state assembly).

West Coyote Hills is included in the Orange County Green Vision Plan. It is targeted for acquisition in the Coyote Creek Watershed Plan, which was developed by Orange County in partnership with the US Army Corps of Engineers, the L.A. Dept. of Public Works, and many other stakeholders. It was completed and distributed on March 23, 2007, at a cost of $480,000. The San Gabriel Rivers and Mountains Conservancy supports saving it as a nature reserve as does the regional office of the California Department of Recreation and Parks. We have had support, not only from the Angeles Chapter but also from Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks, Sea and Sage Audubon and the Center for Biological Diversity.

For many years we have offered monthly hikes led by a naturalist. Please come and join us: dates and times are at

State's Lands Commission Rejects Deal to Allow More Offshore Oil Drilling In Santa Barbara

--Deal required company to give away 4000 acres for parkland to the Trust for Public Land and commit to a 13 year limit on the operation of the wells, and was endorsed by a large coalition of environmental groups

--Those who opposed the deal said there was no real guarantee that the 13 year limit could be enforced,0,6019074.story

Why the Santa Barbara oil deal collapsed: A lack of disclosure by the company and environmentalists helped lead a state panel to kill the offshore drilling deal. ...What's more, there was no way to guarantee that the drilling platforms would be closed in 2022 as promised. The platforms are in federal waters, and the U.S. government has a strong interest in ensuring that drilling continues. The state has no power to force the feds to give up their oil leases; the federal government could force Plains Exploration to keep drilling. Even the land donation was in question. Company lawyers told Lands Commission staff that some of the parcels had title problems that made their transfer uncertain.,0,4266773.story?page=2
This month, 12 legislators representing coastal districts came out against the plan, including Nava, a Democrat who is a former member of the Coastal Commission. "I'm concerned about the likelihood it would create a precedent that would be difficult to combat," he said. In a letter to Garamendi, Nava and the others said the plan "could create the perception that offshore drilling is now acceptable and safe."

For maps of the proposal:
Sprawl that Could Connect Salinas and San Jose is Debated in Monterey

1/26/2009: from On September 5th, Monterey County released the draft environmental impact report (DEIR) for the General Plan (GPU 5). Since then, the public comment period has been extended four times...On February 11th the Planning Commission will discuss the schedule of public hearings for GPU 5. At these hearings, the Planning Commission will respond to comments on the DEIR and give their direction to staff for the preparation of a final environmental impact report (FEIR). This document will be the County's official response to public comments and questions concerning the DEIR. ...

LandWatch remains cautiously optimistic about the adoption of GPU5. In its current form, GPU5 represents significant progress toward the compromise the Board of Supervisors promised voters after the stalemated election of June 2007.

Read the full news release:

Numerous Rivers in Northern California are Closed to Fishing Due to Low Rainfall this Year

640 Acres are Saved in Tehama County

1/27/2009--Just nine short months after they first contacted the Northern California Regional Land Trust, the landowners of the 640-acre R&R Ranch in eastern Tehama County are able to say that their entire ranch property is protected from development so that future generations can enjoy it’s large expanse of oak woodlands, grasslands, and wetlands.

R & R Ranch is located in southeastern Tehama County and is surrounded by TNC’s Dye Creek Preserve to the south and DFG’s Tehama Wildlife Area to the north, west and east. The conservation values protected under the easement include unplowed grasslands, blue oak woodlands, wetlands, natural stream courses and waterways, unfragmented open space, corridors for the unimpaired passage of wildlife, natural communities that provide habitat for native wildlife species, including the Tehama Deer Herd, raptors, waterfowl, and many species of common and rare plants and animals.

For information on other NCRLT easements go to

One of G.W. Bush's Last Acts was to Finish Review of the Tejon Ranch-Condor Permit

Tejon Ranch Seeks Permit to Harm Condor, 26 Other Rare Species

1/29/2009-From the Center for Biological Diversity: Starting the countdown to destroy prime habitat for the endangered California condor, last Friday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a draft plan that would allow the Tejon Ranch Company to harm the condor and 26 other rare species on Tejon Ranch, the largest swath of privately owned land in California. The poorly named "habitat conservation plan" would let the company slide past laws that make it illegal to injure, harass, and in some cases kill federally protected species in its move to build mega-developments on the condor's last bastion of wild habitat -- even as the company claims its developments won't hurt the condor. Tejon Ranch covers more than 270,000 acres of wilderness and contains not only federally protected condor habitat but also the convergence of four ecoregions, 23 known types of plant communities, and habitat for many other at-risk species, from the southwestern willow flycatcher to the western spadefoot toad.

The Center for Biological Diversity has been fighting to save Tejon for years, and we're determined to forever preserve the ranch as a state or national park. We certainly won't let the disastrous habitat conservation plan go through as written.

Read more in the Los Angeles Times.

For more from the Center for Biological Diversity:

The FWS drafted four alternatives: a no-action plan; a plan that takes measures just to protect condors; a general plan buildout; and a multi-species habitat conservation plan, the preferred alternative, Grunwald said.


Adam Keats, director of the Center’s Urban Wildlands Program, said Tejon Mountain Village will be located in an area that connects the condor’s historical range — the coastal range, Tehachapis and lower Sierra.

“With only 200 or 300 condors existing on this planet, they’re going to stick a housing development right in the linchpin,” he said.
Tejon Mountain Village, in addition to other activities including mining and construction of a new 502-acre national veterans cemetery, would consume about 8% of the federally designated critical habitat for condors in the area covered by the Tehachapi Uplands Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan.
a slide show of the ranch's natural values, with some pro-Tejon development propaganda

Release of Tejon Plan by Obama Administration Might Have Been Accidental??

At the end of the business day on Friday, Jan. 23—in the week which also saw the inauguration of a new president—the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) sent out a press release alerting editors that a document has been published in the Federal Register to begin the public review and comment period about what promises to be a highly controversial Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) regarding the critical habitat of the endangered California condor.

According to Lois Grunwald of the USFWS, the Obama administration ordered all such publication to be halted while the new administration reviews what has been put into the pipeline by the outgoing administration. "Such an order is not uncommon," Grunwald said, adding that most incoming administrations issue orders to freeze Federal Register publication of such items during a transition review period.

"But somehow the EIS slipped through the cracks and got published last week," Grunwald said. Tejon Ranch Company's conservation plan for habitat of the California condor (and a score of other threatened and endangered plant and animal species) did not get published in the Federal Register along with the USFWS impact statement, she said. The USFWS has placed both documents on their website however. [See URL below.]

The footprint of Tejon Ranch Company's proposed Tejon Mountain Village puts 3,500 homes, resort hotels and commercial areas partially within critical habitat for the condor and other listed species.The Fish and Wildlife Service's Environmental Impact Statement explains the agency's evaluation of Tejon's plan to protect the habitat while proceeding with its development and ranching activities.

Public review and comment on the Environmental Impact Statement is solicited until April 22. Public input on Tejon Ranch Company's habitat conservation plan (HCP) can also be submitted within that period, but an additional public review and input period will be announced once the HCP is officially published in the Federal Register, Grunwald said.

The statements and plan are required as part of Tejon's request for an "incidental take permit" to disturb or cause the death of threatened or endangered species. On June 4, 2008, Tejon Ranch Company issued a statement saying "the proposed Tehachapi Uplands Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan, which would require the approval of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, provides comprehensive protection for 34 different species of plants and animals that inhabit the Tehachapi Mountains...."

The statement emphasized that Tejon Ranch is not seeking a lethal take permit for the California condor. "The characterization by some of the TUMSHCP as 'a license to kill condors' is therefore inflammatory and false," the Tejon statement declared, adding that hunting is not classified as a “covered activity” under the MSHCP. This is a sensitive issue, because the most experienced remaining condor born and matured in the wild—a matriarch known as AC-8 that was critical to the condor preservation program—was killed by a pig hunter on the ranch in February 2003.

Condor are intelligent and curious birds that are highly unusual in that they spend their first eight to nine years learning from older birds about their habitat before they begin reproducing, according to interviews with wildlife biologists. The loss of the matriarch that had spent about 58 years learning the upland ridges and plains that provided traditional roosting and foraging habitat for the endangered species was a major loss to the restoration program. Today there are roughly 80 of the iconic birds left flying free in the state.

The unique behaviors of the condor are frequently overlooked in statements made by developers about the compatibility of overlapping human commercial activiities and critical habitat, according to some involved in the condor reclamation effort.

This is a direct link to the draft EIS [Editor's Note: On Friday afternoon at 5 p.m. The Mountain Enterprise staff noticed that some links in this URL are not functional.]:


Another interesting comment from the web:

good lord, is CBD the ONLY environmental organization that cares about ANYTHING anymore? sierra club, NRDC, Wilderness Society - they are all a bunch of sellouts to Big Energy, Big Developers, Big Chemicals. who are you mercenaries and what have you done with our environmentalists?

these organizations should all be completely discredited until they ditch their current sellout mentalities (and all those supporting that mentality) and only REAL environmentalists should be allowed to negotiate, comment, partner or otherwise exploit their brands.

start with getting rid of everyone in the organization who agrees that "mitigation" is a dandy solution. next, get rid of everyone who believes that permanently killing millions of acres of wilderness for Big Energy profiteers (in Big Wind and Big Solar) is a recipe for SAVING the planet, when the rest of us are trying to get policies that increase rooftop solar and save the deserts, plains, mountains and other "sacrifice areas" these Big "Enviros" want to destroy.

at that point, we can talk about environmental cred. until then, just greenwashers, all of them.


--attributed to Sheila

Center Takes San Diego Power-line Challenge to California Supreme Court

1/29/2009--A month after the California Public Utilities Commission approved the controversial Sunrise Powerlink, one of the biggest transmission-line ventures ever proposed in the state, last Thursday the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the California Supreme Court to review the approval -- and hopefully quash it. In blatant violation of the state's premiere environmental protection and land-use law, the California Environmental Quality Act, the Commission failed to require that the 123-mile line be used for renewable energy and approved an environmentally detrimental southern route for the line -- straight through the Cleveland National Forest, protected reserves, and the habitat of rare species like the Hermes copper butterfly and arroyo toad. The Commission ignored a recommendation by one of its own commissioners to condition approval of the line on requiring the line to deliver renewable energy; it also ignored a recommendation by an administrative law judge to reject the line altogether (by far the best decision).

Said Ileene Anderson, the Center's public lands deserts director: "As approved by the Commission, the Sunrise Transmission Project would sacrifice sensitive public lands and vital habitat without any guarantee the line will be used to deliver clean energy."

Read more in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors Revisit Naples/Gaviota Coast Decision from Lame Duck Board

1/31/2009 from the Gaviota Coast Conservancy

Supervisors agree to "cure" their Brown Act violation regarding their amendment to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) governing the processing of the Naples Development.
The Brown Act simply states that, with the exception of several narrow circumstances, the community's business must be conducted in public.
On October 7, 2008, the County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 in closed session to amend the MOU governing the Naples development on the Gaviota Coast. This amendment to the MOU enabled the developer to split the project between coastal and non-coastal portions.
The Naples Coalition and Environmental Defense Center petitioned the new Board of Supervisors to recognize their error and allow the public to participate in the debate on this issue. Hearing the issues of the amendment in public is a fundamental democratic right that the "Firestone Board" overrode.
The new Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 in closed session January 27, 2009 to publicly reconsider their amendment to the MOU adopted in the closed door session of October 7, 2008. This controversial amendment would have allowed the Naples development to be split into two parts and developed separately.
The new Board's decision is a very welcome first step in unraveling the "Naples mistake" of last year. This is a chance to keep the Naples project as a whole before the Coastal Commission.
For more information, contact Janet Koed at
(805) 683-6631

Monday, January 26, 2009

New Report Fuels Debate on How Much of Carrizzo Plain Should be Protected as "Wilderness"

Looking down toward Soda Lake in the Carrizo Plain National MonumentPoppies and lupine in this 2005 photo from the Carrizo Plain National Monument"BLM releases draft plan for Carrizo Plain National Monument" (BLM-California news release, 1/21/09)
The Bureau of Land Management has released for public review and comment a draft resource management plan/draft environmental impact statement for about 206,000 acres of public lands in the Carrizo Plain National Monument administered by the agency’s Bakersfield Field Office. The draft RMP provides management guidance for public lands in San Luis Obispo and Kern counties. BLM will conduct three meetings in Central California to gather comments on the draft plan and EIS. (Includes link to the document, which is in PDF format.)
2635 Acres of Private Land Within Southern Sierra Wilderness Areas is Saved

1/19/2009--The Wilderness Land Trust says it has acquired 2,635 acres in Tulare County’s southern Sierra Nevada to preserve as wilderness. The trust has purchased a 200-acre tract in the Domeland Wilderness and a 2,435-acre property adjacent to the Sacatar Trail Wilderness. Both parcels are in Tulare County east of the Sierra crest and will be conveyed to the Bureau of Land Management to be administered as wilderness.

The 200-acre property in the BLM Domeland Wilderness Addition is situated along a major tributary to the South Fork Kern River. It’s within a quarter-mile of the Pacific Crest Trail and supports riparian habitat and pinyon-juniper woodlands that are surrounded by rugged granitic peaks.

The 2,435-acre property adjacent to the Sacatar Trail Wilderness includes expansive wet meadows straddled by pinyon-juniper woodlands and an isolated stand of Joshua trees that occur at an elevation just over 7,000 feet.

Both parcels have archeological resources, numerous springs and opportunities for hiking into the rugged backcountry. "We are delighted that the Wilderness Land Trust could step in and work with willing sellers to protect these important wilderness properties," says Trust President Reid Haughey. "We have the opportunity to decommission several miles of roads and remove fences and other wilderness intrusions that will restore the lands to their natural state." Founded in 1993, the Wilderness Land Trust describes itself as “a non-profit, publicly supported charity that works to purchase private lands (inholdings) within wilderness. All of the lands acquired by the Trust are transferred to public ownership through voluntary mechanisms that respect landowner property rights and values. The Trust has protected nearly 30,000 acres in over 60 different wilderness areas across California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Montana and Colorado.”


During 2008, the trust also saved 160 acres in the Trinity Alps, located in the northern coastal ranges west of Redding.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Why We Favor Elevated Light-Rail Transit Over Subways...

In response to a recent letter-writer to the L.A. Times (1/12/2009) advocating more subways across L.A., it’s not NIMBYism to want the most bang for our bucks. “Patient deliberation” is especially important now in the planning of our rail transit systems because all of our local, state and federal governments teeter on the brink of bankruptcy. Subways are not the only solution to traffic jams—just the most expensive. If we are ever going to construct a system to actually compete with smog-belching cars and buses, and get commuters off the roads, we can’t spend all the cash on a few miles of subways. Subways make sense in the most congested routes, where geography and density of development have made all other options impossible. But now that taxpayers made the first step to fund more rail transit in L.A. in November, it is up to our elected officials to spend it wisely. The alternative, elevated light rail, will carry more passengers many timesmore miles than more subways. Elevated light rail can use the median of existing wide streets, or when abandoned industrial rail corridors are used, the land below can be community green space that can be parkland and sites to capture and clean urban storm runoff. Elevated rail solves the problem of car crashes with trains at busy intersections, and we won’t have to worry about school children being at risk from trains at street level.

As urban planners continually tell us, Los Angeles needs to build “up” since this city has run out of land. We hear of plans for more high-rises on Wilshire Blvd., yet an elevated rail there would mar the view? Los Angeles is a beautiful city, and commuters have a right to see it, and not be relegated to an underground transit system.

--Rex Frankel, the editor
Letter to the L.A Times: The need for a comprehensive subway system in Los Angeles far outweighs the legal requirement for community input and environmental impact analysis. Our city cannot afford to waste decades debating where to lay the tracks. We deserve to have transit projects started immediately and completed on the scale of years, not generations. The hardships endured by commuters here are enough to justify the declaration of a state of emergency, which will expedite the construction of projects paid for by Measure R funds. The time for patient deliberation and NIMBYism is over.--Makan Mohageg

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Schwarzenegger's effort to expedite 10 highway projects angers environmentalists

1/11/2009, excerpted from,0,2221.story

Schwarzenegger is proposing that the California Department of Transportation forge ahead with some construction projects that are tied up in court over environmental issues. One is a $165-million carpool-lane expansion on U.S. 50 in Sacramento that a judge has delayed because of the amount of greenhouse gas emissions it could generate, among other concerns.

Protections would also be lifted on a freeway-widening project through an ecologically sensitive area of coastal San Diego County and on a controversial plan to drill a tunnel into the Berkeley Hills. And Schwarzenegger wants to empower a panel of his appointees to waive environmental rules on other projects....

...Schwarzenegger is proposing to largely exempt the 10 highway projects from the California Environmental Quality Act, a 1970 law requiring review of big projects and efforts to offset any deleterious effects on the surroundings....

The Democrats who dominate the Legislature have so far demurred.

They are offering instead a fast-tracking process for the projects that conservationists find more acceptable. Administration officials say that will not get construction moving quickly enough...
POST Saves 1001 Acres on San Mateo County Coast


(Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving 60,000 acres as permanent open space and parkland in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.)

The Peninsula Open Space Trust has announced the purchase of three more properties on the Coastside: 17 acres at Pillar Point, the 952 acre Toto Ranch near San Gregorio ("ne of the largest remaining open space properties on the Coastside"), and 32 acres with a view of Half Moon Bay from near the top of Skyline Ridge.

17 Acres at Pillar Point

On December 31, POST purchased 17 acres near Moss Beach at Pillar Point. Informal trails have crossed this private property for years; eventually trails will be improved and opened officially to the public. Said Moore, “The property offers a logical future extension of the segment of California Coastal Trail just completed on POST’s Pillar Point Bluff property nearby.”

POST bought the land for $1.825 million from private owners Pillar Point Preservation Partners. Just west of Highway 1, the land is part of the scenic backdrop of open hills visible from Highway 1 near Half Moon Bay Airport. It is adjacent to Fitzgerald Marine Reserve and to land owned by the United States Air Force as well as San Mateo County Parks. Located next to Pillar Point Marsh wetlands, the largely coastal terrace prairie terrain is rich in native plant and wildlife habitat considered rare and sensitive by the California Coastal Commission. “Had POST not stepped in to protect this land, it might have become three home sites blocking access to this portion of the bluff,” Rust said.

Toto Ranch near San Gregorio

The largest of the recently acquired properties is Toto Ranch, 952 acres rising up in a series of gentle, grassy slopes along the east side of Highway 1 north of San Gregorio. In a generous bargain sale concluded December 24, Kathleen Scutchfield of Woodside sold the ranch to POST for $3 million. The appraised value of the ranch is more than $7 million; the difference between the appraised value and the sale price is considered a charitable gift for tax purposes.

POST’s purchase of Toto Ranch—one of the largest remaining open space properties on the Coastside—is the result of a longtime relationship with Scutchfield, who last year donated a conservation easement over the ranch to POST. That easement limited the property’s development potential so as to protect natural resources including critical wildlife habitat, important watershed land and panoramic views of the San Gregorio and Tunitas Creek valleys.

“Highway 1 along the San Mateo Coast is a scenic thoroughfare unlike any other in the United States. The acquisition of Toto Ranch, brimming with natural resources, means a significant stretch of this road will maintain its breathtaking impact,” said POST President Audrey Rust. “We are immensely grateful to Kathy Scutchfield for her ongoing generosity to POST. Luxury estates could have covered Toto Ranch as a result of subdivision, but thanks to Kathy’s easement gift and now this bargain sale, this sweeping coastal landscape will be protected forever, avoiding any future threat of development.”

With nearly 200 acres within the Tunitas Creek watershed, Toto Ranch has significant impact on the health of the watershed and of habitat for threatened and endangered animals such as steelhead trout, Coho salmon and California red-legged frogs. The property is also home to bobcats, coyotes, mountain lions white-tailed kite, peregrine falcons, Cooper’s hawks, sharp-shinned hawks and golden eagles. The ranch has a long history of grazing, with a cow/calf operation, sheep and goats pastured there in recent years. Title to the ranch gives POST a chance to steward natural resources on the land while looking for a new conservation owner capable of managing the property long-term. Said POST Executive Vice President Walter T. Moore, “It is remarkable to find a large, intact property like this on the Coastside with easy access to paved roads that has not been parcelized or disturbed by any kind of building.”

32 Acres above Half Moon Bay

POST purchased the 32 acres in Half Moon Bay on December 23 from private owners for $650,000. The land sits near the top of Skyline Ridge and connects Mills Creek Open Space Preserve and Burleigh-Murray State Park. “This strategically located parcel, situated at the heart of 1,600 acres of already protected public lands, shows what a big difference protection of a small property can make,” said Rust. “By protecting this land, we can make sure that recreational trails can be connected, animals can roam freely and people can enjoy uninterrupted views of the Coastside.”

On a clear day, downtown Half Moon Bay and adjacent open lands including POST-protected properties Johnston Ranch, Madonna Creek Ranch, Pillar Point Bluff and Wavecrest are all visible from the property. Twinberry, coyote brush and lizard’s tongue grow profusely on its steep slopes, and dense coastal scrub and Douglas fir top its ridges. All 32 acres are located within the Arroyo Leon watershed, and seasonal Leon Creek runs through the property’s lower portion, providing habitat for steelhead trout, California red-legged frogs and San Francisco garter snakes. Within the next two years, POST anticipates transferring this property to a public agency for long-term protection.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

12,000 acres added to Weaverville Community Forest Southwest of Mount Shasta

excerpted from

12/25/2008--A 13,000-acre forest around Weaverville is now under the watch of the community. The five-member board of the Trinity County Resource Conservation District voted 5-0 late Tuesday afternoon to add 12,000 acres to the 1,000-acre Weaverville Community Forest, said Pat Frost, the resource conservation district manager....Although still considered part of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, the 12,000 acres north of Weaverville will be managed by the district on the behalf of the public...

The district's new agreement with the Forest Service is a 10-year stewardship contract. Heywood said she sees the agreement as the start of a "closer, deeper" relationship between the Forest Service and people who live in and near the woods in Trinity County.
The district already is interested in adding another nearby 2,100 acres of land currently managed by the BLM to the Weaverville Community Forest, but Frost said talks with the agency likely won't start until next year.
More Battling Over Power Lines in the Desert

12/23/2008--Block Energy's Path -- Effort high to keep power lines out of virgin desert
--See comments section at end for L.A. DWP's response

More on Green Path North
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power,
Imperial Irrigation District's Green Path site,
California Desert Coalition,
Alliance for Responsible Energy Policy,
Coachella Valley Coalition,

A Fundraising Appeal from the East SF Bay


The Muir Heritage Land Trust signed an amended agreement this month that adds 60 acres to the 423 acres of Franklin Canyon the group purchased last year. The group will have until June to raise $2.6 million to complete the transaction....The final acreage was purchased for $830,000....Together, the properties create 1,185 acres of contiguous preserved habitat in the Rodeo Creek watershed.

12/17/2008: You’ve seen them, most likely…the hills rising beyond the Franklin Canyon Golf Course, saturated in deep greens, bright golds and subtle browns. For those driving by on Highway 4, they look to be part of the past—wild, mysterious and unchangeable.
Now you can help save these stunning wild lands.

We have signed a purchase agreement for Franklin Canyon—423 acres of gorgeous open space and critical wildlife habitat. Signing the documents was the important first step. But we can’t complete the purchase alone. And we are thrilled that the San Francisco Foundation has already, very generously, contributed $100,000 towards this project. The California State Coastal Conservancy has also expressed strong support for this top priority acquisition. This is a great start, but to complete the purchase, we need you.

Please help by making a generous year-end contribution to the Muir Heritage Land Trust.

The Muir Heritage Land Trust is counting on citizens like you who share our love for Contra Costa’s most precious landscapes. We must raise $2.5 million to secure the acquisition. The money includes the $1.8 million purchase price, costs associated with the sale, restoration and stewardship to allow public access, and support for our vital work.

Your life-supporting gift will protect our vanishing open spaces and the rich diversity they sustain. The Franklin Canyon purchase is a keystone in the Muir Heritage Land Trust’s Keep It Wild Campaign, and helps kick-off our five-year, $8.5 million effort to protect local endangered wild places.

With your support we will:

--Purchase 423 acres of vital Franklin Canyon open space
--Permanently preserve 1,125 contiguous acres, in combination with Fernandez Ranch
--Give endangered species a bigger protected territory and a better chance for survival ;
Protect key watersheds and riparian areas; Leave thousands of native oak trees to stand and thrive; Provide public access and trails for recreation and respite; Provide hands-on environmental education to children and adults; Support restoration and stewardship of the land

overworked webmaster goes mad...starts posting loose news items...



map of lands saved in the Sierra Valley; group is based in Quincy in Plumas County;

Story on 160 acre conservation easement in Sierra Valley

--Also see website for 2007-2008 annual report: lands saved in 07-08 include 160-acre Dan Balderston Ranch in Sierra Valley saved with a conservation easement, 725 acre conservation easement at the Turner Creek Ranch, and contracted to buy the 976 acre Mello Ranch near Loyalton in Sierra County. All total in the FRLT’s history, 12 properties totaling nearly 30,000 acres have been saved in Sierra Valley by FRLT and its partner groups.

High Sierra

on the Sierra Valley, how Sierra County strongly protects its rural qualities, while Plumas county does not



map of land preserved in Placer County

table lists 2687 acres saved since year 2000; around 1500 acres of that total is conservation easements Placer legacy timeline

map of watersheds in Placer County



1580 acre Rockville Trails Estates project in Solano County—9/25/2008



3/20/2001: With a grant in excess of $11 million from the Packard Foundation, UC will acquire the 7,030-acre Virginia Smith Trust parcel northeast of the city of Merced…After acquisition, the university plans to set aside 5,030 acres as a conservation preserve that would protect vernal pool habitat in perpetuity. The remaining 2,000 acres would be used for the proposed new UC Merced campus on the southwest portion of the Virginia Smith Trust lands; the campus portion would include a 750-acre natural reserve of vernal pool habitat protected from development….Triggering the release of $15 million in state-approved habitat acquisition funds from the Wildlife Conservation Board to ensure the conservation of key wetland and vernal pool resources in the surrounding area.

The UC Merced campus is planned to have an area of 2,000 acres, consisting of: 1) a developed campus of 910 acres; 2) a 750-acre natural reserve, and 3) a reserve of 340 acres for future potential development. The Campus will ultimately host 25,000 students. The Campus Community will be a planned development of approximately 2,000 acres that will eventually have about 30,000 residents.

…Under the proposal, the new campus would be situated away from the most sensitive vernal pool areas of the VST site. The new proposal also calls for the University to create the first phase of the campus on the Merced Hills Golf Course, which is part of the VST.



Exeter and Porterville landowners are wary of state park proposals

11-20-2008: The state's proposal would create a 1,000-acre park near Porterville and a 2,300-acre park near Exeter. A third plan would set aside 500 acres of trails along the Kings River near the Tulare County line just below the Pine Flat Dam….Jack Shannon, whose 4,000-acre cattle ranch near Porterville has been in his family for five generations, found out about the proposed Deer Creek park near his property only a few days ago. On Wednesday he made the hour-long drive to Visalia to find out more about the project….Chad Noble's 3,000-acre ranch property would be bisected by the proposed Deer Creek park….

-- Land use issues in foothills- urbanization and development moving up from the valley, relying heavily on groundwater

--New development drawing water from other people’s wells- example: Shaver Lake

--Tulare County directing all growth to the foothills to protect agriculture

--Diverting runoff from the Kings River into the San Joaquin to avoid local flooding of Homeland Ranch (Boswell) which is prime agricultural land.

--Yokohl Valley- proposing to build on a stream corridor,

--Shaver Lake development- will be looking for surface water



According to Tejon’s very own Draft Water Supply Assessment, this is how Centennial will look from the air. It’s beautiful. It’s like the tulip fields. Who needs wildflowers...

7-26-2008: The PdV Wind Energy Project, proposed by enXco, would use 5,820 acres west of Rosamond to generate electricity for Southern California Edison.

web comments on sale of Onyx Ranch

The windmills will be located on the southern-most section of the property, near the intersections of Jawbone Canyon and Kelso Valley Roads. Other areas closer to Lake Isabella will be olive orchards and vineyards. But whether the family gave some land to the BLM for OHV use, whether they held back any for themselves, and whether they kept the mineral rihts remains to be seen. They have always been responsible landowners, and so I can't see too much becoming tract homes.

Pine Tree Wind Development Project by Wind Turbine Prometheus proposes a zone change from E (20) to A and A WE (Wind Energy) on 8,000 acres, along with CUPs to allow construction of a temporary batch plant, located 15 miles northeast of Tehachapi.

Antelope Valley development booster website

photos of Tehachapi region

vague city newsletter mentioning city purchase of portion of Onyx Ranch in the lower Sierra Nevadas



Save Mount Diablo 11/20/2008 news:

Throughout the East Bay (not just around Mt. Diablo) another 30 to 35,000 acres will be acquired and hundreds of recreational projects will be funded during the next twenty years. …In the past twelve months Save Mount Diablo has protected six parcels (through acquisition and land use planning) totaling 399 acres. In addition we are about to transfer our 333-acre Chaparral Spring property to East Bay Regional Park District so that it can be opened to the public. We owned Chaparral Spring for fourteen years until the Park District was ready to manage it….Despite the economic downturn, development threats continue. We helped stop two attempts to break the County Urban Limit line and have responded to 42 other development applications, 14 of which have been largely completed. They range from a single house-site to the reuse of the 5,000 acre Concord Naval Weapons Station.

pictures and text on bay area wild places

Blueridge-Berryessa Natural Area, wildlife and mercury mines

conservation issues in the east SF bay

pictures of the Bay Ridge Trail from Pantoll Station to the Golden Gate Bridge

SF Bay area land preservation statistics and map of Sonoma County

9/2002-Coastal Conservancy’s map of Bay area priorities for agricultural land preservation

open space, habitat, recreation value map of Bay area, 9/2002



Santa Margarita Ranch property on auction block

SOAR proposed in San Luis Obispo county, was rejected by voters in 2000

PGE trails near SLO’s Montana de Oro park



cleveland national forest conservation fund, United Eco Action fund


road impact on carnivore habitat in SoCal


riverside county transportation and land use management agency

RIVERSIDE COUNTY INTEGRATED PROJECT, 2 new freeways planned in Riverside County


Native American Saga, Part 2: So Many Bones, So Little Time

12/14/2008: Tribes fight over bones at Bolsa Chica


On their attempts to purchase of 4000 acre Desert Cahuilla property…AKA the Freeman property

In May of 2006, the Anza-Borrego Foundation was presented with an extraordinary opportunity. Joining a coalition of conservation organizations, we could help purchase 4,000 critical acres in the area – which are “checkerboarded” with land already owned by the State of California.
Eventually, this foothold could include as many as 15,000 acres of new and largely pristine parkland. Over twenty-three square miles!... The Desert Cahuilla area occupies more than 16 square miles of land located north of S22, between the park’s east boundary and Highway 86….With the collapse of the conservation purchase of the Desert Cahuilla property, the stage is now set for California State Parks to acquire the property from TheTrust for Public Land. Initially, the project is subject to a two-stage vote by the Public Works Board: a July 14th vote to “select” the site, and an August 10th vote to
authorize the final purchase of the property.
What is unresolved, at least at this early stage, is how the property will be classified. It could be incorporated into Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, or it could be added to Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation area.


San Bernardino assessor maps


December 15, 2008
Biological Opinion Issued Service Delivers Delta Smelt (OCAP) Biological Opinion to Bureau of Reclamation.

News Release

Complete biological opinion (PDF 8.3 MB)

Official signed version (non-OCR)


Governor’s panel calls for Peripheral Canal again


Calif supreme court rules in favor of CalFed EIR


water project for Vegas starves north Nevada


Calif. Protected areas database/ greeninfo network

maps of calif parks

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

SMMC-MRCA 1/7/2009

National Park Service May Take Over Cold Creek Preserve in Malibu Mountains as Part of 1200 Acre Deal


and other L.A.-Area Mountain Preservation Projects

from 1/7/2009 Meeting of the Mountains Restoration and Conservation Authority
Transfer of 945 acres now owned by the Mountains Restoration Trust to the National Park Service and 304 acres to the MRCA [Attachment 1] [Resolution] [Staff Report] [Map 2] [Map 3] [Map 4] [Map 5] [Map 6] [Map 7] [Map 8] [Map 9] [Map 10] [Map 1]

acquisition of APN 4416-002-014 (approximately 0.33 acres) in the Pacific Palisades
[Map 1] [Map 2] [Staff Report] [Resolution] [Attachment ]

use of Santa Monica Mountains Open Space Preservation Assessment District No. 1 funds for additional option payments on APNs 5565-003-036, 037, 038, 039, 040, and 041 , Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles. [Map] [Attachment 1] [Attachment 2] [Attachment 3] [Attachment 4] [Map 2] [Map 3] [Map 4] [Staff Report] [Resolution]

$1.5 million for Ballona Creek accessways
[Staff Report]

grant from the Conservancy Fund to restore approximately seven acres of habitat in the Gopher Canyon tributary of Browns Canyon owned by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority and acceptance of said funds, unincorporated Los Angeles County.
[Staff Report] [Resolution]



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