Lois Grunwald, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office: 805/644-1766, ext. 332; cell: 805/794-0225
The U.S. Fish and Wildife Service (Service) is announcing an opportunity for further public input on a draft plan that would limit the environmental impacts to threatened and endangered species of planned residential development and ranch activities on Tejon Ranch in southern Kern County, California.
The documents - a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under the National Environmental Policy Act and a draft Tehachapi Uplands Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP) - are available for public review and comment until May 5, 2009. The previous public comment period had extended until April 22, 2009. The draft EIS and draft MSHCP were initially made available for public review and comment on January 23, 2009.
The draft Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP), authored by Tejon Ranch Company with input from the Service, describes measures to be taken by Tejon Ranch to minimize and mitigate effects of its actions on native plants and wildlife, including California condors.
"The draft MSHCP has been developed with the utmost concern for the conservation of the California condor," said Diane Noda, field supervisor for the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office.
"The plan is a good example of what can be achieved when all parties respect each other?s interests and goals," added Noda. "While we have worked hard to assist Tejon in developing an MSHCP that effectively conserves a wide variety of species, we also value the input we receive during the public review period."
The draft EIS analyzes the environmental impacts of issuing the 50-year incidental take permit to Tejon Ranch Company for on-going ranch activities and a planned community development.
An incidental take permit authorizes the incidental take of a listed species, and does not authorize the activities that result in take. Take is defined in the Endangered Species Act as harass, harm, pursue, wound, kill, hunt, capture, shoot, trap or collect a threatened or endangered species, or attempt to do any of these activities. No condors would be permitted to be killed under a permit issued by the Service.
The draft MSHCP describes measures which would minimize and mitigate effects of its activities on 27 native plants, animals, and their habitats on 141,886 acres of Tejon Ranch, including a 5,533-acre development adjacent to the Interstate 5 corridor and Lebec community in Kern County. The incidental take permit would also cover ongoing historic uses of the property, such as grazing and film production. The permit would not cover take caused by hunting or mineral extraction.
The MSHCP describes how Tejon Ranch would minimize, avoid, and mitigate for possible impacts from its activities to four animals listed as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act, and 23 other animals and plants, some listed by the California Department of Fish and Game. Federally-listed and candidate species included in the proposed habitat conservation plan include the California condor, the least Bells vireo, the southwestern willow flycatcher, the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, and the western yellow-billed cuckoo. In the MSHCP, and consistent with a previous agreement between Tejon Ranch Company, the Sierra Club, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Endangered Habitats League, and Planning and Conservation League, part of the compensation for Tejons activities would be the prohibition of development on 93,522 acres, including a 37,100-acre ridge-line area of the ranch most likely used by condors and that is part of a Condor Study Area. Additionally, approximately 23,001 acres would be preserved as open space within Tejon Mountain Village.
The MSHCP would require that a biologist monitor ranch activities to reduce the potential for contact between people and condors. In addition, conditions and restrictions on residential development would be in place and rigorously enforced by Tejon Ranch to minimize impacts to condors.
Other mitigation in the MSHCP includes a permanent ban on lead ammunition implemented by Tejon Ranch Company on Tejon Ranchs 270,000-acre property in January 2008. The ingestion of lead has been the leading cause of mortality in condors.
Comments on the draft MSCHP and draft EIS can be sent via email to: email@example.com"> or mailed to Mary Grim at the Services Pacific-Southwest Regional Office, 2800 Cottage Way, Room W-2606, Sacramento, Calif. 95825, or Steve Kirkland at the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, Calif. 93003.
The Draft EIS and associated documents, including Tejon Ranch Companys Tehachapi Uplands MSHCP, can be viewed and downloaded at the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Offices web site at: http://www/fws.gov/ventura or can be obtained at the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office by writing to the above address.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is to work with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov">.