Conservation Significance of Tejon
Ranch Executive Summary
is a precious and irreplaceable piece of California's natural heritage--a
hotspot of biological diversity
that lies at the confluence of
four major biogeographic regions. It is a haven for rare and endemic
species, ancient oak trees, endangered California condors, rare native
communities, and intact watersheds and streams--and all so near the
largest metropolitan area in California.
This report synthesizes available scientific information for the
Tejon Ranch region to raise public awareness about its significance
of natural diversity and to encourage comprehensive, landscape-level
planning to protect its unique values. We present this information
in the hope it
will inspire the Ranch's owners, the public, and governmental decision-makers
to work together to protect this unspoiled natural treasure.
Since the early years of California statehood, Tejon Ranch has served
as a natural laboratory for scientists studying natural history,
biogeography, and the products and processes of evolution. Historic
field studies here
in the late 1850s significantly advanced scientific knowledge about
and animals of the West, and ongoing research in the region continues
to further our understanding of how species and ecological communities
function, and interact. Scientists have demonstrated how dramatic
geological and climate changes have produced an amazing history for
the Tejon Ranch
region--a crucible of evolutionary innovation and species diversification.
The 270,000-acre Tejon Ranch lies at the crossroads of five geomorphic
provinces and four floristic regions--circumstances unmatched anywhere
else in California.
This remarkable conjoining of diverse biological communities occurs
within a global biodiversity hotspot known as the California Floristic
Tejon Ranch is emblematic of this diversity:
- It potentially supports as many
as 20 state and federally listed species and over 60 other rare species,
including many species or subspecies that
occur nowhere else on earth!
- It supports 23 different vegetation communities,
a high percentage of the total number of communities in the region,
and over one-third
of the oak
species in California, including some of the largest individual
oaks in the state!
The Ranch supports several habitat types that are rare
and under-protected in the region, including grasslands, fir forests,
and significant stands
of valley and blue oak woodlands. The Ranch's grasslands, in particular,
represent a final opportunity to preserve a connection between grasslands
remaining on the western and eastern flanks of the San Joaquin Valley,
which are otherwise becoming isolated into non-interacting and therefore
ecological communities. Moreover, substantial conservation of the
Ranch is crucial to maintaining the viability of existing conservation
in the region, such as the Sequoia and Los Padres National Forests
Wolves Preserve, which depend on unrestricted movement of the species
Tejon Ranch's long history of use as a working ranch and haven for
sportsmen has helped maintain its biological values in the face of
rapid development and agricultural conversion. The Ranch is, so far,
and unfragmented by urbanization. It therefore supports something
very rare in southern California--intact, healthy watersheds and
serves as a core biological resource area--large enough and pristine
enough to support such wide-ranging species as mountain lions and
to accommodate large-scale ecological processes such as natural fire
cycles. Conserving much of the Ranch in its existing state is essential
these characteristics and values. State and local agencies and environmental
organizations have already recognized the historical significance,
unique biological characteristics, and important resource values
of Tejon Ranch:
- Tejon Ranch meets nearly all of the Priority Criteria
for Conservation established by the California Resources Agency.
California Wilderness Coalition named Tejon Ranch one of California's
Ten Most Threatened Wild Places.
- Audubon California has identified the Tehachapi
Mountains around Tejon as an Important Bird Area.
- Los Angeles County has
designated Significant Ecological Areas on the Ranch and is considering
expanding the area under this
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated
a significant part of the Ranch as Critical
Habitat for the endangered
California condor and important for recovery of many other endangered
San Joaquin Valley
Significant urbanization is proposed for the Ranch, threatening
to fragment and degrade this remarkable natural area
and the surrounding region.
Decisions over the fate of Tejon Ranch, and implications
to the region,
be made via comprehensive, multi-jurisdictional planning
at a regional scale. Such planning should occur in a
be guided by the
best available science to balance economic development
of the Ranch's irreplaceable natural values.
California's heritage and future quality of life are
at stake in the decisions that are being made today.