Tejon Ranch...National Park?
By Patric Hedlund, Mountain Enterprise | May 25, 2007
On Endangered Species Day Friday May 18, a call to the public was issued by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club and affiliated groups to mobilize "political will" to purchase 270,000 acres of Tejon Ranch for a new national or state park.
Biologists spoke at the new Wind Wolves Preserve office facility, saying "Tejon is a critical wildlife migration corridor connecting the Sierra Nevada, Mojave Desert, Central Valley and South Coast," vital for survival of numerous plant and animal species and "the last place where transfer of genetic material can now occur in unrestricted corridors between northern and southern California habitats." Biologists said that failing to secure the region for preservation would create isolated genetic islands that could result in 'die-off' of endangered species populations.
Barry Zoeller, Vice President of Corporate Communications for Tejon Ranch Company replied, "It's important that California address its chronic shortage of housing that causes it to be the least affordable housing market in the continental US, robbing thousands of the opportunity to own and enjoy their own homes. We believe we have a responsibility to help address that need."
Zoeller's history of Tejon Ranch and its vision for the future, including Tejon Mountain Village (to be built in California condor habitat) was given an award by Kern Press Club Friday for best public affairs brochure of 2006. He wrote in an email regarding the park proposal: "Tejon Ranch Company's vision for the future of its land is a well-balanced one. It's a vision that preserves the best of the ranch—both in land and in legacy, while also providing for California's future."
Center for Biological Diversity attorney Adam Keats said "the only housing crisis that multimillion dollar vacation homes built on [Tejon Mountain Village] ridge lines will solve is for jet setters from Monaco. Meanwhile, the rest of the nation (and the world) will be losing traditional habitat of its most ancient, most majestic and most endangered species, the California condor."
Over $43 million has been invested by the American public to preserve these birds with a 12-foot wingspan. The captive breeding program is now into the re-release phase.
Tejon Ranch sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to prevent re-release of condors on neighboring Wind Wolves Preserve because the birds would return to their traditional habitat on ridges contained within Tejon Ranch property—posing a complication for development plans.