In a move that ensures the lasting protection of some of California’s most ecologically important landscapes, the state of California today approved a grant to fund the purchase of conservation easements on 62,000 acres of the Tejon Ranch. The $15.8 million grant will establish one of the largest conservation easements in California history. The action marks a key step in the implementation of the 2008 Tejon Ranch Conservation Agreement, in which Audubon California and four other conservation organizations worked with the Tejon Ranch Company to protect up to 240,000 acres of spectacular California wildlands. That agreement created an option to purchase easements within two years on the 62,000 acres in question, which the landowner considered the best opportunities for future development.
“While the 2008 agreement was a landmark achievement for the conservation of these lands, today’s vote settles the question about this 62,000 acres at ease as the state has stepped forward to permanently protect these vital landscapes,” said Graham Chisholm, executive director of Audubon California. “This grant cements an unprecedented conservation victory and also ensures that these spectacular landscapes can be shared with the public.”
The easements are being purchased by the independent Tejon Ranch Conservancy, which was created as part of the 2008 agreement, through a grant provided by the State Wildlife Conservation Board. Audubon California will play a special role on behalf of the conservation groups that signed the 2008 agreement by holding third-party enforcement rights should the easements ever be violated.
The properties in question represent some of the very best wildlife habitats on the ranch, including the wildflower-rich grasslands and desert scrub in Los Angeles County to the south, and the oak woodlands, savannahs and streams in the Kern County northern section.
The wildlife diversity in these areas is equally as rich. The Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle, Burrowing Owl, Swainson’s Hawk, Tricolored Blackbird, Loggerhead Shrike and many other bird species call these areas home, as does the federally endangered San Joaquin kit fox.
“The Tejon Ranch Conservation Agreement is an inspiring example of what can be achieved when business, environmental, and political leaders come together on the side of conservation,” said David Yarnold, Audubon President & CEO.
The conservation easements will restrict the landowner, the Tejon Ranch Company, from expanding beyond its current use on the properties, and give the Conservancy a role in working with the ranch on the land’s long-term management. The Conservancy will be stepping up public access to these sites to a much greater extent.