Tejon Conservancy Wins OK on $15.8 Million Passthrough from State to Tejon Ranch Company

LEBEC, Calif. (Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010, 12:30 p.m.)—This news release has just been received from Tejon Ranch Conservancy. It confirms that the Wildlife Conservation Board has agreed to a $15.8 million grant that will pass through the Conservancy to the Tejon Ranch Company for conservation easements. Here is the unedited press release:

Tejon Ranch Conservancy secures grant to protect more than 62,000 acres of outstanding habitat

Lebec, Calif. – The Tejon Ranch Conservancy today secured state funding to purchase conservation easements on more than 62,000 acres of outstanding wildlife habitat in Los Angeles and Kern counties. The $15.8 million grant from the Wildlife Conservation Board will enable the Conservancy to become the holder of some of the largest conservation easements in California.

The purchase of the easements also marks a key step in the implementation of the 2008 Tejon Ranch Conservation Agreement, in which five conservation organizations worked with the Tejon Ranch Company to protect up to 240,000 acres of spectacular California wildlands. The agreement, which also established the independent Tejon Ranch Conservancy, conveyed options to purchase conservation easements on five separate areas of Tejon Ranch totaling 62,000 acres. The Tejon Ranch Company had always viewed the five areas as presenting the best opportunities for future development.

“The Wildlife Conservation Board’s vote to fund these acquisitions today is a decisive step in the future of conservation of these incredible landscapes,” said Tom Maloney, Executive Director of the Tejon Ranch Conservancy. “With these protections in place, the Conservancy truly becomes a land trust by holding some of the largest conservation easements in the State.”

The five properties represent some of the very best habitats on Tejon Ranch and exemplify the Ranch’s ecological diversity. They include Joshua tree woodlands, oak woodlands, Mojave Desert grasslands, riparian woodlands and San Joaquin Valley grasslands. In particular, the properties are well known for their spectacular wildflower displays in the spring.

“This project presents an opportunity for all of us to participate in the preservation of a historical legacy that has been part of California since 1843,” said John Donnelly, Executive Director of the Wildlife Conservation Board. “The beauty and richness of the rugged hills and vistas that surround and define the Tejon Ranch are constant reminders of why we need to protect this natural wonder for generations to come.”

The conservation easements allow the landowner, the Tejon Ranch Company, to largely continue current ranching and hunting uses on the properties. The easements also enable the Conservancy to manage those uses in a way that may enhance the native diversity of the land. The Conservancy has partnered with Audubon California, the California Native Plant Society, and other naturalist groups to engage “citizen scientists” in its efforts to document the incredible ecology of these areas to inform its future management activities.

The Tejon Ranch Conservancy has already initiated an active schedule of guided public access hikes on the easement properties in cooperation with Tejon Ranch Company. The Conservancy’s public access program provides opportunities to experience first-hand the natural resources of Tejon Ranch that have largely been off-limits to the general public. The easements funded by Wildlife Conservation Board today enable the Conservancy to continue and expand the offerings for public access to these areas.

About the Tejon Ranch Conservancy
The mission of the Tejon Ranch Conservancy is to preserve, enhance, and restore the native biodiversity and ecosystem values of the Tejon Ranch and Tehachapi Range for the benefit of California’s future generations. The Conservancy will work collaboratively with the Tejon Ranch Company and others to promote the long-term science-based stewardship of the Ranch and to provide for public benefits through educational and public access programs.

Learn more at www.tejonranchconservancy.org.

This is part of the November 12, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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