Earth Island News
Project to Document Endangered S. California Wildlands
Project will document the "last best Southern California wildlands"
California's largest privately owned open space is on the chopping block.
Rugged and beautiful, the scene of glorious annual wildflower displays, Tejon Ranch is the last large piece of open space between the Central Valley and the South Coast -- the two areas of California with the fastest-growing populations.
As sprawl approaches from both north and south, the management of Tejon Ranch has decided it's time to cash in on this spectacular resource: they're developing it piece by massive piece. Plans are in the works for a city of 70,000 people at the ranch's summit near Gorman, and construction of an industrial park is well underway on the San Joaquin Valley floor -- bringing hundreds of additional diesel trucks a day into a basin that already has some of the worst air quality in the nation.
This development would be frighteningly destructive no matter where in California it was, but Tejon Ranch's location makes the development plans even worse. Because of its position in the Tehachapis, the ranch is a crucial wildlife migration corridor and open space linkage between the Central Valley, the South Coast, the Coast Ranges near Santa Barbara, the southern Sierra Nevada, and the Mojave Desert.
Losing Tejon Ranch wouldn't mean just paving over some of the best wildflower meadows in the Southlands. It wouldn't mean just more commute traffic along I-5 and the Antelope Valley Freeway.
Losing Tejon Ranch would mean forever losing the chance to make the disconnected public lands along the Southlands' ridgetops into viable contiguous habitat for condors, pumas, coyotes, and -- should they be reintroduced -- wolves and grizzlies. Losing Tejon Ranch would forever alter the face of southern California.
In June, a spate of newspaper articles announced a deal between the Tejon Ranch and the Trust for Public Land to protect a third of the ranch from development. The agreement is an important step toward protecting the ranch, but the land covered by the preservation agreement wasn't slated for development in the first place -- it's either too steep or too remote from major highways.
Meanwhile, the crucial wildlife habitat on the ranch is being eyed through surveyors' transits. If we don't act, we might see some of the last best landscape in California go under bulldozers' treads, to be replaced with yet another city.
But the wild Tejon can still be saved -- as long as people are made aware of its natural riches.
That's why Faultline has launched the Tejon Ranch Photographic Survey: a collection-in-progress of compelling photos of the irreplaceable wildlife and native plants of Tejon Ranch, intended to help public officials make educated decisions about the ranch, and to drive public awareness of the threat of development -- through traveling exhibits, loans of images to grassroots and community groups, and a permanent Web gallery on Faultline's site.