Major Habitat Conservation Plan Approved for Tejon Ranch

A multiple species habitat conservation plan recently approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) allows for development of California’s largest contiguous expanse of private land, Tejon Ranch, while protecting the California condor, golden eagle, and 23 other rare species.

Founded in 1843, Tejon Ranch comprises 270,000 acres, largely within Kern County, and provides habitat to hundreds of common and sensitive plant and animal species.

Fifteen years in the making, the Tehachapi Uplands Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (TUMSHCP) was prepared by Tejon Ranch Company and its partner, DMB Pacific Ventures, in cooperation with the USFWS. The TUMSHCP provides federal oversight to the conservation strategies that were envisioned by several of the nation’s leading environmental advocates (Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Audubon California, Endangered Habitats League, and the Planning and Conservation League) when they entered into the historic Tejon Ranch Conservation and Land Use Agreement. Specifically, it will protect wildlife habitat and enhance species conservation on 141,866 acres of ranch lands and is the first such plan to focus primarily on conserving habitat for the iconic California condor.

As the primary author and conservation planners/biologists for the TUMSHCP, Dudek was part of the original team that converted the single-species condor HCP that had been years in preparation to a comprehensive multiple-species HCP that reflects the conservation goals and strategies of the Tejon Ranch Conservation and Land Use Agreement. In preparing the TUMSHCP, Dudek brought together top condor biologists to assist in developing a conservation and management plan for the species that supported the ongoing recovery and conservation efforts of the USFWS.

Dudek’s team of biologists and planners, together with Tejon Ranch and DMB Pacific Ventures, worked closely with USFWS staff throughout the entire conservation planning process to ensure that the final plan accurately incorporated the conservation and land use goals and objectives of both Tejon Ranch and the USFWS. Dudek is beginning to support implementation of the TUMSHCP for the ranch.

The service’s approval of the plan provides a 50-year incidental take permit to the Tejon Ranch Company for the condor and 24 other species, which will give the company the certainty that it needs to ensure compliance with the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) when it proceeds with various land-use and development activities. The service’s permit does not authorize lethal take of a condor.

Of the 141, 866 acres covered by the plan, that includes a 5,553-acre mountain resort and other development, more than 129,000 acres will be conserved in perpetuity. The conserved lands include a 37,100-acre upper elevation area of the ranch historically and currently used by California condors that has been designated as a Condor Study Area. Also included as part of the conservation plan are provisions to fund additional radio-telemetry studies for condors, the hiring of a full-time condor biologist, and continued ranching and hunting activities that have served as an ongoing source of food for condors. The ranch will also continue to enforce the lead ammunition ban that it implemented in 2008.

“The end result is an incredible success story for the HCP process with the signing of this permit covering nearly 142,000 acres of incredible California landscape and protecting not only the California condor, but 24 additional species as well,” said Tejon Ranch Company President and CEO Robert A. Stine.