CALIFORNIA NATIVE PLANT SOCIETY
Channel Islands Chapter
Conservation Issue: Newhall Ranch
Last updated: 29 September 2017
The Newhall Land and Farming Company, a large privately held corporation (now part of Lennar Homes) in eastern Ventura County and western Los Angeles County, is proposing to build a new city (called Newhall Ranch) on their property just east of Ventura County, on the north slopes of the Santa Susana Mountains and west of Valencia and of Magic Mountain.   This proposed project will have tremendous impacts on the natural and human environment.   Below is a history of the project, most of which is summarized from a series of articles that appeared in the Channel Islands Chapter newsletters, Matilija Copy.   While the Newhall Ranch Specific Plan has been approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, your help with this fight the specific project developments within the Specific Plan Area to protect the environment is urgently needed.   The history is presented in chronological order, with the most current information at the bottom of this page.
CNPS Submits Comments on NOP
Even though the environmental community, the County of Ventura, and others defeated Los Angeles County and Newhall Land and Farming Company (and their consultants Impact Sciences) in a court battle in 2000, Newhall is coming back and trying to cram their huge development (of 24,000 homes and 70,000 people) down our throats.   But not without another fight.   CNPS provided comments in November 2000 on their new Notice of Preparation (NOP) on what and how they should address the environmental issues of the proposed project.   Download CNPS Newhall NOP Comments (Cover Letter) [pdf].   Even before the NOP comment deadline had closed, Impact Sciences had already prepared and submitted their administrative draft documents to Los Angeles County for review (not to the public however).   And, as you might guess, they totally ignored the comments CNPS, and others, submitted on the NOP (but then again, how could they have even considered them since they had already written their document).   Needless to say, this project would have huge impacts on the environment (directly and indirectly, locally and regionally) of Ventura County, not to mention northwestern Los Angeles County.   And guess what, Impact Sciences claims that the development will not have any significant impacts on the Ventura County environment.   But then, they did not use scientific methods as we know them to make their conclusions, they used their own brand of logic, which is entirely flawed (illogical).   I guess the good news is that since the environmental document they prepared is so bad, it will be easy to have it thrown out by the courts again.   What a waste of time and money by Newhall to prepare an environmental document that guarantees a lawsuit, and losing their case.   Why don’t they just do it right and save everyone a lot of time and money, including themselves?   Stay tuned.
Endangered San Fernando Valley Spineflower on Newhall Ranch?
Last newsletter (January 2001) CNPS described recent events on what is happening with the Newhall Ranch development project in western Los Angeles County immediately east of the Ventura County line along State Route 126 and the Santa Clara River.   CNPS wants to make a correction to the first sentence of that article.   “Even though the environmental community, Ventura County, and others defeated Los Angeles County and Newhall Land and Farming Company (and their consultants Impact Sciences) in a court battle last year, Newhall is coming back and trying to cram their huge development (of 24,000 homes and 70,000 people) down our throats”.   This sentence inadvertently suggested that the environmental consultant to Newhall Land and Farming Company (Impact Sciences) was named in the lawsuit that Ventura County and the environmental community filed, and won, on the previous EIR for the project.   Impact Sciences was not a named party in that lawsuit, as the consultants that typically prepare EIRs for lead agencies such as Los Angeles County or City of Oxnard are not specifically named, only the lead agency and the project proponent.   The president of Impact Sciences complained about the inference, and CNPS hereby retracts any such inference.
At this writing, there have been no new developments with this project, other than the fact that several populations of the endangered San Fernando Valley Spineflower are known to occur on Newhall’s property.   The frustrating, and in CNPS' opinion, paranoid and narrow-minded thinking of Newhall, they will not share their knowledge of this with the interested public, and refuse to let resource agencies (i.e. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Game) or CNPS onto their property to examine this fabulous resource.   Seems to me they have something to hide.   This attitude certainly does not create a level of trust with what they say.
Draft Additional Analysis Available to Public
Newhall Ranch Specific Plan EIR.   The Newhall Ranch development is back in the public review period, with the release of Newhall’s “Draft Additional Analysis” that Impact Sciences prepared as a consultant directly to Newhall.   Even though all California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) documents are to be prepared by the lead agency, in this case the County of Los Angeles Regional Planning, lets developers hire the consultant directly, and then the County accepts it as if it was prepared directly on behalf of the County.   The County doesn’t appear to assert any real quality control over Newhall’s consultant.   L.A. County is one of the only jurisdictions in California that allows CEQA documents to be prepared in this way, which smacks of real conflicts-of-interest issues when a critical document is prepared by the applicant.   Some lead agencies go so far as to forbid the EIR consultant to talk to the applicant to prevent any such conflicts, not L.A. County.   As evidenced by the first EIR prepared by Impact Sciences for Newhall on this project, the courts threw the EIR out as insufficient in meeting minimum standards under CEQA.   Did you know that the L.A. County planner position for this project paid for entirely by Newhall Land and Farming Company?   That sounds like a situation with great potential for bias in favor of Newhall.
Now Newhall and their consultants are back with their “Additional Analysis” to try to satisfy the judge.   (What type of document is an “Additional Analysis”?   There is no such thing in CEQA.)   The judge specifically identified a number of issues that were not properly assessed, to which Newhall and Impact Sciences are taking very narrow views on how to address them and keeping many of their analyses to the bare minimum to try to get by.
CNPS submitted detailed comments on the Notice of Preparation for the “Additional Analysis,” which Newhall and Impact Sciences basically ignored.   Impact Sciences claims that the building of 5,100+ acres near the Ventura County line with houses, roads, industrial, and commercial development (and eventually 70,000 residents) will not have a significant impact on the biological resources of Ventura County, but they fail to provide any substantial evidence to support their claims, just their opinions.   Did Impact Sciences consider CNPS’s comments on the NOP?   For the most part, no, at least not on the issues of most importance.   What they did do was include a list of the biologists that worked on it, which is required by CEQA.   They did not even mention the presence of the San Fernando Valley Spineflower (Chorizanthe parryi var. fernandina) within the Newhall Specific Plan area, which we know occurs there.   They also did not mention the presence of the Arroyo Toad, another listed species recently discovered on Newhall lands.   They did not conduct any surveys for lichens or plant species of local concern.   They did not follow proper protocols for conducting botanical or wildlife field surveys, even though they claimed to do so.
CNPS Comments on Draft Additional Analysis
The public review period for the huge Newhall Ranch development CEQA documents has closed, at least on the draft EIR.   David Magney, on behalf of CNPS, with assistance from Dr. Shawn Smallwood, a certified wildlife biologist, prepared extensive critical comments (78 pages of them) on Newhall’s “Draft Additional Analysis” that Impact Sciences prepared as a consultant directly to Newhall. Click here to download a (pdf) copy of CNPS’s letter.
As an example of how we believe Newhall, Impact Sciences, and L.A. County have utterly failed to comply adequately with CEQA again, they never once mentioned that the endangered San Fernando Valley Spineflower has been found in the Newhall Ranch Specific Plan Area.   In addition, Newhall refuses to let any independent biologists or agency biologists onto the property.   Do you think they can be trusted?   This project would have tremendous impacts on the biological resources of the region, including loss of rare upland habitats and the Santa Clara River, and would significantly increase traffic on State Route 126.   Please send letters to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors to oppose this project.   We don’t need it, it will seriously impact our native plants, it will degrade the human environment, and it will not provide any benefit to society, only money in the pockets of the developer.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors postponed their hearing on the huge urban sprawl project proposed by Newhall Land and Farming Company, in part to give them time to review the legal aspects of two recent court cases that have bearing on the Newhall Development project.   The Friends of the Santa Clara River, of which CNPS is a member, recently won a lawsuit on water availability for the development, which could present difficulties for Newhall.   Newhall had been clearing land on portions of the development site under the name of “agricultural practices"; however, they failed to obtain the required grading permits from the County, who were forced to issue a cease-and-desist order on Newhall at the urging of the CDFG.   The “additional analysis” Impact Sciences did on behalf of Newhall for L.A. County never bothered to mention that the San Fernando Valley Spineflower has been found on the ranch and on Magic Mountain property.   Why not?   Are they trying to hide something?   It is CNPS’s opinion that the impact assessment was entirely inadequate and did not fairly or truthfully assess potential project-related impacts to the environment.   Your lives and lifestyle WILL be adversely affected by this project if it is approved.   Ventura County is fighting this project because of the impacts it will have on the citizens of Ventura County.
Below are some aerial photographs of the Grapevine Mesa portion of Newhall Ranch taken by CNPS to document the destruction of San Fernando Valley Spineflower and natural habitats, with aerial photography from AirPhotoUSA before the grading occurred.
Delay Continues Due to Investigation
A decision on the massive Newhall Ranch Specific Plan in the Santa Clara River Valley/on the east end of the Santa Susana Mountains just east of Ventura County has been delayed again by Los Angeles County.   Newhall Land & Farming Company (Newhall) is in trouble!   Newhall is being investigated for criminal and civil violations of the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) because they illegally graded areas that had supported the endangered San Fernando Valley Spineflower [SFVS] (Chorizanthe parryi var. fernandina), which was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered at the Ahmanson Ranch site in 1999.   Around the same time or a little earlier, a specimen showed up for identification at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, but lacking locality data.   Where did it come from?   The botanist who submitted the specimen for identification isn’t telling because her client has forbidden her from doing so.   She submitted a specimen for identification to the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in 2000 from the “Castaic area”, but was prohibited from disclosing the exact location by her client, Newhall.   This is a common and routine practice by Newhall, forbidding all botanists working for them from disclosing any of their survey findings.   Was the specimen from the Newhall Ranch?   The botanist who found it won’t tell because she is forbidden to do so by a confidentiality agreement required by their client.   Why would Newhall, or any client, require such a gag?   CNPS can think of only one reason, so they can hide the information from the permitting and regulatory agencies during the environmental review process.   Of course, this would be fraud, but how would anyone find out?
The EIRs prepared by Newhall on their project NEVER reported the occurrence of SFVS on their project site, even though Newhall admitted it was present on Grapevine Mesa on 6 June 2000 when Mark Subbotin of Newhall faxed a map to Diana Hickson of the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG).   During their search, under a search warrant, CDFG found numerous “populations” of SFVS on Newhall’s development site, specifically on Grapevine and Airport Mesas, many of which had been disturbed by illegal grading activities, in direct violation of the CESA and CEQA.   Newhall was cited by Los Angeles County for the illegal grading, and forbade CDFG from inspecting the population Newhall had previously reported occurring on Grapevine Mesa.   Why?   Newhall has a long history of violating environmental laws, and getting away with it because the state and federal agencies are understaffed, Newhall's consultants are gagged, and Newhall contributes handsomely to local, regional, and statewide politicians.   Is that right?   Absolutely not!   CNPS hopes that all the environmental crimes committed by Newhall will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and that all damaged biological resources are properly restored.   Otherwise, why have the laws at all?
Presumed Extinct Plant Discovered on Newhall Ranch
Botanists subcontracted to Dudeck & Associates, a consulting firm working for Newhall Land & Farming Co. on the Newhall Ranch development project found the Los Angeles Sunflower (Helianthus nuttallii ssp. parishii), a plant thought to be extinct, which had not been seen since 1937.   The plant was apparently found in a boggy area of the Santa Clara River in Newhall Ranch someplace, but Newhall won’t tell exactly where yet.   A Newhall spokesman said that Newhall has sent a letter to CDFG to request that the Los Angeles Sunflower be listed under the California Endangered Species Act.   Newhall claims that this important discovery will in no way affect their plans for their new city.   That remains to be seen.
Charges Filed Against Newhall Land & Farming Company
The Los Angeles County District Attorney filed charges against Newhall for violating Section 1600 et seq. of the California Fish and Game Code.   That is, Newhall mucked around in a creek without a permit.   The maximum fine is $1,000 for each incident, which will certainly set Newhall back financially for years!   Apparently, other charges for other environmental crimes are pending.
This is likely the first in several misdemeanor civil and criminal charges to be filed against the Newhall Land and Farming Company for violations of the California Fish and Game Code.   The maximum fine for violating Section 1600 of the Fish and Game Code (filling streams without a permit) is a paltry $1,000.   This small amount certainly is not a deterrent to large corporations such as Newhall.   Our environmental laws are extremely weak when it comes to punishment for willful violators.   Call your state representative and encourage them to make our environmental laws stronger, so that they will truly provide our most sensitive biological resources real legal protection.
The following is an article from the 9 October 2002 Los Angeles Daily News.
"Newhall Land Denies Illegal Grading" - By Daily News Staff
SANTA CLARITA - The Newhall Land and Farming Company pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a charge of illegally altering a streambed on the site of the proposed 22,000-home Newhall Ranch project.   The company claims it's trying to understand the complaint that says the violation occurred on 20 acres it graded for to farm Agave, which is used to make tequila, but plans to ask the Los Angeles District's Attorney's Office to dismiss the case.   “We are very confident that there were no violations of any of the codes related to streambed alteration in that area,” said Marlee Lauffer, Newhall Land spokeswoman.   “We are trying to understand what these allegations are.” Maureen O'Brien, deputy district attorney, said her office plans to proceed with the case.   It's scheduled for trial on Nov. 20 in Newhall Superior Court. If convicted, Newhall Land faces a fine of up to $1,000.   The charge comes in the midst of an investigation that began last spring into accusations that the developer cleared habitat for the endangered San Fernando Valley Spineflower under the guise of grading land for farming, state Fish and Game Department officials said.   The misdemeanor count represents a violation of the state Fish and Game Code, officials said. Investigators believe the company graded the land in an effort to clear it of an endangered species.
Finally, the Los Angeles Times wrote a good article about Newhall Ranch and their destroying populations of the San Fernando Spineflower and the ethical problems associated with developers like Newhall Land & Farming requiring consultants to sign confidentiality agreements.   The purpose is quite obvious.
Revised Draft Additional Analysis Available to Public
The Revised Draft Additional Analysis (Los Angeles County Project Number 94-087) CEQA document is out and available for public review.   Copies of the document can be found at the Fillmore, Piru, and E.P. Foster, and Blanchard Community Libraries in Ventura County and at several libraries in the Santa Clarita area.   The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the Newhall Ranch development project on Tuesday, 28 January 2003 at 9:30 A.M. in Room 381B, Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, 500 West Temple St., Los Angeles, CA 90012. Your attendance is requested.   Let us assure you, you WILL be impacted by this project, as well as significant botanical and wildlife resources.
The proposed project will, if approved, consist of over 21,000 dwelling units, commercial and business uses, and lots of infrastructure (roads, pipelines, bridges, etc.) at the southeast “corner” of I-5 and SR126 (west of Magic Mountain) on the eastern end of the Santa Susana Mountains and along the Santa Clara River.
Additional Analysis Approved by Los Angeles Supervisors
As you likely read in the newspapers, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to approve Newhall Land & Farming Company’s “Additional Analysis” (L.A. County Project Number 94-087) prepared by their consultants, Impact Sciences.   CNPS reviewed the information and found it to be lacking/inadequate, although at least this time they owned up to actually having lots of San Fernando Valley Spineflower (Chorizanthe parryi var. fernandina).   The project will consist of over 21,000 dwelling units, commercial and business uses, and lots of infrastructure (roads, pipelines, bridges, etc.) at the southeast “corner” of I-5 and SR 126 on the eastern end of the Santa Susana Mountains and along the Santa Clara River.   The Kern County courts will now review the new document and Supervisors’ decision and determine if they are adequate, this because the “Additional Analysis” was required by the judge for a previous CEQA lawsuit.
Los Angeles Sunflower Update
Recent taxonomic studies (as of November 2006) have suggested that the plant found is likely not Helianthus nuttallii ssp. parishii; rather, it is an unnamed subspecies, yet to be formally described.   Regardless, that means the sunflower found at Newhall Ranch is indeed a very rare plant!   Very exciting!!!
Moving forward in time to 2010 and the name given to this plant is Helianthus inexpectus, Newhall Ranch Sunflower.   It is known ONLY from a freshwater spring next to the Santa Clara River on Newhall Ranch.
Newhall Ranch Specific Plan San Fernando Valley Spineflower Plan and Wetland Permit DEIR/EIS
Newhall Ranch has applied for permits from the California Department of Fish and Game to "take" at least 30 percent of the occupyied habitat for the San Fernando Valley Spineflower, which is state-listed as Endangered.   Newhall Ranch has also applied for permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to fill jurisdictional waters of the U.S. and wetlands, lots of acres.   These two permits require environmental review through the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), respectively.   CNPS and the Friends of the Santa Clara River provided comments on the DEIR through DMEC in August 2009.
Read the DMEC comments on the DEIR/EIS [PDF].   The Final EIR/EIS on the SFVS Plan and wetland permitting was issued in June 2010; however, CDFG has yet to publish their decision on the "incidental take" permit and the U.S. EPA is telling the Corps that the environmental assessement is flawed.   A legal challenge is almost certain when the issue is ripe.
A review of the Draft SFVS Conservation Plan [11.4 MB PDF] is important to understand what is known and what is not known about the ecology and habitat requirements of the SFVS.   We believe that Dudek's proposed conservation plan is seriously flawed.
The biological resources section of the DEIR/EIS [big PDF file - 11.2 MB] is available for downloading here.   CDFG's (mostly through Dudek Associations, one of Newhall's environmental consultants) responses to DMEC's comment letter [2 MB PDF] can be reviewed here.   They make lots of excuses and have nonsensical reasoning for why they can ignore our comments.
Part of our comments said that Newhall needed to conduct field surveys for lichens, bryophytes (mosses, liverworts, and hornworts), and terrestrial gastropods because: 1. they are part of the biodiverity, and 2. rare species of each group are known to occur in California and may occur on Newhall Ranch.   Even though the response to our comments were that no such surveys were required, they did them anyway.   While Newhall's consultants didn't find any rare lichens or bryophytes, they did find 3 rare native terrestrial gastropods.   But, even though the species they found are rare by any definition, they said that they are not rare species because the CNDDB doesn't list them.   And get this, two of the species found may be new to science, based on communication with Barry Roth, the expert on Helminthoglypta (shoulderband snail) species.   New species known only from the Newhall Ranch area....Not rare?   Hmmmmm.   Interested in native terrestrial snails?   Visit the Sespe Institute website and click on the List of Terrestrial Snails of Los Angeles County.
Here is EPA's letter criticizing the Corps' EIS on the Newhall Ranch because the Los Angeles District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did such a poor job of evaluating the project's impacts on wetland functions and resources.
Landmark Village Development
Newhall Ranch is proposing a dense urban development for the river floodplain portion of the Newhall Ranch Specific Plan area, along State Route 126, and some areas to the south of the Santa Clara River, including three major bridges.   The County, through Impact Sciences, released a Recirculated DEIR for the proposed development in late January 2010.   CNPS and the Friends of the Santa Clara River provided comments on the DEIR through DMEC in March 2010.
Read the DMEC comments on the DEIR [PDF].   The Final EIR on the Landmark Village project has yet to come out.
The biological resources section of the DEIR is available for downloading here [very big PDF file - 32.3 MB, so it will take awhile to download].
Mission Village Development
Newhall Ranch is now proposing a dense urban development for the easternmost portion of the Newhall Ranch Specific Plan area, just west of Magic Mountain.   The County, through Impact Sciences, released a DEIR for the proposed development in October 2010.   With an extension, comments on the DEIR is due to the County by 4 January 2011.
The biological resources section of the DEIR is available for downloading [huge PDF file - 71.1 MB, so it will take awhile to download].
CNPS and the Friends of the Santa Clara River contracted with David Magney Environmental Consulting to critically review the biological resources section of the Mission Village DEIR.   Those comments, all 70 pages of them, where submitted to Los Angeles County Regional Planning on 4 January 2011.
If you wish to support CNPS and the Friends of the Santa Clara River on this fight to protect sensitive biological resources, make a donation now.   Your support will be put to good use.   Mail your check to CNPS at P.O. Box 6, Ojai, CA 93024 and indicate "Newhall Ranch Conservation" on your check.
Spineflower Conservation Plan EIR Certified
In all its wisdom, the California Department of Fish and Game certified its EIR on the Newhall Ranch Spineflower Conservation Plan on 3 December 2010.   CDFG is also issuing, if it hasn't already, a "take" permit under Section 1080 of the California Endangered Species Act to allow Newhall Ranch to destroy about 30 percent of the population of the San Fernando Valley Spineflower, state-listed as Endangered.   Unfortunately, junk science was used to figure out the conservation plan, with no real understanding of the ecology of the spineflower, and lots of backroom deals with Newhall without public review, and totalling ignoring what staff botanists say is needed.   This is a critical piece of the permitting puzzle for Newhall Ranch because without a permit from CDFG, the development would have to be seriously downsized.   CNPS needs to file a CEQA lawsuit on this to protect this endangered plant, and several other rare plants and wildlife that occur on Newhall Ranch.   It is clear that the resource agency with responsibility of protecting biological resources is not willing to do its job.
The announcement of CDFG's decision to certify the EIR and issue permits is available through this link.
If you wish to support CNPS and the Friends of the Santa Clara River on this fight to protect sensitive biological resources, make a donation now.   Your support will be put to good use.   Mail your check to CNPS at P.O. Box 6, Ojai, CA 93024 and indicate "Newhall Ranch Conservation" on your check.
Lawsuit Filed Over Spineflower Conservation Plan EIR
On 3 January 2011, CNPS and several other environmental groups filed suit in Superior Court in San Francisco to force CDFG to set aside its permits issued to Newhall Ranch and decertify the EIR.   Under California law, plaintiffs have on 30 days after an EIR is certified by the lead agency to file a legal challenge.   Unlike all other state laws, CEQA is enforced ONLY by the public, and that can ONLY happen by filing a lawsuit.   Since CNPS is concerned with protecting California native plants, we really have no choice to take such action.   Doing nothing simply is not acceptable, as the flora will loose.
On 3 December 2010, the California Department of Fish and Game certified its EIR on the Newhall Ranch Spineflower Conservation Plan and issuing a "take" permit under Section 1081 of the California Endangered Species Act to allow Newhall Ranch to destroy about 25 percent of the population of the San Fernando Valley Spineflower, state-listed as Endangered, .   As stated above, no real science was used to conduct the impact assessment and the development project will seriously harm the environment, including that for plants, wildlife, and humans.
An article in the Ventura Star summarizes the issues raised in the lawsuit.
CNPS needs your financial support to help fund this fight to protect sensitive biological resources, so please donation now.   Your support will be put to good use.   Mail your check to CNPS at P.O. Box 6, Ojai, CA 93024 and indicate "Newhall Ranch Lawsuit" on your check.
County Approves Mission Village Phase
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, in all their wisdom, certified the EIR for the Mission Village development, Newhall Ranch's second phase of its new "planned" city.   This phase will basically spell the end to the existence of the San Fernando Valley Spineflower because their "preserve" is not defensible in any way.   Junk science used to make developers gobs of money regardless of the cost to the environment.   David Magney Environmental Consulting prepared detailed comments on the biological resources of the Mission Village EIR on behalf of the Friends of the Santa Clara River (and CNPS) that was quite critical of the impact assessment that was [not] performed.   See an Los Angeles Times article on the vote.   Of course, if the judge on the lawsuit filed against CDFG (discussed above) goes our way, this project will have to go back to the drawing board.   The lawsuit is in the administrative record gathering stage, which is just about complete.
County Approves Mission Village Phase
On 15 May 2012, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved Newhall Ranch's second phase of its new "planned" city, the Mission Village development tract map and field their Notice of Decision with the County Recorder.   This action starts the clock for any challenges to the CEQA (EIR) document.
CNPS et al. Sues Los Angeles County and Newhall Ranch Over Mission Village Project
On 11 June 2012, the California Native Plant Society, Friends of the Santa Clara River, Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment, Center for Biological Diversity, and Wishtoyo Foundation (and its Ventura Coastkeeper Program) filed suit against the County of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, and Newhall Land and Farming Company, Inc. (real parties in interest) over the County's certification of the EIR and permit of the project's tract map.   The EIR used junk science to basically claim that the project would not have a significant impact on the environment after proposed mitigation measures were implemented.   In their dreams!
A copy of the petition to the Superior Court of the State of California is available here.
Three CNPS chapters (Channel Islands, Los Angeles/Santa Monica Mountains, and San Gabriel Mountains Chapters - the State CNPS lacks sufficient funds to pay for the lawsuit) are funding the botanical issues portion of the lawsuit; however, our funds for such things are very limited and your help would be most appreciated.   CNPS needs your financial support to help fund this fight to protect sensitive biological resources, so please donation now.   Your support will be put to good use.   Mail your check to CNPS at P.O. Box 6, Ojai, CA 93024 and indicate "Newhall Ranch Lawsuit" on your check.
September and October 2012
CNPS et al. vs. CDFG et al. Over Newhall Ranch Spineflower Conservation Plan EIR - WE WON!
The lawsuit we filed on 11 June 2012 over the conservation plan for the San Fernando Valley Spineflower was heard in court before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ann Jones.   She heard oral arguments on 20 September 2012 from environmental attorneys John Buse and Jason Weimer (for our side) and a slew of attorneys representing Newhall Ranch and CDFG.   In the end, the environment and the San Fernando Valley Spineflower won!   The judge ruled in our favor on four key points, basically ruling that CDFG failed in its duties to follow the laws under its jurisdiction [Fish and Game Code] and failed to follow the law under CEQA.
The judge made her rulings on four issues:
The Court's statement of intended decision on petition for writ of mandate heard on September 20, 2012, with the final decision made available on 17 October 2012.     CDFG management should be ashamed.   They failed in their duties.   Only this legal challenge will correct those errors in judgement, on this project.
Get more information from the following websites:
SCOPE - Newhall Ranch
Friends of the Santa Clara River - Newhall Ranch
CDFG webpage for Newhall Ranch
Official Newhall Ranch development site webpage
American Rivers - Newhall Ranch
CNPS et al. loses Appeal of Lawsuit Filed Over Spineflower Conservation Plan EIR
The California Appeals Court (Second Appellate District, Division Five) ruled against Superior Court Judge Jones' very good rulings of CNPS and partner plaintiffs lawsuit (Center for Biological Diversity et al. v. California Department of Fish and Game and Newhall Land and Farming Company) against the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's EIR and Spineflower Conservation Plan.   The Appeals Court ruling is devastating if it stands as it guts CEQA and the public's ability to provide comments.   A copy of the ruling can be viewed below.   It basically says that the public cannot provide any comments on an EIR after the DEIR review period has closed, usually 30 days.   The judges said that no testimony or comments made on the Final EIR or during hearings held on the certification of a project EIR can be used to challenge the adequacy of the EIR regardless of the fact that it was substantially revised.   Needless to say, this is absolutely nuts.   What planet are these judges from?   They certainly have not read the law that created CEQA or followed previous caselaw on the subject. Court of Appeals Ruling
California Supreme Court to hear Our Challenge of the Court of Appeals Ruling Over Spineflower Conservation Plan EIR
The defenders of the environment, CNPS, CBD, Scope, Friends of the Santa Clara River, and Wishtoyo Foundation have asked the California Supreme Court to overturn the Court of Appeals' ruling on our challenge to the Spineflower Conservation Plan EIR.   We must win.   If we don't, CEQA as we know it will be gone.   Many letters of support of CNPS et al. have been sent to the Supreme Court requesting that we be heard, and the court agreed.   Keep your fingers crossed, and please help CNPS and our partners with financial support.   This is EXTREMELY important to the qualify of life in California.
The California Supreme Court Rules in Our Favor
The defenders of the environment, CNPS, CBD, SCOPE, Friends of the Santa Clara River, and Wishtoyo Foundation won a major victory over-ruling the Court of Appeals' ruling on our challenge to the Spineflower Conservation Plan EIR.   CEQA has been preserved.   A major ruling scolded the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (formerly known as Calif. Dept. of Fish and Game) over the Fully Protected Species issue we raised, telling the department that it is prohibited from issuing take permits of Fully Protected Species.   This means that Newhall has to totally avoid any take (broadly defined) of the Unarmored Three-spine Stickleback.   The court also said that Newhall (and CDFW) must redo their Greenhouse Gas Emmisions analysis using real data.   In other words, they must show their work, not just make claims.   Read the Supreme Court Ruling for yourself.
Newhall Ranch has, based on the California Supreme Court decisions, had to redo parts of the EIRs for the Mission Village and Landmark Village phases.   Those documents are out and available for review at the Los Angeles County's website.   CNPS and others, including CBD, SCOPE, Friends of the Santa Clara River, and Wishtoyo Foundation, are all reviewing the documents and working on drafting comments.   The San Fernando Valley Spineflower populations on Newhall Ranch are still at risk since no changes to the proposed preserves have been made.
Without much surprise, regardless of the efforts by CNPS Los Angeles/Santa Monica Mountains Chapter representatives and that of the Friends and SCOPE, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors certified the revised EIRs for the Mission Village and Landmark Village phases and approved the project.   Those documents are out and available for review at the Los Angeles County's website.
CNPS, CBD, Wishtoyo Foundation/Ventura Channelkeeper, and the Santa Ynez Band of the Chumash, after many months of negotiations, have agreed to settle their lawsuits against Newhall Ranch.   SCOPE and the Friends of the Santa Clara River decided not to settle and will continue to fight Newhall Ranch in any lega manner they can.   The San Fernando Valley Spineflower populations on Newhall Ranch are still at still at risk; however, terms of the settlement agreement require Newhall Ranch to establish an endowment for the preserve management as well as establishing two additional populations within the plant's range.   In addition, the Newhall Sunflower population will be preserved and the development footprint was moved to be further away from the plant's occurrence at Middle Spring, an natural spring on a terrace above the Santa Clara River.   CNPS must be provided with reports annually on the status of mitigation actions for the San Fernando Valley Spineflower and CNPS (any other petitioners party to the agreement) will be albe to hold Newhall Ranch accountable to all the required mitigation measures, which gives CNPS more power than had we not settled.   Finally, Newhall will provide $16,500,000 to be placed into an endowment that is entirely under the control of CNPS, CBD, Wishtoyo, and the Santa Ynez Band to be used to protect rare species along the Santa Clara River Valley and educate the public about the importance and values of river and tributaries.   While those may be the benefits of the settlement agreement, we will still end up with a massive new urban sprawl city that will adversely impact biological resources and the quality of life for millions of people and wildlife species that use/frequent this part of southern California.   See the Los Angeles Times Editorial on this topic, which CNPS agrees with entirely.
CHANNEL ISLANDS CHAPTER, CALIFORNIA NATIVE PLANT SOCIETY, PO Box 6, Ojai, CA 93024-0006
Special thanks to Carlin Moyer for the beautiful illustrations on our site.
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