Land Swap Voted Down

The Canyon ChronicleBy The Canyon Chronicle      February 5, 2021

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Land Swap Voted Down
Developers were barred from swapping 219 acres of the Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve, one of the most precious and protected class of lands owned by CDFW, for land of lesser ecological value.
The Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) voted 5-0-1 to deny a hugely controversial deal between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and developers to swap 219 acres of land in the Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve in southwestern San Diego County for land of lesser ecological value held by the developer. Frank Landis, California Native Plant Society (CNPS), San Diego Chapter Conservation Chair, wrote, “This was a huge win in the fight against the development known as Adara or Otay Ranch Village 14. This decision had big implications beyond the immediate land in question. Had the deal passed, we were deeply concerned that no ecological reserve (ER) in California would be safe from future development pressure. CDFW Director Chuck Bonham helped negotiate the deal with the developer and the agencies and recused himself from the vote. Kim Lamorie of the Las Virgenes Homeowners Federation (LVHF) reminded readers that “Bonham was also at the helm last year when the CDFW issued a depredation permit to kill our P-56 who was baited by a sheep herder in the Santa Monica Mountains without contacting the National Park Service first or advising the public to seek help. As a result of that, Senator Henry Stern put pressure on Bonham and the agency to compel them to make changes, which they did.” “Ecological reserves are the most precious and protected class of lands owned by CDFW. This parcel is home to the federally endangered Quino checkerspot butterfly, while the exchanged parcel contained no suitable habitat for the species. By law, ecological reserve lands can only be swapped for properties of equal or higher ecological value,” he said. Special thanks to WCB Board member and former state senator Fran Pavley who expressed concern about how the precedent of approving the swap would encourage future developers to bypass environmental laws on the most protected lands in the state. “I want Californians to trust WCB action in the future,” she said. That future is far from certain, writes Landis, “CNPS, along with Endangered Habitats League, Sierra Club, and Center for Biological Diversity, all sued to decertify the Project, and WCB’s action strengthens the case. Moreover, the development’s layout and environmental impacts are now in question, so the Project will likely be revisited by the San Diego Supervisors in 2021. In the November election, the mix of supervisors swung in favor of the environment with all three Democrats now on n the Board, coming out against the project.”
The Canyon Chronicle

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