Preserving California's Holy Grail at Tejon Ranch

Jennifer Browne for Tejon Ranch

If Tejon Ranch is the Holy Grail of conservation in California – and it is – the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) is the people’s knight in shining armor. The board’s purchase of conservation easements today is a giant leap forward on the road to protecting over 240,000 acres of California’s natural heartland.

For $15.7 million, the WCB purchased five conservation easements totaling over 62,000 acres on the Tejon Ranch in Kern and Los Angeles Counties – lands that the Tejon Ranch Company had identified for future development.  Through this acquisition, the WCB has protected nationally significant habitats, critically important wildlife linkages, and numerous endangered and special status species -- forever.

This flagship acquisition is a once-in-a-lifetime conservation initiative that eventually will protect some 240,000 contiguous acres – or over 90 percent – of the Tejon Ranch, the largest private landholding in California.

Considered by many the “Holy Grail of conservation” in California because of its enormous size, unique location, and diverse wildlife, the Tejon Ranch is best known for the wildflowers that, each Spring, carpet the hills along Interstate 5 at the Grapevine.  But as the junction of four independent ecosystems in the heart of California, it is so much more. 

Courtesy Tejon Ranch

The 270,000-acre Tejon Ranch is an unparalleled hotspot of biodiversity.  Eight times the size of San Francisco, Tejon Ranch boasts a variety of landscapes ranging from native grasslands and pine forests to oak and Joshua tree woodlands, and provides vital habitat for over several dozen rare plant and animal species, including critical foraging habitat for the California condor.

The WCB’s purchase today is the direct result of a ground-breaking conservation agreement – the Tejon Ranch Conservation and Land Use Agreement -- finalized in 2008 by NRDC and four other conservation organizations (the Sierra Club, Audubon California, Planning and Conservation League, and Endangered Habitats League) with the Tejon Ranch Company and its development partner DMB Associates. The easements are the first step in what will eventually be a 240,000-acre conservation area managed by the Tejon Ranch Conservancy, a non-profit agency created and funded under the 2008 agreement.   Purchase of these five easements is an essential step in implementing the historic agreement – a conservation accord reached after more than two years of scientific analysis and intense negotiations among the parties. 

Courtesy Jennifer Brown for Tejon Ranch

In addition to the enormous benefits for land conservation, one of the Agreement’s important achievements was ensuring, through guaranteed rights of public access, that the public will actually be able to use and enjoy the conserved lands.  The Tejon Ranch Company and Tejon Ranch Conservancy have agreed to establish and implement a robust public access plan, including public access opportunities for underserved populations and, eventually, the creation of a new state park within the conserved lands’ boundaries.

We applaud the WCB for its action today and the Tejon Ranch Company and DMB Associates for their leadership and commitment.  Congratulations, above all, to the people of California for the continuing progress in conservation of the unique and wonderful Tejon Ranch.   

Couresty Jennifer Browne for Tejon Ranch