Daniela Arellano, NRDC
Endangered Habitats League
Jason Howe, National Audubon Society
Planning and Conservation League
Aaron Isherwood, Sierra Club
LOS ANGELES – Conservation groups sued the Tejon Ranch Company this week for breach of the landmark 2008 Tejon Ranch Conservation and Land Use Agreement, which preserved 90 percent of the massive 270,000-acre ranch – the largest private landholding in California.
As part of the agreement, Tejon Ranch Company promised to facilitate scientific research, manage public access, and make Advance Payments in the amount of $800,000 a year to fund operations of the Tejon Ranch Conservancy, a non-profit land conservancy created under the agreement to oversee protection and restoration of the conserved lands.
On October 1, 2020, however, the Tejon Ranch Company failed to make the required Advance Payment and announced it would forego future payments – the second attempt by the Company since April 2020 to unilaterally modify or avoid its explicit financial obligation under the 2008 Agreement. According to the lawsuit filed today, the Company’s failure to make the required Advance Payments is a material breach of the Agreement.
Following are quotes from groups involved with the litigation:
“With its unique history, diverse species, and rich natural resources, Tejon Ranch is worth fighting for,” said Joel Reynolds, Western Director and Senior Attorney at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “The Conservancy was created and funded under the 2008 Conservation Agreement to oversee protection of 90 percent of the Ranch, so the Company’s attack on the Conservancy’s funding is an attack on conservation of the Ranch. Regrettably, the Company has given us no option but to sue.”
“Tejon Ranch is a California gem, and a true reflection of our state’s natural heritage,” said Dan Silver, Chief Executive Officer of Endangered Habitats League. “As we face a biodiversity crisis, it is more important than ever to protect the biological complexity of this habitat. This lawsuit will hopefully compel the Company to stay that course.”
“Tejon Ranch is a critical link in a chain of open spaces in Los Angeles and Kern Counties that permit the movement of wildlife and offers a buffer space against fires that threaten our communities,” said Sarah Rose, Executive Director of Audubon California. “Birds like the California Condor, with its 9-foot wingspan – the largest in North America, call Tejon Ranch home. We have a responsibility to guarantee its existence, but a breach of contract threatens its survival and the survival of other bird species whose songs create the soundtrack of this dynamic ecosystem.”
“The company’s failure to comply with its contractual obligations is a broken promise and a disservice to generations of Californians who stand to benefit from the conservation of Tejon Ranch,” said Howard Penn, Executive Director for the Planning and Conservation League. “Scaling back commitments to its preservation is a step in the wrong direction and will undo years of hard work to maintain this beautiful landscape.”
“This lawsuit is a necessary step in ensuring Tejon Ranch remains vibrant and healthy,” said Aaron Isherwood, Managing Attorney for the Sierra Club. “Californians care about our state’s ecological health, and our groups will do what is necessary – including going to court – to preserve Tejon Ranch as a haven for wildlife and as a sanctuary for all Californians.”
“We are proud to represent these venerable conservation organizations in this critical effort to preserve the extraordinary beauty and biodiversity of Tejon Ranch, and to support the inspiring work of the Tejon Ranch Conservancy to maintain the land,” said David J. Berger, a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.
NRDC, Audubon California, Planning and Conservation League, Endangered Habitats League, and Sierra Club filed the lawsuit in the Kern County Superior Court. NRDC, Audobon California, Planning and Conservation League, and Endangered Habitats League are represented by Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. Sierra Club is represented by Fayer Gipson LLP.
More information on Tejon Ranch and the litigation:
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC