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Feds report endangered species are OK at Newhall Ranch site

Company reaches milestone after federal wildlife officials OK plans; Army Corps permits next step

Posted: June 9, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 9, 2011 1:55 a.m.

The proposed 20,000-home Newhall Ranch development reached a milestone Tuesday with the release of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report finding that no endangered species would be jeopardized by the project.

The agency’s biologists anticipate that, over the next 25 years, no more than one California condor will become dangerously accustomed to humans and have to be captured and removed.

“Condors are real curious animals. They’re attracted to human activity, so when they see humans around, working on structures, they might get into some kind of trouble,” Fish & Wildlife Service biologist Rick Farris said.

The service’s biological opinion to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stipulates that construction crews aren’t to interact with the condors, including handfeeding them. Newhall Ranch officials have offered to have a biologist monitor construction activities, too.

“They can’t get used to being handfed,” Farris said. “If they become habituated to being fed, then they aren’t functioning as part of the wild.”

The service’s biological opinion also found that other species — including the southwestern willow flycatcher, the unarmored three-spine stickleback and the arroyo toad — would not be jeopardized by the project, service officials said.

Newhall Land Development Inc. spokeswoman Marlee Lauffer said the company was pleased with Tuesday’s development.
“This is an important part of a very detailed process,” Lauffer said.

Newhall Land’s Newhall Ranch project, which will spread south and west from Interstate 5 and state Route 126, will mirror the size and scale of Valencia, the development firm’s first planned community.

Newhall Land expects to receive its permit from the Army Corps within the next few weeks. The Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission approved the first two phases of Newhall Ranch, Landmark Village and Mission Village. Both are awaiting hearings before the county board of supervisors, Lauffer said.

Earlier this week, the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment appealed the commission’s approval of Mission Village, adding an additional public hearing to the process for that phase.



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