Suit Filed to Stop Development of Wildlife Preserve; Land Swap Will Lead to Warehouses in Endangered Species Habitat

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 436-9682 x 318 or jevans@biologicaldiversity.org

Suit Filed to Stop Development of Wildlife Preserve; Land Swap Will Lead to Warehouses in Endangered Species Habitat

RIVERSIDE, Calif. - The Center for Biological Diversity and San Bernardino Valley
Audubon Society filed suit today challenging the planned conversion of
a wildlife preserve to industrial development. The suit asserts that a
proposed land swap on the March Stephens' Kangaroo Rat Preserve
would further endanger the Stephens' kangaroo rat and harm other
imperiled species. The land swap has been proposed to enable further
commercial and industrial development of the former March Air Force
Base. Although other lands have been proposed for protection as part of
the swap, the unequal trade will ultimately cause more harm than good,
destroying essential wildlife habitat and linkages and encouraging
neighboring industrial development - and ultimately threatening the
integrity of a network of Riverside County wildlife preserves.

"You
can't trade wildlife preserves like stocks or flip them like Miami
condos; the animals can't just pick up and move," said Jonathan Evans,
staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "This land was
dedicated for permanent conservation to balance the previous
destruction of endangered wildlife. We owe it to future generations to
uphold past promises to protect this land and stop paving over wildlife
preserves."

The March Preserve was originally
established in 1991 as a permanent preserve to offset impacts to
wildlife from the expansion of Highway 215; it was later expanded as
further mitigation for development on March Air Force Base. It has also
been dedicated as part of the larger Sycamore Canyon-March Core Reserve
that was established as part of the Stephens' Kangaroo Rat Habitat
Conservation Plan. In addition to the endangered kangaroo rat, the more
than 1,000-acre preserve is home to a range of imperiled wildlife
species such as the burrowing owl, the least Bell's vireo, and the southwestern willow flycatcher.

Government documents
uncovered by the Center for Biological Diversity reveal that wildlife
officials have admitted that the March Preserve is "critical to the
establishment of a viable, long-term [Stephens' kangaroo rat] reserve
system in western Riverside County," and if it is removed there would
no longer be "assurance of the survival and recovery" of the Stephens'
kangaroo rat. The documents further describe how several thousand acres
of reserve lands, in addition to those in the Portrero Valley, would be
necessary to compensate for the destruction of open space on the former
March Air Force Base. However, in 2006 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service reversed course to allow commercial and industrial development
on the March preserve in exchange for additional lands in the Portrero
valley, without full protection of other areas.

"This
land swap is a net loser for wildlife in southern California," said
Drew Feldman, vice president of the San Bernardino Valley Audubon
Society. "Eliminating the March preserve threatens an entire system of
nature reserves throughout Riverside County and threatens the future of
wildlife that call the March Preserve home."

In
addition to the planned land swap, other threats loom for the wildlife
preserves. Two separate large-scale industrial warehouse projects along
Allesandro Boulevard in Riverside County and the city of Riverside and
adjacent to the March Preserve await approval. These projects threaten
to sever the preserve's connection to the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness
Park and permanently isolate both refuges.
  In addition to
the harm caused to wildlife, these deals would result in extensive
diesel truck and vehicle traffic resulting from the warehouse projects
that would significantly worsen regional air quality and exacerbate
global warming.

"Trading
dirty diesel for open space is a bad deal for both wildlife and
neighborhoods," said Jonathan Evans. "We should protect our precious
open spaces instead of exploiting them for diesel soot and greenhouse
gases."

The legal challenge asserts that the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act and
National Environmental Quality Act when it approved the conversion of a
wildlife preserve to industrial development without considering the
impacts to imperiled wildlife.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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