Condor quandary


A prominent group of biologists and scientists is strongly criticizing conservation plans for Tejon Ranch, a 270,000-acre property north of LA.  The ranch is slated for 30,000 acres of housing, industrial and resort projects -- which will sprawl across roughly 20,000 acres of critical habitat for the endangered California condor. Tejon's developers have asked the Fish and Wildlife Service for permission to "take" more than two dozen imperiled species, including condors (see our brief in "Two Weeks in the West", and our pro and con opinion pieces).

But condor experts, including former leaders and members of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s condor team and federal condor recovery team, have just issued a report saying that the Tejon conservation plan, which attempts to mitigate the development's impact on all those rare species, would be a disaster for the huge birds:


Unfortunately, the Tejon MSHCP proposes actions that will greatly reduce natural food supplies in a very important portion of condor Critical Habitat, and will strongly inhibit condor use of the same area through multiple effects of urbanization. The proposal to mitigate these effects mainly by establishing feeding stations in areas outside Tejon Mountain Village is not consistent with ultimate recovery goals of the conservation effort. Experience with the release program so far gives evidence that feeding stations adversely affect condor foraging behavior and movements and result in detrimental tendencies toward microtrash ingestion and human habituation .... Feeding programs further presuppose a perpetual and expensive, but ultimately unnecessary, obligation to provide a food supply for the birds – an obligation that can be expected to be difficult to maintain continuously in the long term in the face of inherent instability in human institutions. Clearly a population dependent on a long-term feeding program is not a truly self-sustaining population and cannot be considered a fully-recovered population.

The scientists conclude that "placing a major housing development in the midst of the most important historic foraging area known for condors cannot be viewed as anything other than a major threat to recovery of the species."

The condor recovery program costs roughly $5 million per year, and there are only about 150 of the birds soaring the skies (in Southern California, Arizona, Utah and Mexico). In addition to habitat destruction, condors face threats from shooting and from eating lead bullet fragments in carcasses.

Anonymous says:
Jul 09, 2009 06:21 PM
It seems the Enviros will NEVER be happy. No matter what is given to them.
Why don't you post that this deal also gives up to the Sierra Club and other land grabbers, 90% of the 270,000 acres. (8 times the size of San Fransisco) The proposed area would only impact 8% of the Condors habitat. Remember this is private property and the Tejon ranch has been very benificial to the Condors recovery.

Coalition leaders acknowledged
that the proposed Tejon Mountain
Village’s luxury homes, spas and
boutique hotels would consume
about 8% of the condor habitat on
the ranch. But they also said the
agreement aims to protect a much
larger region -- eight times the size
of San Francisco -- that is still very
much as 19th century frontiersman
Kit Carson experienced it.

“I truly believe that because of this
agreement, California condors will
one day be as common here as redtailed
hawks are in Orange County,”
said raptor specialist Pete Bloom,
who works for the company as its
lead condor consultant. “But people
in the condor community aren’t
getting it. They are my friends, and
it disturbs me to be on the other side
of them.”
Bloom has been studying and
trapping birds of prey for more
than three decades, earning a highprofile
reputation for having helped
implement a captive breeding
program in the 1980s that is credited
with saving the California condor
from extinction. On Easter Sunday
in 1987 he detonated a cannon net
from under a camouflaged pit to
capture the last wild California
Anonymous says:
Jul 10, 2009 09:29 AM
Robert, thanks for your comments. Please see the links in the above blog post (in the sentence starting "See our ..."). These go to HCN articles containing more complete information about the Ranch, including an opinion piece strongly in favor of the development. This brief blog post was an update on an action by condor experts, not a thorough description of the pros and cons of the project.
Anonymous says:
Jul 15, 2009 02:01 PM
The Yurok Tribe has just received $200,000 in stimulus funds to develop a plan for reintroducting the California Condor into Northwest California.

The charismatic bird once soared above the canyons of the Klamath Mountains as evidenced in its feathers which are found in sacred ceremonial and dance regalia of the Klamath River Tribes. Here's a link to an article on the reintroduction:[…]/Bringing-back-condors