Habitat connectivity is crucial for the survival of mountain lions, gray foxes, California red-legged frogs and other wildlife in and around Santa Monica Mountains National Recreational Area.
VENTURA COUNTY, Calif.— A pair of Ventura County ordinances that increases protections for wildlife corridors has prevailed after a judge ruled on the side of county leaders and conservationists.
The tentative rulings, expected to be finalized next week, uphold Ordinance No. 4537 and Ordinance No. 4539, which were approved by the board of supervisors in 2019. The ordinances designate standards for development and require environmental reviews for projects that may hinder wildlife connectivity. They are the first ordinances of their kind in California.
“Protecting pathways for wildlife is critical for their survival,” said Jeff Kuyper, executive director of Los Padres ForestWatch. “We’re hopeful that these science-based measures will remain in place and serve as a model to protect mountain lions, bears, deer, and other iconic wildlife throughout the state.”
Ventura County Superior Court Judge Mark S. Borrell issued the ruling in response to a legal challenge to the ordinances by the Ventura County Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business, and the California Construction and Industrial Materials Association. Four conservation groups intervened to defend the ordinances.
“Communities across California should take a look at what Ventura County has done to protect wildlife hemmed in by overdevelopment,” said J.P. Rose, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These ordinances have stood up to legal challenges, and they’ll go a long way toward fighting the extinction crisis.”
The ordinances help protect the wildlife corridors that connect the Los Padres National Forest, Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills. Habitat connectivity is crucial for the survival of mountain lions, gray foxes, California red-legged frogs and other wildlife in the region.
“This decision, if finalized, will be a victory for Ventura County and the diverse wildlife that need room to roam there,” said Pamela Flick, California program director for Defenders of Wildlife.
“We commend the county for its bold leadership to ensure that wildlife can better move about on the landscape and call on local governments throughout California to maintain habitat connectivity when considering future development.”
In Southern California, mountain lions have struggled with diminishing and fragmented habitat. The California Fish and Game Commission is considering permanent protections of Southern California and Central Coast mountain lions under the state’s Endangered Species Act. A vote is expected later this year.
“This decision is a critical win for conservation, and the hope that numerous threatened and endangered species will continue to grace our landscapes for generations to come,” said Dennis Arguelles, Los Angeles program manager for National Parks Conservation Association. “From the Los Padres National Forest to the Santa Monica Mountains, local wildlife has a fighting chance thanks to the innovation and leadership of Ventura County.”
Los Padres ForestWatch, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and the National Parks Conservation Association intervened to defend the ordinances. The groups were represented by the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of California, Irvine School of Law.
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its nearly 1.6 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Los Padres ForestWatch is a community-supported nonprofit organization working to protect wildlife throughout the Los Padres National Forest, Carrizo Plain National Monument, and other public lands throughout central California.
Defenders of Wildlife is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With nearly 2.2 million members and supporters, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come.
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