RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA : Toll Road Work's Effect on Wildlife on Agenda

The potential effect of toll road construction on the gnatcatcher population in the Chiquita Canyon area will be the topic of a public meeting tonight.

On hand will be representatives of federal and state wildlife agencies and toll road builders, said Pete DeSimone of the National Audubon Society, which is co-sponsoring the meeting with the Endangered Habitats League.

Officials will review plans to create wildlife reserves aimed at allowing development in South County while protecting rare plants and animals, such as the California gnatcatcher, a songbird.

Complicating planners' work, part of the Foothill Corridor's northern segment is slated for an area that contains a large number of gnatcatchers.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to issue an opinion later this month on the road's impact.

The meeting will be from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Irvine Ranch Water District, 15600 Sand Canyon Road, Irvine. Information: (714) 858-0309.

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