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Newhall Ranch builders won’t be allowed to harm condors, agency says

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said this week that it would not tolerate the harm or killing of an endangered California condor during construction of a proposed Newhall Ranch community of 60,000 residents along the Santa Clara River.

In a long-awaited, 178-page opinion, the agency also said, however, that it would allow the developer to capture and relocate one condor during the next 25 years, if necessary, according to agency wildlife biologist Rick Farris.

“We anticipate that there might be some occasion over the 25 years in which a California condor may become attracted to some human activity such as construction of a house,” Farris said. “If it can’t be hazed off the property without hurting it, then they will have to capture it.

“Additional condors that become habituated to such activities, however, would not be covered by the exemption.”

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The federal Environmental Protection Agency has questioned whether the Army Corps of Engineers, which is set to permit the development’s construction 35 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, has adequately considered its effects on an array of rare and endangered plants and animals.

The corps is expected to soon issue a Clean Water Act permit authorizing the developer, Newhall Land, to use 20 million cubic yards of excavated soil to fill in wetlands in areas to be developed over the next 20 to 30 years on the 12,000-acre ranch.

Of particular concern to the EPA are plans to fill in much of Potrero Canyon, which includes roosting and foraging grounds for condors.

Adam Keats, spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity, said, “I’m pretty happy to hear that the agency is not going to let them harm one of these magnificent birds.”

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louis.sahagun@latimes.com


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