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Greenbelt president warns of FBI wildlife corridor takeover

Laguna Beach city officials learned Tuesday of Irvine’s effort to thwart an FBI takeover of a long-planned wildlife corridor, a move that would sever the connection between the Laguna greenbelt and the Cleveland National Forest.

Laguna Greenbelt Inc. President Elisabeth Brown informed the council of the threat of the takeover and asked for support for Irvine’s position.

The FBI wants to use the parcel on which the corridor is located for a regional anti-terrorism training facility, Brown said.

“The citizens and the city have supported the acquisition and long-term health of our open space and we shouldn’t give up that mission,” said Mayor Pro Tem Verna Rollinger in support of Irvine’s quest.


However, no formal action could be taken because Brown’s request was made during public communication and was not on the agenda.

The corridor parcel was the federal government’s contribution to a 1996 contract to protect 38,000 acres of open space for habitat.

Since moving into a small pistol range on the 1,033-acre parcel in 2004, the FBI has spruced up old buildings and built new ones and a new range — none of which are allowed on habitat land, Brown said.

Orange County residents voted in 2002 to approve the Great Park plan, which included the parcel where the wildlife corridor is located, and Irvine had been moving forward on the corridor since then, Brown said.


“When the FBI announced they wanted to take over management from the [Federal Aviation Administration], Irvine and the environmental community began serious efforts to negotiate a compromise under which (FBI) activities could be compatible with the habitat values of property,” Brown said.

They might as well have saved their breaths, she said.

Irvine is expected to formulate a position paper that asks for a complete environmental analysis of the FBI proposal. Also expected is a cover letter of support for that position, signed by city and state agency officials, environmental and community groups, and private landowners, Brown said.

A phone call to the FBI office in Santa Ana was not returned by press time.

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