Conservation Update, 2012 Nov | Banning Ranch, El Toro Natural Area, Saddle Crest

Three big environmental lawsuits are the news this time.

1. BANNING RANCH:The Banning Ranch Conservancy filed a lawsuit against the Newport Beach City Council on August 24, for certifying the Newport Banning Ranch development despite the errors and omissions in the Environmental Impact Report and the community opposition to the development. Details on the lawsuit and background on the issue are at banningranchconservancy.org/. ACTION NOW:  The Conservancy needs funds for its war chest! Make a donation at banningranchconservancy.org/make-a-donation.html or send a check, payable to Banning Ranch Conservancy, to PO Box 16071,Newport Beach, CA 92659.

2. EL TORO NATURAL AREA:  This 900-acre site is absolutely essential to the proper functioning of the connectivity that is at the heart of the Central-Coastal NCCP. That functioning is threatened now that the FBI has taken ownership of the site. The Endangered Habitats League and Laguna Greenbelt are leading a coalition of environmental groups to bring a lawsuit to get the FBI to cooperate with the NCCP goals. See the Sept./Oct. Newsletter and its links for background and maps. ACTION NOW:  Send a donation to help support the lawsuit, marked “El Toro,” to Endangered Habitats League, 8424 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite A 592, Los Angeles, CA 90069-4267. And many thanks to the OCCNPS-ers who have already sent donations!

3. SADDLE CREST:  On Oct. 2, the OC Board of Supervisors approved the proposed Saddle Crest development, even though it badly violates the Foothill-Trabuco Specific Plan (FTSP)—which the Supervisors approved in 1988. The approval was despite the fact that the Saddle Crest Plan is a retread of the SaddleCreek/SaddleCrest Plan that was overturned in the Appeals Court in 2005. See more background in the Conservation Report for July-Aug. 2012. In order to approve the Saddle Crest Plan as presented, the supervisors also approved amendments to the FTSP and also to the OC General Plan—instead of requiring that Saddle Crest fit the Plans, as they should have, they changed the Plans to fit Saddle Crest! The amendments essentially gut the FTSP and the relevant parts of the General Plan and leave undeveloped land in the FTSP area open to the same kind of massive grading and building planned for Saddle Crest. And likewise for the County’s five or so other Specific Plans. See ruralcanyons.org/rc/index.php/RuralCanyon/NewsArticle19 for more details. The Saddleback Canyons Conservancy and the Rural Canyons Conservation Fund are the primary petitioners in a lawsuit against the Board of Supervisors for once again approving development that violates the FTSP. Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks is a co-petitioner; two other groups have been asked to join, but their decisions are unknown at press time. ACTION NOW:  Donate to the Saddleback Canyons litigation war chest at fhbp.org/programs/saddleback-canyons.html.

Celia Kutcher, Conservation Chair

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