Conservation Update, 2012 May | El Toro Transfer, Banning Ranch


In March, a Draft Environmental Assessment and Draft Finding of No Significant Impact, El Toro Custodianship Transfer was issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The document’s purpose was to assess impacts of the FBI’s taking custodianship of 900 acres on the northeasterly corner of the former El Toro Marine Air Base in Irvine. See the conservation alert on for background on this issue, and for how important the 900-acre site is for connectivity between the Central and Coastal parts of the Nature Reserve of Orange County.

The Draft Finding… asserted that “No changes in operations will result from this transfer.” Several conservation groups, including OCCNPS, asserted that the transfer WILL result in deleterious changes to the site’s role in the Nature Reserve, and made extensive comments to that effect. (Many thanks to all OCCNPS-ers who wrote comment letters, despite a short deadline.)

Thanks to Dan Silver of the Endangered Habitats League for updating the situation as of 4/2012: “EHL, other conservation groups, and the City of Irvine submitted extensive comments on the legal inadequacy of the Environmental Assessment and requested a full Environmental Impact Study. Very importantly, though, the City of Irvine also called for a Memorandum of Understanding with the FBI to establish use areas compatible with the NCCP/HCP and for joint management. Thus far, the FBI has rejected this constructive initiative, further breaking with the long-standing federal commitments. EHL fully supports the City in its efforts to protect the NCCP and to reach an accommodation with the FBI.” OCCNPS also supports the City of Irvine’s efforts.

ACTION NOW, especially if you live in Irvine: tell the City that you support protecting the NCCP and the City’s commitment to reaching an accommodation with the FBI that furthers that protection.


In March, the Newport Beach Planning Commission voted 4-1 in favor of recommending approval of the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Newport Banning Ranch development. Two more public hearings have been held on whether to recommend approval of the development itself, with another scheduled for May 17. These recommendations will be the basis for the City Council’s decisions on the fate of the Banning Ranch property.

ACTION NOW, especially if you live in the Newport Beach area: contact the Banning Ranch Conservancy,, to find out how you can help with its campaign to preserve the entire site as natural open space. The Conservancy points out that there are two things to keep in mind:

—The hearings are an opportunity for the public to bring forth information that was lacking in the Draft EIR. Public comments made at the hearings (and written comments submitted during the hearing process) become part of the official administrative record.

—It is important to remember that the City of Newport Beach General Plan makes a priority of preserving Banning Ranch as open space. The Conservancy believes that preservation is possible using Measure M funds.

Celia Kutcher, Conservation Chair

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