Court Upholds Ventura County Ordinances to Safeguard Wildlife Connectivity

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A new program that increases protections for wildlife corridors has prevailed after a judge ruled on the side of county leaders and conservationists

Source of this article: Los Padres ForesetWatch, April 28, 2022

Mountain lion in the Santa Monica Mountains. Photo courtesy of NPS.

The rulings, finalized on April 22, uphold Ordinance No. 4537 and Ordinance No. 4539, which were approved by the board of supervisors in 2019. The ordinances designate standards for development and require environmental reviews for projects that may hinder wildlife connectivity. They are the first ordinances of their kind in California.

“Protecting pathways for wildlife is critical for their survival,” said Jeff Kuyper, executive director of Los Padres ForestWatch. “We’re thankful that the County of Ventura mounted a vigorous defense to ensure that these science-based measures will remain in place, securing a safer future for our region’s wildlife.”

Ventura County Superior Court Judge Mark S. Borrell issued the ruling in response to a legal challenge to the ordinances by the Ventura County Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business, and the California Construction and Industrial Materials Association. Four conservation groups formally intervened in the case to support the County’s position.

“Communities across California should take a look at what Ventura County has done to protect wildlife hemmed in by overdevelopment,” said J.P. Rose, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These ordinances have stood up to legal challenges, and they’ll go a long way toward fighting the extinction crisis.”

The ordinances help protect the wildlife corridors that connect the Los Padres National Forest, Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills. Habitat connectivity is crucial for the survival of mountain lions, gray foxes, California red-legged frogs and other wildlife in the region.

“This decision is a victory for Ventura County and the diverse wildlife that need room to roam,” said Pamela Flick, California program director for Defenders of Wildlife. “We commend the county for its bold leadership to ensure that wildlife can better move about on the landscape and hope this project serves as a model for counties throughout California.”

In Southern California, mountain lions have struggled with diminishing and fragmented habitat. The California Fish and Game Commission is considering permanent protections of Southern California and Central Coast mountain lions under the state’s Endangered Species Act. A vote is expected later this year.

“This decision is a critical win for conservation, and the hope that numerous threatened and endangered species will continue to grace our landscapes for generations to come,” said Dennis Arguelles, Los Angeles program manager for National Parks Conservation Association. “From the Los Padres National Forest to the Santa Monica Mountains, local wildlife has a fighting chance thanks to the innovation and leadership of Ventura County.”

Los Padres ForestWatch, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and the National Parks Conservation Association intervened to defend the ordinances. The groups were represented by the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of California, Irvine School of Law.


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