Tejon Ranch Conservancy Completes First Year
Progress already underway to add new protection, expand public access to celebrated landscape
Lebec, CA –– The Tejon Ranch Conservancy has marked the one-year anniversary since it was first launched as part of a groundbreaking agreement to permanently protect 240,000 acres of the legendary Tejon Ranch.
Eager to make its mark as an independent steward of one of California’s most important conservation properties, the Conservancy has already launched programs to conduct new research on the Ranch’s extraordinary biodiversity, acquire additional protection to high priority areas and give Californians a chance to experience the Ranch’s wildlife and scenic beauty up close.
In February the Conservancy hired Tom Maloney as its first executive director. An expert in resource management and a highly respected veteran of The Nature Conservancy, Maloney will lead the team that will protect and restore lands on the Tejon Ranch and create opportunities for outdoor recreation and education on the property.
“I have been overwhelmed by the scale and ecological diversity of the conserved lands of the Tejon Ranch, and we look forward to establishing the Conservancy as a leader in conservation land management,” said Maloney.
The Tejon Ranch Conservancy is charged with managing one of the most valuable conservation properties in the state of California, prized for its location at the intersection of four ecological regions and between large tracts of public and private conservation land. Its mission is to preserve, enhance, and restore the native biodiversity and ecosystem values of the Ranch and Tehachapi Range for the benefit of California’s future generations.
The Conservancy was created as part of the Tejon Ranch Conservation and Land Use Agreement, which was ratified last summer by Tejon Ranch Company, Audubon California, Endangered Habitats League, Natural Resources Defense Council, Planning and Conservation League and Sierra Club. It is overseen by an independent Board of Directors that includes leaders from the environmental community, Tejon Ranch Company and their development partners, academia, business and government. (To view a list of board members, go to: www.tejonconservancy.org/about-us/board-of-directors/ )
“The Ranchwide Agreement set forth an audacious vision of conservation that is now being realized and implemented by the Tejon Ranch Conservancy,” said Graham Chisholm, executive director for Audubon California and chairman of the Tejon Ranch Conservancy board.
While only a year old, the Tejon Ranch Conservancy is already making progress on a number of important fronts.
• This spring, summer and fall, the Conservancy is offering a first-ever series of hikes and educational outings, which are free and open to the public.
• Citizen science is also a feature of the Conservancy’s early programs with volunteers helping to document the birds, plants and reptiles of the Tejon Ranch. This provides an outstanding opportunity for birders, botanists and naturalists to gain access to a long coveted patch of California habitats.
• The Conservancy is on track with the ranch and other partners to realign and permanently protect over 37 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail.
• While most of the land under the Conservancy’s stewardship is protected through the conservation agreement, the organization is currently working with state agencies overseeing the appraisal of 62,000 acres, which it hopes to acquire. Many, including those at the Conservancy, are hopeful that some of the lands identified for acquisition may one day serve as the basis for a state park.
• To develop a better understanding of the regional context of the Tejon Ranch, the Conservancy is working with other leading environmental organizations to develop a conservation plan for the Tehachapi and Southern Sierra Nevada mountains.
The Conservancy will rely on the highest standards of conservation science to guide stewardship on the property. Therefore, the top priority for the Conservancy so far has been to build its capacity for research. Maloney and board members highlight the recent hiring of Michael D. White, Ph.D. as the organization’s first conservation science director as a major step. White is one of California’s leading conservation biologists, having spent the past decade as the senior ecologist and the San Diego director of the nonprofit Conservation Biology Institute. He also continues to serve as an associate professor of biology at San Diego State University.
“The Conservancy could not have done better than to bring Mike White in as lead scientist,” said Dr. Scott Morrison, director of conservation science for The Nature Conservancy’s California chapter. “He is the quintessential conservation biologist: rigorous, creative and committed to outcomes. The Tejon Ranch is unquestionably one of the most important conservation landscapes in the state. It should give Californians great comfort to know Mike is at the helm of its monitoring, management and research team.”
With White’s leadership, the Conservancy has begun to inventory and document the outstanding natural resources of the Ranch. “The breadth and complexity of the ecosystems on the Tejon Ranch create a tremendous opportunity for exploration and research,” said White.
The Conservancy has initiated several partnerships with academic institutions. It is already collaborating with the Range Ecology Lab at UC Berkeley to study native grasslands in the Antelope Valley and with the UC Santa Barbara Bren Graduate School to develop a detailed conservation and restoration plan for all of the land under the Conservancy’s management. Other colleges have also visited the Ranch for field trips to see first hand the ecological wonders conserved by the Ranchwide Agreement.
“It is terrific to see the progress that the Tejon Ranch Conservancy has made to protect California’s open spaces in just its first year,” said California Secretary for Natural Resources Mike Chrisman. “The Conservancy’s commitment to science-based management and public education programs ensure that these natural resources will be well protected for future generations.”
For more information about the Tejon Ranch Conservancy, visit: www.tejonconservancy.org.