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[IMGCAP(1)]TEJON RANCH, CA-Tejon Ranch Co. and a list of environmental groups including the Sierra Club have reached an agreement on a conservation and land use plan for the 270,000-acre, 160-year-old Tejon Ranch 60 miles north of Los Angeles. The agreement calls for the permanent conservation of a significant portion of the ranch while guaranteeing that the environmental organizations would not oppose the company’s development plans for approximately 30,000 acres located on the western edge of the property.

[IMGCAP(2)]The agreement comes after years of sometimes friendly and sometimes not-so-friendly jostling between Tejon Ranch Co. and environmental groups over the future of the Tejon Ranch, one of the largest and most pristine landholdings in California and possibly the US. As reported on GlobeSt.com in 2006, Tejon won a lawsuit filed by environmental groups regarding its plans to for a 1,109-acre expansion of the Tejon Industrial Complex. Among the plaintiffs in that suit was the Sierra Club, which is one of the groups that has signed the new agreement.

The new agreement provides that the Tejon Ranch Co. will permanently protect approximately 178,000 acres through a combination of dedicated conservation easements, either initially dedicated or tied to project approvals, and designated as project open space areas. The agreement also lays the groundwork for the purchase, at a price determined by a state appraisal process, of an additional 62,000 acres of ranch land, resulting in a total of 240,000 acres of conserved land.

The agreement is between Tejon Ranch Co. and a group of organizations including the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Audubon California, the Planning and Conservation League and the Endangered Habitats League. The planned developments on the 30,000 acres specified in the agreement would include the communities of Centennial and Tejon Mountain Village, and a development project at the base of the Grapevine in the area adjacent to Tejon Industrial Complex.

The agreement is described by Tejon Ranch Co. board member Michael H. Winer as “Without a doubt…good for the company and its shareholders.” Winer is portfolio manager for Third Avenue Management LLC, the company’s largest shareholder. He says that by “removing the potential obstacles that have plagued similar development efforts in California, we’ll be able to move ahead with the entitlement processes on our current development projects in a much more timely fashion.”

As Tejon Ranch Co. expresses it in its announcement regarding the agreement, the company over the years “had routinely engaged in conversations with environmental groups and government agencies that could have an interest in or influence over the planned future activities on its land.” Those conversations evolved into two years of formal negotiations with the environmental organizations that have signed the new agreement.

Robert A. Stine, president and CEO of Tejon Ranch Co., calls the agreement “good for conservation, good for California and good for the company and its shareholders.”The company says that the deal with the environmental groups “is strongly supported by key state government officials, including California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the secretaries of the California Department of Resources and the California Environmental Protection Agency, the directors of the California Departments of Fish and Game and Parks and Recreation, along with the director of the Wildlife Conservation Board and the chair of the State Water Resources Board.

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