Newhall Ranch Campaign
BREAKING NEWS - WISHTOYO, OUR VENTURA COASTKEEPER PROGRAM, AND PLAINTIFF COALITION PREVAIL IN CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT
Since 2009, Wishtoyo and its Ventura Coastkeeper program have devoted significant resources to fight the Newhall Ranch mega development, which would create a city of 60,000 plus residents over 14,000 acres adjacent to Southern California’s last free flowing River - the Santa Clara. The unsustainable project threatens endangered steelhead recovery downstream, the California condor, the endangered unarmored threespine stickleback (fish), the rare and endangered San Fernando Valley spineflower found only on Newhall Ranch and one other property, and sacred Chumash and Tataviam cultural resources and burials. The mega development also threatens to impart an adverse impacts on local water supply and to exasperate the effects of global warming on Californians and the rest of the world.
Working closely with the Center for Biological Diversity, the UCLA Environmental Law Clinic, and Chaten-Brown & Carstens, Wishtoyo has taken a lead role in briefing and arguing the Chumash Native American, steelhead, and water quality claims in three state cases and one federal case in the appellate and lower courts.
California Department of Fish & Wildlife Supreme Court Case
After a sweeping victory in superior court, and adverse ruling in the California Court of Appeal, the impacts of the Newhall Ranch mega development on the Santa Clara River, its native and endangered wildlife, and broader environment is now primarily in the hands of the California Supreme Court, who heard oral argument in our case against the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on September 2, 2015 in San Francisco. John Buse and Kevin Bundy argued on behalf of all co-plaintiffs and performed phenomenally.
Our litigation team, numerous Tribes throughout the state Wishtoyo organized for amicus support, and the co-plaintiff coalition including the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Santa Clara River, SCOPE, and the California Native Plant Society secured the Supreme Court's review in 2014 with a coordinated and resource intensive effort. We are hopeful that the Court protects a plethora of endangered species throughout the State and in the Santa Clara River watershed by:
- Upholding California’s fully protected species law that disallows agency approvals authorizing “take” of the state’s most imperiled wildlife;
- That requires the significance of greenhouse gas emission impacts for all project throughout the state to be accurately calculated so that adequate mitigation measures can be adopted to reduce global warming impacts to a less than significant effect; and
- That protects meaningful participation for California Native Americans and the general public in the California Environmental Quality Act process.
Landmark Village and Mission Village Cases
Wishtoyo, Ventura Coastkeeper, and our campaign partners Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Santa Clara River, and SCOPE have filed petitions for review in the California Supreme Court in our Newhall Ranch Landmark Village and Mission Village sub-division cases. The Appellate Court’s holdings allow Newhall Land and Farming Company and Los Angeles County to avoid calculating, and thus sufficiently mitigating, the proposed sub-developments' actual greenhouse gas emissions - a practice contrary to the California Environmental Quality Act and the goals of California's landmark AB 32 global warming law. We are seeking a grant and hold from the California Supreme Court pending the outcome of the greenhouse gas issue in our Newhall Ranch case against the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and like in our California Supreme Court case against the Department of Fish and Wildlife, have asked the Court to determine whether an agency can deviate from the California Environmental Quality Act’s existing conditions baseline and instead determine the significance of a project’s greenhouse gas emissions by reference to a fake hypothetical and higher baseline. In August 2015 the Supreme Court granted our Landmark Village petition, and we are hopeful the Court will do the same in our Mission Village case.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Case
In March 2014, Wishtoyo, our Ventura Coastkeeper Program, Center for Biological Diversity, SCOPE, and Friends of the Santa Clara River sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in federal court over the agencies’ approval of permits for the sprawling Newhall Ranch development. Filed in the Central District Court of California, the lawsuit challenges the Army Corps’ failure to comply with the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and National Historic Preservation Act when the agencies issued permits to enable the development in 2011. The lawsuit also challenges the EPA’s approval of the project’s permits which occurred despite the EPA repeatedly voicing serious and unresolved concerns about the project’s environmental impacts.
In January 2015, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Mission Indians joined in the National Historic Preservation Act claims, as the federally recognized Chumash Tribe was not even contacted by the Army Corps regarding the development's irreversible and devastating impacts to Chumash historic, cultural, and religious properties. Wishtoyo is taking the lead on briefing the Chumash cultural resources issues, and also the Endangered Species Act claims pertaining to the Army Corps' failure to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service as to the development's cumulative sub-lethal impacts on endangered Souther California Steelhead downstream. The case is now before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal, with briefing scheduled for completion in April 2016.
Tejon Mountain Village Resort Development Litigation
The Wishtoyo Foundation filed a lawsuit with the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center on Race Poverty & the Environment, and TriCounty Watchdogs to overturn Kern County’s approval of the Tejon Mountain Village Resort Development to prevent it from jeopardizing the California Condor; displacing and destroying Native American sacred grounds, Native American burial sites, and Chumash cultural resources; and from irreversibly harming our environment. While unsuccessful in Court on our California Environmental Quality Act claims, Wishtoyo's last stand and advocacy efforts through public comment should enhance protections for cultural resources, the condor, and the environment,