VENTURA, Calif.—Conservation organizations filed two legal motions last week to defend Ventura County’s innovative wildlife connectivity ordinances—the first of their kind in California. Ordinance No. 4537 and Ordinance No. 4539, which increase protections for important designated wildlife corridors connecting the Los Padres National Forest, Santa Monica Mountains, and Simi Hills, were challenged in court by industry groups last year.
The Ordinances require environmental review for development in Ventura County that might harm wildlife habitat connectivity. Crucial wildlife corridors help mountain lions, gray foxes, California red-legged frogs, and other animals survive in fragmented landscapes while reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions, preserving genetic diversity, and recovering populations in fire-damaged areas.
“Time is running short for our region’s iconic wildlife as they struggle for survival in an increasingly developed and fragmented landscape,” said Jeff Kuyper, executive director of Los Padres ForestWatch. “The corridor Ordinances ensure a safe future for animals throughout the county and enjoy broad support amongst scientists and the community. Our organizations will do everything we can to diligently defend them in court.”
Today’s intervention, filed in Ventura County Superior Court, comes after the California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously that mountain lions in Ventura County, as well as other Southern California populations, move toward protection under the state’s Endangered Species Act.
“The Ordinances give Ventura County a powerful weapon in the local fight to protect wildlife from the extinction crisis,” said J.P. Rose, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These are sensible measures that help safeguard mountain lions, red-legged frogs, and other cherished and imperiled animals in Southern California.”
The Ordinances were adopted by the Board of Supervisors in March 2019 after a 2-year stakeholder process with landowners, wildlife advocates, industry groups, scientists, and county planners. In response, the Ventura County Coalition of Labor, Agriculture, and Business, and the California Construction and Industrial Materials Association filed lawsuits attempting to block the Ordinances.
“Ventura County should be hailed for finding sensible solutions to the crisis facing our local wildlife, particularly mountain lions and other species that travel to and from Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area,” said Dennis Arguelles, Los Angeles program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. “We are proud to defend Ventura County’s innovative wildlife measures, and work with them to ensure these majestic creatures continue to be part of our local landscape.”
“We applaud Ventura County for taking this bold step to ensure that wildlife can better move about on a landscape crisscrossed by a multitude of roads and linear infrastructure,” said Pamela Flick, California program director for Defenders of Wildlife. “We stand ready to defend the Ordinances and ensure that they are not only upheld but used as a template for other communities to make space for wildlife.”
The motions to intervene to defend the ordinances were filed today by Los Padres ForestWatch, Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity and the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). If granted, the conservation groups would have the opportunity to file briefs and ensure that the interests of wildlife are strongly presented to the court. The groups are represented by the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of California, Irvine School of Law.