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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Environmentalists' Group Joins Fight Against Newhall Projects

Development: It threatens to sue over habitats of the California red-legged frog and the southwestern arroyo toad.

April 05, 2001|CAROL CHAMBERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An environmental watchdog group jumped into the battle over development in the Santa Clarita Valley on Wednesday by threatening to sue federal agencies for allegedly failing to protect habitats of the California red-legged frog and the southwestern arroyo toad in the Santa Clara River basin and its tributaries.

The Center for Biological Diversity asserted that the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are not in compliance with the Endangered Species Act and says it will file suit in 60 days unless further studies are conducted on the impact of development on the endangered frog and toad.

Federal officials could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.

The organization is "very concerned about the health of the Santa Clara River ecosystem and its imperiled species," center conservationist biologist Peter Galvin said in a letter sent to the agencies Wednesday.

The center alleges that the agencies failed to adequately consider the impact of the Newhall Land and Farming Co.'s North Valencia II and West Creek developments on the amphibian habitat in the river basin. Red-legged frogs were found in the project area in the "very recent past," according to the center. Also, environmental impact reports for both projects list the area as having "moderate to high potential for arroyo toads," the letter states.

It is the latest action by an environmental group fighting the developments, which together will add more than 4,000 housing units to the booming valley.

In March, a judge in Ventura County issued a temporary restraining order halting work on West Creek and a bridge spanning San Francisquito Creek, a river basin tributary, pending further arguments. The order was sought by the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning the Environment, and Friends of the Santa Clara River, which has members in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

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