Re "The Long View for Land Use," editorial, Dec. 16:
As a supporter of the Zoological Society of San Diego and the Center for the Reproduction of Endangered Species, I wanted to comment on the critical importance of the preservation of the 23,000-acre Rancho Mission Viejo to world conservation efforts.
It is alarming to observe the increasing development pressure on one of the 25 most-threatened hot spots of biological diversity on Earth. This critical area, which supports many rare and endangered native species, is highlighted on the conservation maps of many international organizations.
Very little of this habitat and the native wildlife it supports remain in the world. The Rancho Mission Viejo sage-scrub habitat supports more than half of the remaining world population of coastal cactus wrens and a fourth of the remaining California gnatcatchers on Earth. It is home to several endangered or threatened species on the brink of extinction. Its diverse expanse supports mule deer, bobcat and cougar, as well as hawks, owls, eagles and falcons. Its biological richness includes many species of rare amphibians and reptiles, including the endangered arroyo toad and the San Diego coast horned lizard, which is a candidate for endangered species status.
Its watersheds still support rare native fish including arroyo chub and three spine stickleback. Part of its watershed drains into San Mateo Creek, a spawning area for the critically endangered southern steelhead, an oceangoing species of native rainbow trout. The conservation of Rancho Mission Viejo and the rare plant and animal species it supports is a priority for all of us who are working to protect endangered species worldwide. To learn more, visit the Conservation Biology Institute Web site at www.consbio.org.
What must it have felt like riding a train across the American prairie, witnessing the decimation of the tens of thousands of buffalo? It must have sickened most travelers. But administrative policy is hard to change. It takes time.
Five Orange County supervisors hold Orange County's last open habitat corridor in their hands. The 23,000 acres of Rancho Mission Viejo are up for a General Plan amendment and zoning change. These five people will decide.
Will we stand by and watch the mountain lion, the golden eagle, the steelhead trout become extinct? This precious connection of the Cleveland National Forest with Camp Pendleton has been open habitat, zoned for more than 100 years for ranching and agricultural use only. The private owners have reaped the tax benefit and now they want the development rights.
When Orange County looks like Hong Kong and all wildlife is dead, we can flush our toilets on Tuesdays and hope for a vacation someplace where the ocean is still clean. Or we can make sure that county supervisors adhere to state and federal laws that prohibit the decimation of our wildlife and the pollution of our rivers and ocean.