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Newhall Ranch Opponents Sue Calif. Fish & Game

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Five environmental and Native American groups collectively sued the California Department of Fish and Game on Jan. 3 for granting permits on residential development proposed on 12,000 acres along the Santa Clara River, the Center for Biological Diversity announced.

Developers of the Newhall Ranch project, the largest residential complex ever debated in California, were granted permits to build 21,000 homes that would cover Los Angeles County’s last sizable, untouched land area. According to the Center for Biological Diversity’s press release, it would create a virtual city of more than 60,000 people along a six-mile stretch of open space and farmland that runs along the river northwest of Los Angeles.

“It is appalling that the Department of Fish and Game, the trustee for all of California’s wildlife, approved ecological destruction on this scale,” said John Buse, a senior attorney for the center, in a statement released to the press. “Far less damaging options were available, but the department brushed them aside.”

In addition to a host of environmental changes, the plans involve “unearthing and desecration of Native American burial sites, sacred places and cultural natural resources such as the California condor,” according to the Center’s statement. It would also destroy about 25 percent of the San Fernando Valley spineflower population, a species with only one other habitat besides the riverside.

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The suit was filed in San Francisco County Superior Court and alleges that fish and game officials violated state environmental codes in granting permits Dec. 3 for the controversial plan.

"The state's fish and game department has once again endorsed this same development that will threaten the region's water supply, worsen air pollution and cause further gridlock on our highways," Lynne Plambeck, president of the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning the Environment, one of the plaintiffs, told the Associated Press. Other plaintiffs are the Friends of the Santa Clara River, the California Native Plant Society and the Wishtoyo Foundation/Ventura Coastkeeper, the news wire said.