Developer: Rare flower won’t stop Newhall Ranch

San Fernando Valley Spineflower

By Jim Holt
Signal Staff Writer

The prospect of the extremely rare San Fernando Valley spineflower being added to the nation’s list of endangered species is not expected to hamper or impede plans to build homes as part of the Newhall Ranch project, a spokesman for the developer said Tuesday.

In response to a settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity to speed protections for 757 species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed Thursday to protect the San Fernando Valley spineflower as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

Such a designation would impose strict environmental rules calling for protection of the flower and its habitat.

On Tuesday, Steve Churm spokesman for the Newhall Ranch developer, FivePoint Holdings LLC, said such a designation would not affect development plans.

“The Spineflower Conservation Plan approved by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in 2010 already provides for measures to permanently protect and manage the flower on Newhall Land property,” he said.

“Under that plan, 227 acres of Newhall Land has been permanently funded and protected for the flower,” he said.

“FivePoint does not anticipate changes to its development plans in order to meet the federal Endangered Species Act requirement proposed today,” Churm said.

“We look forward to cooperating with federal officials on all discussions related to the flower,” he said.

Newhall Ranch developers are busy modifying its report detailing the housing project’s impact on the Santa Clarita Valley environment in response to a California Supreme Court decision last fall.

Developer Newhall Land suffered the setback in November 2015 when the California Supreme Court said the developer’s Environmental Impact Report failed to prove its project was consistent with state guidelines to control harmful greenhouse gas.

In February, the courts dealt another blow when they turned down a request for a chance to restate its case.

On Tuesday, Churm provided an update on the housing project’s plans for a 21,000 home master plan community.

“FivePoint and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are currently in the process of responding to a California Supreme Court decision issued in Nov. 2015 that required revisions to the project’s environmental review documents on narrow issues related to greenhouse gas emissions and the (unarmored threespine) stickleback, and Newhall Land expects those issues to be resolved in 2017,” Churm said.

Scientists thought the San Fernando Valley Spineflower was extinct from 1929 until a population was discovered in 1999 in Ventura County and the service placed the flower on the candidate waiting list for protection. The next year, the flower was discovered in the SCV within the footprint of the planned Newhall Ranch development project.

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