Fellow Story

Jensen and colleagues kicked out of Tejon Ranch project after criticism

To fend off lawsuits over its plans to build a new city in the rugged countryside northwest of Los Angeles, Tejon Ranch Co. made a landmark concession to environmentalists.

It promised a decade ago to preserve 90% of its land — 240,000 acres — as an untouched ecological conservancy for public enjoyment through educational and research programs.

But as the 19,300-residence development seeks final approval from county supervisors as early as this week, Tejon Ranch Co. has banned a leading botanical group from visiting its environmental conservancy in what opponents say is a bid to stifle criticism.

The ban stems from negative appraisals of the potential impacts of the planned Centennial development on rare native bunch grasses and wildflowers by Nick Jensen, a conservation analyst for the nonprofit California Native Plant Society.

“I don’t want to see those grasslands paved over — and I said so in public comments submitted during the environmental review of Centennial,” said Jensen, 39, on a recent weekday as he waded through waist-high bright yellow rabbit brush just outside of the conservancy’s property line.

“For that, Tejon Ranch has come down pretty hard on us.”

Earlier this year, Tejon banned Jensen — along with his entire 10,000-member plant society and other botanical organizations it associates with — from accessing its wildlands in the Tehachapi Mountains about 60 miles north of downtown.

It’s a sharp about-face regarding Jensen, who had once been touted by the company for compiling a definitive list of plant species found on the conservancy.

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