The following is a press release from an organization unaffiliated with Voice of OC. The views expressed here are not those of Voice of OC.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Oct. 18, 2018
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Joel Zlotnik (714) 560-5713
Eric Carpenter (714) 560-5697
OCTA Finalizes Plans to Manage Wilderness Preserves
The unique environmental program protects wildlife and habitat while allowing for much-needed Orange County freeway improvements
ORANGE – The Orange County Transportation Authority has finalized plans outlining how its remaining two wilderness preserves – the Eagle Ridge Preserve in Brea and the Pacific Horizon Preserve in Laguna Beach – will be managed and monitored to ensure that wildlife and native habitat are protected.
As part of Measure M, also known as OC Go, Orange County’s half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements, OCTA has purchased seven open space properties from willing sellers to preserve the land and permanently ensure that wildlife and plant species can thrive for generations.
The Resource Management Plans show how land will continue to be preserved and how valuable plants and animals will continue to be protected. The plans also address fire-prevention measures and managed recreational use of the preserves by the public where and when appropriate, while still ensuring that endangered animal and plant species remain unharmed.
“Our legacy as transportation planners and builders will not only be measured by how well we move people but also by our efforts to care for the wildlife and habitat that makes Orange County such a special place,” said OCTA Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett, who also serves the Fifth District Supervisor for the County of Orange. “We are proud to lead this unique environmental program, which helps strike that balance to protect our natural resources, for not only the present, but for our children, grandchildren, and generations to come.”
The plans will be reviewed at least every five years and updated as necessary based on any changing conditions of the wildlife or habitat. When the updates occur, the plans will be presented for public review and must be approved by state and federal wildlife officials.
Measure M, originally approved in 1990, was renewed in 2006 with support from nearly 70 percent of voters. When planning the transportation improvement program, OCTA made it a priority to work with the environmental community and wildlife agencies to find the best way to offset the effects of construction of freeway projects on the environment.
Rather than a piecemeal approach to mitigating the 13 individual freeway project impacts, OCTA took a comprehensive approach, allowing for the preservation and protection of large areas of open space with the most sensitive habitat and wildlife. That resulted in the creation of the Freeway Environmental Mitigation Program, which dedicates 5 percent of funding from the freeway program to the effort – expected to be more than $250 million through 2041.
Throughout the process, OCTA has worked closely with local environmental groups and with state and federal wildlife officials to develop a conservation plan. In exchange, the wildlife agencies have agreed to streamline the permitting process, allowing OCTA to more quickly deliver much-needed freeway projects.
In total, OCTA has acquired seven open space properties, totaling more than 1,300 acres. Previously, resource-management plans were approved for the other five preserves: Trabuco Rose, Bobcat Ridge, Live Oak, Wren’s View, all in Trabuco Canyon, and Silverado Chaparral, in Silverado Canyon. In addition to the land purchases, 12 restoration projects are currently funded throughout Orange County. Funds will aid in removing invasive plant species and restoring about 350 acres of open space to its native habitat. In total, more than $40 million has been spent acquiring and restoring land in Orange County.
The public can access the properties and enjoy the natural landscape during an OCTA-hosted hike or equestrian ride, typically held every other month. To learn more about the properties and to register for a free hike or ride, visit preservingourlegacy.org.
To view the plans for all seven of OCTA’s preserves, visit octa.net/RMP.
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