EHL is coordinating a coalition effort to save the El Toro portion of the Orange County Central-Coastal Natural Community Conservation Plan (NCCP) from broken federal government promises.

This almost 1000-acre panhandle-shaped property was part of the former El Toro Naval Air Station, now Irvine’s Great Park. The federal government committed to bringing it into the NCCP reserve due to extraordinary concentrations of gnatcatchers and cactus wrens. Indeed, it was the single greatest new conservation benefit of the NCCP. However, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) suffered from failed leadership and did not protect the land. With control transferred to the Federal Aviation Administration, the FBI is seeking portions for outdoor rifle ranges.

Since the last Newsletter report in 2007, major national environmental groups accompanied EHL to a briefing in Washington, DC for a top FWS official. Also, EHL has asked for the assistance of numerous stakeholders and signatories to the NCCP, as well as from Congressional offices. However, a series of site visits and meetings have to date failed to resolve the issue. There is continued unaccountability from the federal agencies, and resistance from the FBI to alternative facilities.

It is unacceptable for the NCCP to serve development but not deliver conservation. EHL and other groups are exploring legal and other avenues in order to save this irreplaceable – and promised – habitat.

Photo of El Toro: Jerry Burchfield