A land trust will begin a conservation program in the Prado Basin using mitigation fees resulting from an EHL settlement agreement with the City of Ontario.

In the late 1990s, thousands of acres of dairy preserve were opened up for annexation by the Cities of Chino and Ontario and to development by the County of Riverside. EHL worked with the City of Chino on a mitigation program for burrowing owls and to purchase land connecting the Basin to Chino Hills State Park. EHL and the Sierra Club also sued the City of Ontario over its annexation, and in 2001 reached a mutually beneficial agreement for community-focused rather than typical sprawl development and for a per-unit mitigation fee on all development in what was then called the New Model Colony.

The fee is to be administered by a land trust and used to acquire and restore habitat in the Prado Basin north of Prado Dam. Priorities are wetlands and riparian areas, raptors like the burrowing owl, and the endangered Delhi Sand’s flower loving fly. The Prado Basin is a relatively little known but extensive open space area within the greater metropolitan area, roughly southeast of the City of Chino. Prado Regional Park and Army Corps-owned riparian habitat are major components.

New development in Ontario was initially slow to materialize and the mitigation program languished until recently, when the City took the lead in getting it up and running. EHL helped select the Inland Empire Resource Conservation District (IERCD) as the implementing entity. IERCD is a state-chartered agency that works on natural resource conservation and education. It has excellent local knowledge and experience in land acquisition, restoration and land management. EHL will serve on an advisory group for the effort. With the fund now standing at $8 million, we look forward to working with IECD and the City on initial project selection.