Monday, October 12, 2009

Tejon National Park

"""The 270,000-acre Tejon Ranch, between Los Angeles and Bakersfield in California’s Tehachapi Mountains, features extraordinary ecological resources: ancient oak groves, Joshua tree and pinyon pine forests, and 80 imperiled species, including the California condor.

Its owners and some environmentalists have cut a deal to put 90 percent of the ranchland into a private conservancy in exchange for allowing intense development on the remaining 10 percent. But here’s what hasn’t been seriously considered: Protecting this precious area as a national park for the benefit of creatures and people in one of the nation’s most densely populated regions.

National parks have been deemed “America’s best idea,” in writer Wallace Stegner’s phrasing, and they are celebrated as that in a Ken Burns documentary series airing this week on PBS. Yet, oddly, America’s national park system is largely perceived as a fait accompli, like the great Gothic cathedrals in Europe. But national parks should be as much a part of our future as they are of our past."""

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Ken Burns' documentary on the National Park system provided some restful info-tainment, and should remind us of all the sound reasons for federally-protected wilderness. Unfortunately, one of the largest areas of wilderness in California, the Tejon Ranch, does not have National Park status. Tejon Ranch encompasses most of the Tehachapi Mountains and borders on the San Joaquin valley to the north, and stretches to the mojave desert to the south and east; to the west lies Mt. Pinos and the coast range--chumash territory.

The Tejon Ranch consists mainly of California chapparal: oaks, digger pines, and grass-covered hills, blanketed by wildflowers in the spring. Above five or six thousand feet one encounters ponderosa, sugar pines and firs, a few small lakes, and year-round streams (the pinyon pine mentioned by Miss Atlanta are a Great Basin pine found above 5000 ft. or so--like in the Inyo Mountains (INYO, the Paiute Geist). A few pinyon may grow on the eastern side of Tejan Ranch towards mojave, but rare). Red tail hawks, golden eagles and, rarely, condors are seen. Whitetail deer, a few black bears, coyotes, the occasional lynx and cougar may be sighted. Some rumors persist that a few wolves still haunt the Tehachapis--unlikely. The last grizzlies of California were gone, hunted to extinction, by 1900 or so. "Tejon" means badger in spanish. Legend holds that early jesuits witnessed a badger fighting a grizzly and designated the pass "del Tejon." Ft. Tejon in fact pre-dates the Civil War; a young Ulysses S Grant spent some time in the area.

The Kawaiisu were the main tribe centered around the Tehachapis--the southern-most end of the Sierra Nevada--though various tribes traded in the area, such as the Yokuts from the great valley, and paiutes from the owens valley area, and the desert wasteland southeast of the sierras. The US Army in fact came out to California to protect WASPs settlers from the paiute raiders (though the Paiutes thought differently). The Tehachapi valley itself was a sort of pow-wow area. Like the chumash, the Kawaiisu at times left pictographs in the foothills near springs and rock outcroppings. The Kawaiisu Tribe now opposes the Tejon Ranch company and their proposed development plans.

Tejon Ranch owners and managers rate among the most conservative land barons in California, if not the USA. They are pals with the Big Oil boys in Kern and regularly hang out with Kali-Klown-Kommando Ahhnuld Schwarzi as well. Dick Cheney swings by the Tejon Ranch once in a while, after paying respects to his cronies in the petroleum biz residing in the country clubs of west Bakersfield. Ed Jaggels, infamous, crypto-nazi Kern DA and the Kern redneck sheriffs party at Tejon Ranch. When in need of some R & R, LA's corporate nazis right-wing elite also head to Tejon to hunt and hoist a few brews and study Zig Ziglar or somethin' in one of the TR's private lodges.

Yes, Tejon Ranch management may have expressed some interest in environmental issues, but that's mostly just for image and political gain; they want to keep the Tejon Ranch in private hands as a secluded hunting range for hicks GOP insiders. Perhaps the few remaining progressives in the House or Senate could prevent that--don't hold your breath.


CharleyCarp said...

Are you familiar with the ranch formerly owned by Malcolm Forbes just north of Yellowstone? Your piece brought it to mind: certain lands just belong in public hands. We don't seem to be capable, as a society, of accomplishing this at present.

J said...

I have not heard of it, but agree that certain lands like the Tejon Ranch belong in public hands. Actually I respect some of the conservation types, to some degree--they might have an argument insofar that Nat. Park status could pose risks to wildlife, ecosystem, or leads to "Yosemite-ization," traffic etc.

On the whole, however I feel the public access and preservation justifies the risks. W/o NatPark or wilderness status the western US would probably look like the Alps--covered with highways, dotted with bars/hotels/casinos in the sierras and rockies, etc.

A Tejon Nat.Park would take it out of the hands of the Kern good 'ol boys as well, who operate a hunting lodge for cali businessmen (they even ship in elk from the rockies---f**k). And really, a Tejon Nat.Park would probably even be better business-wise for LA and Kern county communities.

(apologies for moderation/delay, Mr Carp. When un-moderated the enemies of Contingencies leave nasty/threatening messages).

CharleyCarp said...

A timely news story:

J said...

Not sure whether entire URL made it, Sir Carp: death of some Montana guru lady? Sad--will upset some former dharmically-challenged acquaintances of mine. I'm an equal opportunity skeptic--opposed to judeo-xtian fundamentalists as well as new agers and the wicca posse

CharleyCarp said...

Her cult bought Malcolm Forbes' ranch. Where bison go when the winter in the Park gets too rough, only to be slaughtered. US paid the cult 13 mill in 1998 to get an easement, but screwed up the deal: the cult still grazes cattle there, so the buff still get killed.

J said...

Interesting. Bison should be protected, though a bit late in the game.

Guru Ma, RIP.

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