Audacious Habitat Plan Brings Builders, Activists to Table

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So breathtaking in scope is a draft growth plan for the western half of Riverside County, Calif., that some environmental activists previously opposed to any growth are working with builders and local officials to hammer out a deal.

March 01, 2003

 

So breathtaking in scope is a draft growth plan for the western half of Riverside County, Calif., that some environmental activists previously opposed to any growth are working with builders and local officials to hammer out a deal.

Under the plan, 500,000 acres would be set aside as protected habitat for 146 species, while 174,000 acres would be tagged for development without future concerns about species protection. At the table are no-growthers such as the Sierra Club and the Endangered Habitats League.

"I think we are in a window where we have an opportunity to work together on different patterns of growth that can produce win/win outcomes," says Dan Silver of the Endangered Habitats League. "When you do something comprehensive in multispecies protection, it saves builders a lot of time and money over the long run. Builders normally have to do project-by-project mitigation anyway. This makes sense of that whole mess."

That said, the finish line for the plan's approval is a long way off, says Borre Winckel, executive director of the Riverside Building Industry Association. Winckel sees potential for a lot of unhappy property owners as well as opposition from activists who still oppose all growth.

"It is very ambitious," says Winckel. "As with all large-scale planning exercises, there are winners and losers. The property-rights people have a very good argument that a cloud has been placed on their property, and it is uncertain whether those people with a cloud over their property will ever be able to be made whole."

For details on the plan, go to www.rcip.org.

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