In May, EHL filed suit against the City of Murrieta challenging its refusal to implement essential provisions of the Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP).

The MSCP was adopted in 2003 by jurisdictions across Riverside County in exchange for expedited permits for highways and other economic development under the state and federal Endangered Species Acts and to preserve the natural heritage of the County for the enjoyment of its citizens. The MSHCP seeks to assemble a 500,000-acre preserve over the coming years.

On May 1, 2012, at the behest of a small number of property owners, the southwestern Riverside County city adopted a policy that exempted subdivisions of 30 acres or less from committing any land to the MSHCP even though such dedication is central to the process of preserve assembly and has been done successfully by numerous jurisdictions since 2003. As a result, biologically valuable portions of parcels identified as critical to MSHCP success would not be available for conservation.

This failure to implement the MSHCP violates the City’s prior formal commitments to adopt the Plan. And because the action also places the entire MSHCP at risk of not meeting its permit requirements, the action threatens all the regional benefits of the MSHCP.  The City also risks loss of its local transportation funds under the terms of Measure A, passed in 2002.

In the lawsuit, EHL cited failure to conduct proper review under the California Environmental Quality Act and inconsistency with the City’s own General Plan, which incorporates the MSHCP.

EHL calls on the City to pursue constructive solutions that address landowner concerns while guaranteeing MSHCP assembly. Without the MSHCP, economic development as well as wildlife in the City will suffer.

EHL is represented by Michael Fitts, Staff Attorney, and by Johnson & Sedlack in Temecula.