California Designates First Natural Landmark

California State Parks Director Ruth Coleman announced that almost 40,000 of the 50,000 acres permanently preserved on the historic Irvine Ranch have been designated as the first-ever California Natural Landmark.

The designation is the first under a state program that officially recognizes and promotes both private and public stewardship of natural resources for public benefit in the state of California. The Irvine Ranch in October 2006 was recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Interior and designated a national natural landmark.

"On behalf of the state of California, our heartfelt thanks go to Donald Bren for his leadership in setting aside so much of The Irvine Ranch for habitat protection, as well as his commitment to ensure it is accessible for people to discover and enjoy," said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"I have known for a long time how unique and magnificent these lands are," said Bren, chair of The Irvine Company. "[This] designation is the culmination of years of collaboration and determination for all of us who embrace a high standard for protection, conservation, and public access to open space in Orange County."

The land included in designation contains raptors, mountain lions, Tecate cypress, California sycamore, and several species of rare birds, reptiles and amphibians. The lands are owned by the County of Orange, City of Irvine, The Irvine Company, California Department of Fish and Game, California Department of Parks and Recreation, City of Laguna Beach, General Services Administration, and the City of Newport Beach. They are part of the 50,000 acres of open space and parks on The Irvine Ranch.

California Natural Landmarks are designated only after meeting rigorous scientific criteria. Areas chosen are those that best illustrate the state's rich biological and geological character; the scientific scrutiny considers the diversity and rarity of the area's geological or paleontological features, its natural communities, habitat quality and the presence of rare, threatened or endangered species, and the land's value for science and education.

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