Indian tribe sues Interior Dept., county to stop resort project on California ranch

By Jacob Adelman, AP
Friday, November 20, 2009

Indian tribe sues over Calif. ranch development

LOS ANGELES — An Indian tribe has filed a lawsuit to stop the development of a 5,000-acre gated resort community on a sprawling ranch some 60 miles north of Los Angeles that it claims as tribal land.

The lawsuit filed last week in federal court in Fresno argues that the U.S. Department of Interior failed to recognize the Kawaiisu Tribe of Tejon’s legitimate claim to areas of the 270,000-acre Tejon Ranch property where the Tejon Mountain Village project is planned.

It also argues that Kern County supervisors ignored the existence of historic tribal sites when they approved the project last month. The suit names the interior department and the county.

The project, which includes 3,500 homes, two golf courses and several resort hotels, “will create irreversible damage to the tribe and is an unlawful act that meets the definition of genocide and ethnocide,” according to the lawsuit.

The suit seeks an injunction suspending development, as well as more than $4.5 billion from the Department of Interior in compensation for resources extracted from the land and the tribe’s pain and suffering.

Interior Department spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

Phone messages left with Kawaiisu Chairman David Laughing Horse Robinson and Kern County spokesman Allan Krauter were not immediately returned Thursday.

A coalition of environmentalists filed a separate lawsuit over the project last week, arguing that county officials ignored its potential impact on the California condor while discounting flaws in the its water-use plan and other environmental impacts.

Tejon Mountain Village is the smaller of two developments planned for the Tejon Ranch Co.’s property, the largest piece of privately held land in the state. A separate 23,000-home project known as Centennial is currently undergoing environmental review.

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