Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 10, 2017

Contact:  Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (213) 598-1466,
George Hague, Sierra Club, (951) 313-0395,
Tom Paulek, Friends of the Northern San Jacinto Valley, (951) 368-4525;

Appeal Challenges Southern California Freeway Threatening Wildlife, Homes

$1.7 Billion Freeway Would Hurt Air Quality, Waste Taxpayer Money

RIVERSIDE, Calif.— Conservation groups today filed an appeal in state court challenging a new $1.7 billion freeway project in Southern California that would cut through low-income neighborhoods, threaten wildlife preserves and worsen air pollution.

The six-lane “Mid County Parkway” would fragment the San Jacinto Valley, opening the door to sprawl and traffic in a rural area rich in agriculture, open space and wildlife preserves. The Mid County Parkway would pave the way for destructive new development projects, such as the controversial new city of 36,000 people called the Villages of Lakeview.

“This massive waste of taxpayer money adds more sprawl and cars on the roads while tearing apart neighborhoods and wildlife habitat,” said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Riverside County should be looking for transit solutions that improve lives and congestion. But this boondoggle will end up hurting imperiled wildlife while forcing hundreds of people from their homes.” 

Today's appeal comes after a Riverside County Superior Court ruling this summer in favor of the freeway project under the California Environmental Quality Act.

An environmental review prepared by the Riverside County Transportation Commission found that that the chosen route “would result in the highest impacts to residential relocations in areas with minority and low-income populations” and be built close to schools and parks. A wealth of research demonstrates significant long-term health risks for those living close to freeways or traffic pollution, especially for children, pregnant women and senior citizens. Construction of the highway would force up to 396 residents from their homes and displace businesses that employ more than 170 people.

“This polluting freeway would tear up neighborhoods and worsen our struggling air quality with a permanent new source of diesel exhaust and soot,” said George Hague of the San Gorgonio chapter of the Sierra Club. “The county should be proposing cleaner and cheaper upgrades to the Ramona Expressway to improve traffic safety instead of this wasteful new six-lane freeway.”

Riverside County environmental documents admit the project will worsen air quality and greenhouse gas pollution while also harming farmlands and sensitive wildlife preserves. Environmentally sensitive wildlife areas around the freeway that would be affected by the project include the San Jacinto Wildlife AreaLake Perris State Recreation Area, and important core reserves designated for conservation under regional habitat conservation plans, including the Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan.

The freeway would cut through the San Jacinto Valley, which is home to numerous imperiled wildlife species, including the burrowing owl, Swainson's hawk, tricolored blackbird, willow flycatcher and Stephens' kangaroo rat. It's also one of the most important areas for migratory birds in Southern California and renowned as a haven for birds of prey, including bald and golden eagles and peregrine falcons.

“This unnecessary freeway project only leads to efforts by developers to pave over the beautiful San Jacinto Valley, destroy its agricultural community and degrade one of Southern California's most important wetlands — the San Jacinto Wildlife Area,” said Tom Paulek of the Friends of the Northern San Jacinto Valley. “This reckless freeway destroys the possibility for sustainable land use in the San Jacinto Valley that reduces urban-industrial sprawl, preserves local agriculture and protects wildlife.”

Today's appeal was filed in California state court at the 4th District Court of Appeal in Riverside against the Riverside County Transportation Commission by the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society and Friends of the Northern San Jacinto Valley. In addition to this federal lawsuit, the same coalition filed an appeal to the freeway in federal court at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in July of this year.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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