January 19, 2000

Public Takes Title to Almost 225,000 Acres of Inholdings Spread Across California Desert

Business Editors
Business Wire


The public, through the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), yesterday (January 18, 2000) took ownership of almost 225,000 acres of key parcels of private lands spread throughout the California Desert in San Bernardino County as part of an unprecedented public-private partnership to protect the Desert's natural values.

The Partnership, in addition to BLM, involves The Wildlands Conservancy (TWC), a non-profit group based in Oak Glen, Calif., which contributed $15 million to private funds toward the purchase; Catellus Development Corporation (NYSE:CDX), owner of the alternate sections of lands originally granted to Southern Pacific Railroad, which sold the lands at a discounted price; and Senator Dianne Feinstein, who was instrumental in obtaining the $10 million in Federal funds from Congress needed to complete the purchase.

The acquisition not only brings 224,706 acres of private lands into public ownership and makes these lands immediately available for public use and enjoyment, it also fills in critical gaps and provides the public improved access to several hundred thousand acres of existing public lands interspersed with the newly acquired inholdings. These lands are spread across more than 140 miles of desert lands stretching from Barstow east to the Colorado River.

The transaction is part of a larger acquisition effort involving TWC, Catellus, BLM, the National Park Service (NPS), and hundreds of small inholders who desire to sell their scattered tracts in the large area. The Department of Interior, which oversees BLM, is required by the 1994 California Desert Protection Act, sponsored by Sen. Feinstein, to give priority to consolidating Federal Ownership within the National Park units and BLM wilderness areas designated by the Act.

The larger acquisition partnership was initially aimed at bringing into public ownership a total of 437,000 acres of Catellus holdings and up to 50,000 acres of small private inholdings within the NPS's Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park and within 15 BLM Wilderness Areas and other BLM areas in the Desert with high recreation and wildlife values.

TWC has recently reached an agreement with Catellus to expand the potential acquisition by 433,000 acres, to a total of 480,000 acres of Catellus lands. The additional acquisition area would include portions of the scenic Cady Mountains and key wildlife corridors and habitat between Joshua Tree Park and Mojave National Preserve.

In addition to the $25 million expended yesterday, Congress has appropriated $5 million to the NPS acquisitions in Fiscal Year 2000 and has targeted an additional $15 million for BLM and NPS in Fiscal Year 2001 if certain conditions are met to complete the overall effort. TWC is endeavoring to raise the additional private funds necessary to complete the remaining land acquisitions from Catellus. Including yesterday's closing, these acquisitions would total $53 million.
In addition to the direct acquisitions, the side benefits of the partnership include:

-- Ongoing land exchanges between BLM and Catellus, such as an
exchange which closed last week valued at $3.7 million. This
exchange resulted in public acquisition of about 12,000 acres
near Barstow, primarily in the Black Mountain Wilderness and the
Rainbow Basin Area of Critical Environmental Concern; and

-- A commitment obtained by TWC that Catellus will grant the Federal
government easements over certain properties Catellus will retain
in the Desert once the overall acquisition is completed,
providing the public access across hundreds of miles of
recreation routes currently traversing Catellus private lands.

Further information on the BLM can be obtained at their website www.ca.blm.gov.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Business Wire
COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group