A bucolic canyon. A mountain stream. An endangered toad. A Vegas casino magnate proposing construction of a dozen McMansions on ranch land adjacent the stream and the toad.
Add the paid goons bivouacked on the property—put there by the developer to either intimidate pissed-off locals or bust some hippie eco-sabotage freak planting toad embryos in the creek—and you've got what sounds like a Carl Hiaasen novel or an episode of The Simpsons.
But it's only the latest in Santa Ana Mountain conservation vs. development politics. The amphibian, once thought extinct, is the Southwestern Arroyo Toad. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service advises it's now homesteading just 400 feet from the historic former Holtz turkey ranch in rustic Silverado Canyon, whose stubborn citizens are already fighting the Irvine Co.'s proposed sprawl near Irvine Lake. The luxury equestrian home developer is Anthony Marnell (of Mirage, Bellagio and Wynn casinos). The security fellas live in the tent (pictured) on the property. No pool. No buffet. No slots. And it's really hot.
At issue is the accuracy of the latest environmental-impact report presented to the Board of Supervisors, which seems to not mention the Fish and Wildlife discovery of the toad in its sensitive ecosystem. (Why do those darn critters always choose a sensitive one?) You can join preservationists, lawyers, toads and showgirls (ok, no showgirls, unfortunately) at the hearing to see who gets heard.