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In August, lawyers from the law firms of Shute, Mihaly, & Weinberger (SMW) and Barg, Coffin, Lewis & Trapp (BCLT) submitted letters to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) on behalf of EBCNPS and the Friends of Knowland Park.
The letter from SMW was sent to USFWS and addressed issues with the Zoo’s proposed conservation easement, which is meant to provide mitigation for impacts to the federally threatened Alameda Whipsnake . This easement would remove over 50 acres of public access to public park land. A copy of the letter can be viewed here: SMW_Letter_re_Oakland_Zoo_Expansion_8-1-14
The BCLT letter was sent to USACE and addresses a wetland area (a perennial freshwater seep) 700 feet down-slope from the Zoo’s proposed development footprint. It discusses the need for avoidance measures to be considered during the permitting process for the Zoo project. A copy of the letter can be viewed here: 2014-08-15_Letter_to_USACE_re_Oakland_Zoo_Expansion
We are hopeful that the regulatory agencies will take the advice and information presented in these letters to make informed decisions regarding the issuing of permits for the Zoo’s proposed project.
Exciting news from the East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservancy:
Media Release: Newly Discovered Population of the Lime Ridge Navarretia in the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve
A new, and now largest known, population of the Lime Ridge navarretia (Navarretia gowenii) has been discovered in the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve on a property recently acquired by the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) in partnership with the East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservancy (Conservancy).
“The discovery of the Lime Ridge navarretia in lands near Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve reminds us that we must be thoughtful as we balance conservation and development,” said Contra Costa County Supervisor and East Contra Costa County and Habitat Conservancy Chair Mary Nejedly Piepho. “We need to think long term and consider what we leave behind for future generations. The work to establish and maintain the East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservancy is one way we are doing that.”
The Lime Ridge navarretia had formerly only been known at two locations in Contra Costa County; both in the Lime Ridge Open Space in Walnut Creek, California. David Gowen, a botanist associated with the California Native Plant Society, originally discovered the previously undescribed species in 1998 and later identified the population as its own species in 2008. (For information on the initial discovery see: http://www.savemountdiablo.org/downloads/Media_New%20Species%20on%20Lime%20Ridge.pdf) David Gowen confirmed this recently discovered population in the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve. Heath Bartosh, a principal with Nomad Ecology, working for the Conservancy was conducting a baseline botanical survey on the site when he and colleague Brian Peterson discovered the population. “This is a very significant find given that there are so few populations of this species” Bartosh says. “This gives us the opportunity to learn more about a plant whose habitat requirements we are just beginning to understand.” The Lime Ridge navarretia is listed as 1B.1, rare, threatened, or endangered in California and elsewhere by the California Native Plant Society.
The East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservancy and the East Bay Regional Park District have partnered to acquire over 10,000 acres of land. Bob Nisbet, Assistant General Manager with the East Bay Regional Park District’s Land Division commented: “The lands that have recently been conserved in the region are spectacular. They connect parkland just south of the City of Pittsburg to Mount Diablo State Park. These properties provide critical habitat for wildlife as well as recreation opportunities.”
“The discovery of this plant population reminds us that there are benefits to our conservation efforts that we don’t anticipate. We work to preserve the species and habitats that we know are threatened. It is a bonus to learn that we have protected other rare species along the way,” noted Abigail Fateman, Interim Executive Director of the East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservancy. The Conservancy and East Bay Regional Park District are working together to identify appropriate conservation and management efforts to protect the population.
Background information on the East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservancy:
Beginning in 2002, Contra Costa County joined the cities of Brentwood, Clayton, Oakley and Pittsburg to develop the East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservation Plan / Natural Community Conservation Plan (HCP) that gives local cities and agencies control over endangered species permitting in their jurisdiction. Under the plan, landowners and developers fulfill their obligations under the Endangered Species Act by paying a fee or providing their own conservation measures designed to protect listed species and their habitat. In exchange, landowners can proceed with otherwise lawful activities related to land use or economic development. The County’s Department of Conservation and Development staffs the East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservancy and leads the implementation of the HCP.
On Tuesday, July 29th, EBCNPS submitted comments on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and its accompanying Environmental Impact Report. EBCNPS’s letter focused on the need for the plan to study and mitigate for any growth-inducing impacts it may have. The letter also spoke to the need to avoid and protect areas with alkaline soils in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.
The draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan can be viewed here: http://baydeltaconservationplan.com/PublicReview/PublicReviewDraftBDCP.aspx
The draft EIR for the plan can be viewed at this link: http://baydeltaconservationplan.com/PublicReview/PublicReviewDraftEIR-EIS.aspx
The most recent edition of the Sierra Club Yodeler includes an article titled: “Oakland Zoo Proposed Expansion Goes From Bad To Worse.”
“The Sierra Club believes that the public’s right to full and complete access to land in Knowland Park is unequivocal. Furthermore, building on ridge lines, in protected park land, and in listed-species habitat is an affront to conservation principles—especially when there’s more than adequate unused land to accommodate this project within and immediately adjacent to the zoo footprint.”
On June 3rd, the Dublin City Council unanimously voted to adopt the Dublin Open Space Initiative! This initiative, created by Dublin Citizens with the help of local environmental organizations including EBCNPS, creates a permanent urban limit line at the City’s existing eastern edge and makes permanent a previously approved western urban limit line. The creation of this urban limit line removes one of the greatest threats to a large section of our East Dublin and Tassajara Botanical Priority Protection Area (BPPA) and is a major conservation victory for our chapter. You can learn more about our East Dublin and Tassajara BPPA at this link: BPPA Guidebook
Not only did the Council show its strong support for the will of Dublin Citizens to protect the remaining open-space and agricultural lands in their region, but it went a step further, unanimously taking a position to formally oppose a competitive initiative which would have allowed for development of approximately 2000 homes in Doolan Canyon (Part of our East Dublin and Tassajara BPPA).
A huge thanks goes out to the citizens of Dublin who volunteered their time to collect signatures and came out in force to voice their support at the City Council meeting. A big thanks also to the EBCNPS volunteers from throughout the region who donated time and expertise to this effort. We could not have done it without you! This win is the culmination of all of your hard work with support from the Sierra Club, Save Mount Diablo, Greenbelt Alliance, Tri-Valley Conservancy, Friends of the Vineyards, Ohlone Audubon Society, Alameda Creek Alliance, California Native Plant Society East Bay Chapter, and Center for Biological Diversity.
We are savoring this success, but our work is not over yet. The competing initiative, the so called “Let Dublin Decide Initiative” will still appear on the November ballot, and we are beginning our plans to counter their campaign this fall.
Our victory has been in the news. Check out the Mercury News story here:
On May 12th, EBCNPS submitted a letter in response to the Final Environmental Impact Report for the Richmond Bay Campus Long Range Development Plan proposed for the Richmond Field Station. Our letter cited inadequate protection for several areas of the site that contained coastal prairie grassland including a large 3 acre section of remnant prairie that was even classified by the University’s own consultants as “high quality” prairie, but which is designated in the plan as a development area. Our letter also questioned the feasibility of the new prairie management plan that was prepared for the FEIR. These questions were based on the lack of funding for any of the prairie management and the uncertain effectiveness of the mitigation actions laid out in the plan. Our letter can be viewed here: EBCNPS Comment Letter for Richmond Bay Campus FEIR 5_12_14
The list of environmental documents for this project including the LRDP and accompanying EIR can be viewed at this link: http://richmondbaycampus.lbl.gov/environmental_documents.html
In spite of our stated concerns, the University of California regents approved the FEIR along with the Long Range Development Plan for this project at their recent meeting on May 14th.
EBCNPS is disappointed by the project planners’ continued disregard for several acres of prairie habitat at the site. In the coming months we will continue to build relationships with the staff at the Field Station as well as the managers for the Richmond Bay Campus project in the hopes of educating them about how to adopt effective management techniques to prevent the spread of invasive species and enhance the prairie as part of this project. We will also continue efforts to preserve the large section of contiguous prairie in the western portion of the site as a unified prairie ecosystem that is not damaged by this development.
The Oakland Zoo is continuing to pursue its expansion into Knowland Park that will greatly damage rare maritime chaparral, native grassland, and habitat for local wildlife, including the threatened Alameda Whipsnake. The Zoo must provide mitigation for the land it is destroying, and it is proposing to take even more acreage in Knowland Park, much of which is not suitable habitat, removing even more of the park from open public use. If the project were in a more suitable place, this would not be necessary.
EBCNPS has written a letter to the regulatory agencies disputing the Zoo’s proposed new mitigation areas. Our letter can be found at this link: 04_21_14 Letter to CDFW re Oakland Zoo
Click here to view a letter from the Zoo to Oakland and the regulatory agencies regarding the most recent project footprint maps as well as their proposed mitigation areas which will be closed to public access(4-21-14). The new mitigation areas have increased the footprint of the project by more than one third! Maps of the project footprint, mitigation areas, and fuels management areas can be found here: EBZS_CATrailMaps_USFWS_CNPSTransmittal.
We are doing everything we can to get the Zoo to consider a plan that would less environmentally harmful, but we need your help:
The Oakland City Council must approve this change. Please sign and send a letter to urge them to preserve the park from this development!
For a ready-to-go letter to the Oakland City Council (for residents and non-residents), go to: http://www.saveknowland.org/5-ways-you-can-help-save-knowland-park/.
Print, sign and mail! Thank you.
Also, please sign the two petitions on the website! Visit the park now – The flowers are out!
On March 7th, EBCNPS submitted comments on the Dutch Slough Tidal Marsh Restoration Draft Supplement EIR. The SEIR was created to address the potential environmental impacts of proposed changes to the tidal wetlands restoration project in the Dutch Slough area at the mouth of Marsh Creek in Eastern Contra Costa County. EBCNPS’s letter raises concerns about the removal in this most recent document of plans to restore areas of upland and interior dune habitat as part of this project. The project area contains sandy soils and remnant Stabilized Interior Dune Habitat that is exceedingly rare today and which should be protected and managed for native habitat values.
You can read EBCNPS’s letter here: EBCNPS Comments for Dutch Slough Tidal Marsh Restoration SEIR 03_07_14
On February 14th, EBCNPS submitted a letter to the Pt. Molate Community Advisory Committee and members of the Richmond City Council regarding goat grazing at Pt. Molate. This topic was brought to our attention due to a recent Pt. Molate Community Advisory Committee meeting where goat grazing for habitat management at Pt. Molate was discussed. Pt. Molate is one of EBCNPS’s Botanical Priority Protection Areas due to its coastal prairie grassland and intact native habitats that intergrade from the bay shoreline into highland areas. Four years ago, Pt. Molate was the subject of national news when the Richmond City Council decided to abandon plans to build a Las Vegas -style casino resort at the site. EBCNPS was active in the effort to prevent the casino development and we have kept a close eye on the future of the area ever since.
EBCNPS is pleased to see an effort being made to manage the native habitat at Pt. Moalte and to stem the spread of invasive weeds such as French broom (Genista) that are shading out areas of native grassland. However, we are urging caution during the planning of these actions to ensure that sensitive habitat areas are not affected by any well-intentioned but poorly planned activities. Goat grazing in the East Bay has a history of doing more harm than good. An example of the potential damage goats can do when improperly managed can be seen at Knowland Park, where goats were allowed to graze several acres of rare native grassland down to bare soil last summer. We are hopeful that the City of Richmond will take the proper steps (including detailed botanical surveys of the areas being considered for grazing) to ensure that any action is properly planned so as to have minimal unintended impacts to the sensitive native habitats at Pt. Molate.
A copy of our letter can be found at this link: EBCNPS letter to Richmond RE Goat Grazing Pt Molate