Are you a Richmond registered voter? Please seek out a signature booth and confidently add your name to the list of those favoring preservation of the Richmond Hills! This open space near Wildcat Canyon and San Pablo Dam Road would remain open space if you sign this petition, shifting development pressure to areas already served by public transport and utilities. Long term protection would be afforded for this land, which could only be changed into the future by voters in Richmond. Read more about the initiative and its complete text here: https://savetherichmondhills.org/

Through September 2016, the Save the Richmond Hills group will be canvassing neighborhoods and public gatherings, as well as tabling in front of markets throughout the city of Richmond. The California Native Plant Society, East Bay chapter, is a notable supporter printed on the initiative along with the San Francisco Bay chapter of the Sierra Club. The threshold for success of this initiative hovers around 6000 signatures. A translation to the Spanish is currently being processed. You can receive regular updates through their Facebook page, or even volunteer to petition for signatures! Volunteer efforts have won more than 80% of signatures needed. Let’s contribute to the final push.

Our chapter supports this initiative because a portion of this parcel overlaps with an area we qualify as having both potential and documented botanical richness, the Sobrante Ridge Botanical Priority Protection Area (BPPA map). Northern Maritime Chaparral is a sensitive natural community here. Rare and unique plant species include Pallid manzanita (Arctostaphylos pallida), Bent-flowered fiddleneck (Amsinckia lunaris), Western leatherwood (Dirca occidentalis), and Shreve’s oak (Quercus parvula var. shrevei) at it’s only location in the East Bay. These native plant resources may actually extend into this neighboring initiative area, and, at the very least, would be hugely affected by any nearby development and urbanization potentially occurring at the Richmond Hills Initiative Area.

Our chapter’s Conservation Committee and Board of Directors agree that the initiative presents robust reasoning to protect open space and wildlife in the Richmond Hills Initiative Area, as an amendment to the Richmond General Plan.

Karen Whitestone

For more than ten years, the California Endangered Species Act list has languished without additions. On August 25, 2016, the California Fish and Wildlife Commission voted unanimously to grant Endangered Status to the Livermore tarplant (Deinandra bacigalupii). We congratulate all involved in this monumental achievement! It was nearly two years ago that our East Bay chapter’s Rare Plant Chair, Heath Bartosh, submitted the key petition paperwork in 2014 to the Department of Fish and Wildlife. (Featured image credit, Heath Bartosh)

Dienandra bacigalupii was named in honor of Rimo Bacigalupi, first Curator of the Jepson Herbarium. It is an annual Aster with radiate yellow flowers displayed from June to October. D. bacigalupii prefers alkaline, poorly drained, and seasonally dry soil. Livermore tarplant is endemic to the Livermore Valley and does not co-occur with other tarplants in the Deinandra genus, even though its aromatic smell and some rough morphological characters are reminiscent. Unfortunately, only a handful of small populations of Livermore tarplant currently exist, and only one large primary occurrence, which overlaps with EBCNPS’ Springtown Botanical Priority Protection Area. Since informal tracking began ten years ago, at least one population has been completely lost due to construction, and all suffer threat of habitat destruction, as well as encroachment from nonnative plant species and unpermitted recreation activities, etc. Recognizing and protecting highly vulnerable, rare native plants is the ideal outcome of the California Endangered Species Act listing process (and here is more general info on laws protecting California native plants).

Efforts to document Livermore tarplant’s distribution and threats to existence since its original description in 1999, demonstrate the dedicated efforts of many. This is a success that can be shared by all involved in the process but especially Jeb Bjerke (CDFW), Cherilyn Burton (CDFW), Jim Andre (CNPS), Greg Suba (CNPS), Bruce Baldwin (UC/JEPS), Sue Bainbridge (UC/JEPS), and Heath Bartosh (EBCNPS). Thank you to everyone who contributed. With this listing, this very rare plant has the highest level of protection in California, especially on private land. The Department of Fish and Wildlife’s staff recommendations encompass a full description of the plant and its habitat, and shows the timeline for consideration of the petition.

Specifically, the motion which approved the Livermore tarplant petition, reads:

the Commission, pursuant to Section 2075.5 of the Fish and Game Code, found the information contained in the petition to list Livermore taplant (Deinandra bacigalupii), and the other information in the record before the Commission warrants listing Livermore tarplant as an endangered species under the California Endangered Species Act.

AND

the Commission, authorizes publication of its intent to amend Section 670.2, Title 14, CCR, to add Livermore tarplant to the list of plants of California declared to be endangered.

Unfortunately, a lack of additions to the endangered species status list is likely not due to a lack of endangered species in California. We hope this success will encourage a resurgence of petition submittals.

Karen Whitestone

More media:

East Bay Times: Livermore Flower Placed on Endangered Species List 

Bay Nature: Livermore Tarweed

CNPS Fremontia, volume 43.1: Future Directions for the CNPS Rare Plant Program, article describing the unfortunate “strong disconnect between the numbers of qualifying taxa and the reality of successful listing efforts.”

 

 

 

Remember Mount Diablo Buckwheat? Amazingly rediscovered from extinction back in 2005, this dainty pink plant made news worldwide, and was a monumental find for a UC Berkeley graduate student.

Fast forward to 2016. Yes, amazingly, botanists found more. A lot more! The still-rare plant Mount Diablo Buckwheat, Eriogonum trucatum (CNPS Rare Plant Rank 1B.1), also exists in an undisclosed location in Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve. This population is close to 2 million individuals, a veritable sea of pink at the right time of year. Special thanks to our EBCNPS Rare Plants Chair, Heath Bartosh, for his work with agencies throughout Contra Costa County to promote protection of rare plants.

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(Photo Credits: Scott Hein/Heinphoto.com, or Heath Bartosh/Nomad Ecology)

You know what else is nearby the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve? The Sand Creek Focus Area, also in Antioch. EBCNPS stands with several other local nonprofit environmental groups to advocate for sizable conservation of this 4-square-mile area, which was originally planned as extensive low-density residential developments. Save Mount Diablo has mapped two preferable scenarios advocating preservation of hillsides west of Deer Valley Road, and a reduction of planned development covering the entire valley in favor of concentrating higher-density development near the Kaiser Hospital. The next public meeting on this topic held by the Antioch Planning Commission will be September 21, 2016.

Suitable habitat for the Mount Diablo Buckwheat occurs at the Sand Creek Focus Area? Only time and proper botanical surveys will tell…

Karen Whitestone

 

Official press release below:

ANTIOCH – Thanks in part to a team of renowned botanists contracted by the East Bay Regional Park District to survey wildland vegetation in Eastern Contra Costa County, the endangered wildflower Mount Diablo Buckwheat was identified as thriving at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch, California.

Botanist Heath Bartosh working on behalf of EBRPD came across his discovery in May 2016, along with colleague Brian Peterson of Nomad Ecology. A collaborative called the Mount Diablo Buckwheat Working Group has been actively searching for the rare plant since it was first discovered Mount Diablo State Park in 2005.  The Buckwheat working group is made up of members representing California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California Native Plant Society California State Parks, East Bay Regional Park District, Save Mount Diablo, UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley, the U.C. Berkeley Jepson Herbarium and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

When the beautiful Mount Diablo buckwheat was rediscovered in 2005 at Mount Diablo State Park by U.C Berkeley graduate student Michael Park—after being thought extinct for 69 years—there were only 20 of the wildflowers at a single spot in the entire world. Locating the plant has been “the holy grail” for East Bay botanists and news of the rediscovery spread quickly.

The initial discovery of the plant in 2005 unleashed a tremendous amount of public attention around the world, coming just weeks after the possible rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker, also long thought extinct. The buckwheat’s rediscovery attracted media attention in countries around the world and from sources as varied as conservationist Jane Goodall and from an L.A.-based Korean language news source where Park’s parents learned the news. .

After the 2005 rediscovery at Mount Diablo seeds were collected and camera traps installed to monitor the wild population. Beginning in 2006, plants were propagated at UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley. Seeds are stored in multiple seed banks. Efforts made to increase the population at Mt. Diablo have been challenging, but were successful in increasing numbers even during repeated years of drought. The discovery site was kept secret to protect the species.

Habitat was mapped and explored over the next ten years but no additional populations of the plant were found. There was just one location for the critically endangered plant, on the brink of extinction, with just 100-200 plants. Until now.

In May, Heath Bartosh and Brian Peterson of Nomad Ecology were conducting botanical surveys on East Bay Regional Park District’s Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve and found a second population of the Mount Diablo buckwheat. Unlike the sparse population of 100-200 plants at Mount Diablo, the new discovery site was estimated to include approximately 1.8 million plants – but in just two patches totaling approximately a half acre.

“I’m so thrilled to share this news, it’s the find of a career” said botanist Heath Bartosh of Nomad Ecology. “Brian Peterson and I found a new population of Mount Diablo buckwheat while conducting rare plant surveys for East Bay Regional Park District. We were struck by the number of plants at this location and habitat. The most recent records of Mount Diablo buckwheat are from chaparral edges on Mount Diablo. But early California botanist William Brewer, the original discoverer, found it on dry hillsides near Marsh Creek. We recorded this species growing in grassland on highly erosive soils, most likely the same type of habitat Brewer observed. The new information will hopefully lead to the discovery of other new populations. These annual buckwheats have extremely small but resilient seeds; we have much to learn from them.”

Other partners in the Mount Diablo Buckwheat Collaborative shared their thoughts on the newest discovery of the tiny flowers:

  • “Finding the Mount Diablo Buckwheat in Black Diamond Regional Preserve is exciting,” said Matt Graul, Chief of Stewardship at East Bay Regional Park District. “Both known locations of the plant are tiny and on steep slopes that could be easily damaged. A fire or a landslide might completely wipe out one or both of the populations. The locations are being kept secret to protect the endangered plant and the working group waited until the plants have gone to seed to announce the discovery.  The Park District takes our responsibility to be good stewards of this rediscovered treasure incredibly seriously.”
  • “Rediscovery of the Mount Diablo buckwheat was the holy grail for East Bay botanists,” said Seth Adams, Land Conservation Director for Save Mount Diablo. “This plant is so rare botanists haven’t been sure where to look and many references still suggest the species is extinct. On the one hand a second location is good news, but it could be dramatically affected by East County development pressure. Right now, for example, Antioch is considering plans for more than 4,000 houses.”
  • “The Antioch population is a great discovery. Its habitat is quite different from the 2005 rediscovery site, and provides valuable information for efforts to develop new populations,” said Holly Forbes, Curator and Conservation Officer at UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley. Forbes initially collected the wildflower’s seed on Mount Diablo and a dozen plants were successfully germinated at the UC Botanical Garden. Seed have also been collected from the new site. “Our efforts to propagate this species at the Botanical Garden and to protect seeds in seed banks are insurance against natural disaster in habitat.”
  • “The Mount Diablo buckwheat is a Bay Area treasure,” said Cyndy Shafer, a Senior Environmental Scientist for California State Parks. “The new population is giving us more hope than we’ve ever had for the future of this species We are dedicated to preserving the small and fragile Mt. Diablo population.  Luckily both are on public land, demonstrating the immense importance of protected lands in preserving biological diversity. This conservation story has inspired people around the world.”

Expanding the wild population at the Mount Diablo site has been difficult. At one experimental reintroduction site on Mount Diablo the Working Group in January 2015 sowed 80,000 seeds propagated at the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley.  But experimental plantings never yielded more than 100-200 small plants.  The new site at Black Diamond Mines refocuses our understanding to a forgotten kind of habitat.

Eriogonom truncatum was first recorded on May 29, 1862 by William H. Brewer, a member of Josiah Whitney’s California Geological Survey from 1860-1867.  Brewer’s chronicle of the survey, Up and Down California, is an important work of early California history.  What is less well known is that his biological collections during the survey include many of the first discoveries of California species.  This original “type” discovery of the plant was made on “Marsh’s Rancho” the 13,000 acre Mexican rancho acquired by Dr. John Marsh in 1837. Marsh was one of the area’s first American settlers. Over the next 78 years the Mount Diablo buckwheat was found just a handful of times, for a total of seven historic records.

Before the 2005 rediscovery, little had been known about the Mount Diablo buckwheat, Eriogonom truncatum. The plant had been known from just seven locations historically, the last in 1936 by botanist Mary Bowerman who later became co-founder of Save Mount Diablo. The plant had been presumed globally extinct before its discovery at a single site in Mt. Diablo State Park on land which had been protected by Save Mount Diablo.

Since then Eastern Contra Costa has become a nationally recognized biodiversity hot spot for rare species, as well as for intense development pressure.  Thousands of acres have been preserved, including at Black Diamond Mines, the new Deer Valley Regional Preserve, and Marsh Creek State Park. However the area is also threatened by rapid development and thousands of houses proposed in Pittsburg, Antioch, Oakley and Brentwood.

California has about 6,300 native vascular plant species, about 1/3 are endemic (found only) in the state.  Mt. Diablo has 900 plant species of which a quarter are non-native, yet non-natives represent a vast majority of what you see in grassland areas. Twenty-nine plant species on Mt. Diablo are considered rare or endangered and eleven are endemic to Mount Diablo region, including the Mount Diablo buckwheat.

The Mount Diablo buckwheat (Eriogonom truncatum) is an annual herb, 3-24” in height with white to rose colored flowers from mid-April to May (although records show April to December, with May most common). It was historically found in Chaparral, Valley Grassland, and Northern Coastal Scrub habitats, in sandy soil and grassland slopes.  It is thought that competition by introduced non-native plants is responsible for its rarity.  In recent years its historic habitat has been threatened by development pressure.

 

Previous Press Announcements:

Rediscovery, May 2005: http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2005/05/24_buckwheat.shtml

First Propagation, May 2006:  http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2006/06/07_buckwheat.shtml

Key Contacts:

  • Michele Hammond, Botanist, East Bay Regional Park District: cell (510) 913-1417, w (510) 544-2348
  • Heath Bartosh, Principal and Senior Botanist, Nomad Ecology: w (925) 228-3027
  • Seth Adams, Director of Land Conservation Save Mount Diablo: w (925) 947-3535, cell (925) 381-0905
  • Cyndy Shafer, Senior Environmental Scientist, California State Parks, Bay Area District: w (707) 769-5652 x208, cell (707) 481-8113
  • Holly Forbes, Curator and Conservation Officer, University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley: (510) 643-8040

For more information from our chapter’s perspective contact EBCNPS Conservation Analyst, Karen Whitestone: cell (510) 734 0335, conservation@ebcnps.org

Other published articles since September 8, 2016:

SF Gate, East Bay Times, East County Today, SFBay, ScienceAlert

 

On September 13, 2016, the Richmond City Council emerged with heartening news. By unanimous vote, a motion passed for opening up the land use planning process. Some stated frankly that this decision-making clarity was long overdue, and should make sure to account for the wide diversity represented in the City of Richmond. Presented by Councilmember McLaughlin, three public meetings will be scheduled starting in October, “so that the public can provide input on key values for Pt. Molate’s rehabilitation and redevelopment.” (Read the agenda and minutes for item L-2.) Staff agreed to draft a tentative calendar for the public meetings. This is a huge victory!

Opening the Point Molate planning process so that the public can have a voice on the fate of publicly owned land, is what my collaboration this summer with other local environmental groups at Point Molate has been all about: the two tours led by myself and Citizens for Sustainable Point Molate leaders, two documentation trips with local botanists (see our results on Calflora), and one Richmond High School environmental education workshop.

What community benefits can you imagine Point Molate delivering to Richmond citizens, and people of the East Bay? Healthy activity for youth and adults for enjoyment of hiking trails and a campground, values of environmental stewardship, and opportunities for research, all sound more appealing for healthy social benefits, rather than building condos in this special place.

Come and tell the City of Richmond how much you love Point Molate! Listen to presentations on historical background and the different plans proposed over more than a decade of this parcel belonging to the City of Richmond. EBCNPS continues to stand in alliance with many other nonprofit environmental groups to support this public planning process and see it followed through. This beautiful jewel of Richmond deserves no less. Our Conservation Committee is currently forming a position statement that directly declares our ideal land use scenario, advocating first for conservation of precious natural resources.

EBCNPS is fighting hard to protect eelgrass beds, coastal prairie, and diverse chaparral habitats of Point Molate and to ensure an adequate public process for determining appropriate development, despite the City of Richmond’s “closed-door” tendencies and strong pressure to develop this entire 300 acre property owned by Richmond. EBCNPS mounted a very effective targeted email campaign. The response from our members was gratifying and effective. With Citizens for Sustainable Point Molate, EBCNPS also offers tours to interested community members by request, where over a couple hours we explain the native habitat values of the Point Molate watershed and bluff areas, and current politics around land use decisions past and present.

Upstream Development was responsible for the casino concept at Point Molate. Due to the nature of closed sessions, the public is unaware whether the City of Richmond is negotiating a settlement with Upstream Development involving promises for land use, which EBCNPS believes would be an inappropriate decision-making process for a parcel of publicly-owned land. We hope the closed session meetings with Upstream Development will not continue in light of the recent approval for proper process via public meetings. These meetings would provide to the City a window into the public’s preferences- this is our opportunity to bend the City’s ear and significantly influence the final outcome at Point Molate.

More media coverage of the closed door sessions: Oakland Magazine, The Battle for Point Molate; SF Chronicle, Build waterfront parks, not homes for Point Molate. See our chapter’s Bay Leaf archive for more.

Remember, the Point Molate Beach Park on Stenmark Drive is open to the public! Please enjoy it. We protect the places we love.

Karen Whitestone

 

(This post is a revision from a previous post, Plans for Point Molate, published 9/13/2016.)

Point Molate needs your attention once again. There is a City Council meeting happening 5:00pm tonight 6/21/2016. In a closed session, the former proposed casino developer Upstream Development will hold a “conference with legal counsel” regarding existing litigation Upstream holds against the City of Richmond. Arrive before 5:00pm and fill out a speaker card to be heard during the brief window for public comment on the value of Point Molate.

Agenda for City Council meeting 6/21 at 5:00pm TODAY

TODAY JUNE 21, 2016

LOCATION: Community Services Building 440 Civic Center Plaza Richmond, CA 94804

TIME: arrive 4:45pm to fill out a speaker card

We are foremost requesting that any plans for Point Molate be open to public process. We are concerned that Upstream Development will present a new housing development plan to City of Richmond in form of a settlement offer. The City may vote and decide to accept the plan, without asking the public. Many times the residents of Richmond have stood up and said they don’t want inappropriate development there, away from many services and closely neighboring the Chevron refinery. Settling now would be a loss to the City on many fronts. See Citizens for Sustainable Point Molate recent blog post: http://www.cfspm.org/

Our organization will advocate firstly, that land use commitments not be made tonight. We will continue with insisting that want to see the most valuable plant communities preserved, that of the watershed area immediately above the Beach Park. (Have you visited the Point Molate Beach Park on Stenmark Drive yet, which is maintained by volunteers and open to the public?) We believe the best use of this area is as park land, and needs boundary protections for flora from Coastal Prairie bunch grasses stretching all the way up the hillside, to the eel grass beds in the bay.

We do not want decisions made tonight on the fate of this beautiful diverse resource, without due opportunity for public process. We fear that a hasty decision will reflect the City’s current hurt for funds and ignore what the public actually wants there.

CONTACT your Richmond City Council Members today, to voice your concerns. Model letters follow which you are welcome to use. All voices are important at this point, even if you are not a Richmond resident. If Point Molate is important to you we value you adding your voice.

Please help us shed light on Richmond. Thank you. Hope to see you at the meeting tonight.
Sincerely,

Karen Whitestone
Conservation Analyst
East Bay California Native Plant Society

510.734.0335

conservation@ebcnps.org

 

LETTERS:

Pt. Molate Alert – East Bay CNPS, Conservation Committee

Below are Council email addresses and samples to reach Richmond City Council prior to the closed-door session on Pt. Molate, Tues. 5pm

tom.butt@intres.com          natbates@comcast.net               jovanka_beckles@ci.richmond.ca.us     eduardo_martinez@ci.richmond.ca.us                       gayle@definingourdestiny.net      jael_myrick@ci.richmond.ca.us                               vinay_pimple@ci.richmond.ca.us

cc: <conservation@ebcnps.org>

Subject: Open and Public Planning Process for Pt. Molate (short version if you just have a moment)

Please do not make any land use commitments to Upstream or any other developer in closed door session. We ask you to initiate an open and public planning process for zoning of land use at Pt. Molate.

Sincerely,

Richmond resident, member of California Native Plant Society, East Bay Chapter

Subject: Open and Public Planning Process for Pt. Molate (longer version).

This Tuesday, June 21, at 5 p.m. the members of the Richmond City Council will be reviewing in closed session a lawsuit against the City by the casino developer, Upstream Development. Upstream Development has been approaching the City recently, and it is feared that they are trying to obtain Council member approval to build a big housing development in the diverse and ecologically-rich south watershed basin that surrounds the Pt. Molate Beach Park. Their

Housing development in Pt. Molate’s south watershed was one of the proposals rejected by the Richmond voters in November, 2010 when we voted overwhelmingly against Upstream’s project, including the casino. Also, recent business expert advice sought by the City wisely recommends concentrating any development in the Winehaven area, reserving the south watershed as parkland due to its amazing ecological diversity and future value to all Richmond residents.

The City has not yet done a public planning process to codify land use zoning at Pt. Molate. Zoning is a public process and precedes any approval of land use.

We ask that the City Council initiate a public planning process so Richmond residents have a say on land uses at Pt. Molate, and that the Council make no land use commitments until a public planning process for Pt. Molate is completed.

Sincerely,

Richmond resident and member, California Native Plant Society, East Bay Chapter

On 29 March 2016, our chapter’s Conservation Committee gathered at a volunteer’s private home to discuss current native plant conservation issues in the East Bay Area. Here is an outline of our main topics:

  • Antioch, CA: Vineyards at Sand Creek development: Several of our volunteers have attended public meetings to understand the impacts of this housing plan on our Four Valleys Botanical Priority Protection Area (BPPA) (map), southeast of the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve. The City of Antioch and Antioch Planning Commission is deciding how to embrace this idea for a Highway 4 gated private residential community, also called the Sand Creek Focus Area. Unfortunately, Antioch decided several years ago not to participate in the East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). This particular valley is an important remainder of a once larger east-west migration corridor for plants and animals.
  • Richmond, CA: Point Molate: Conflicts over land use are settling, and this beautiful area is receiving broom removal treatments. The Urban Land Institute recently delivered six future plan alternatives to Richmond City Council, including two favoring total parks or mixed use with public parks and only some housing. This would be great news compared to the alternative of a casino discussed several years ago. It is concerning to note that City of Richmond plans to perform rezoning in the area as early as this week. Our chapter’s objective is to maintain the native vegetation corridor as much as possible from hilltop to beach and eel grass beds beyond. We favor continued public recreational enjoyment of the beautiful Point Molate with simultaneous protection of native plants. The Bay Trail Commission is in planning stages for making a connection through the area, as well.
  • East Bay Regional Parks District and fuels treatments: Our chapter continues to express worry about unclear management protocols for areas like the Huckleberry Preserve, specifically for care of sensitive maritime chaparral and the endangered pallid manzanita (Arctostaphylos pallida). We are working cooperatively with the Parks District on clarifying that forthcoming vegetation management plan. Additionally, we excerpted from their current Wildfire Hazard Reduction and Resource Management Plan for discussing how native plant protections are framed in contract language grazing guidelines, in other regions where fuel breaks are needed.
  • Oakland, CA: Knowland Park addition to Oakland Zoo:  The East Bay Zoological Society is building its California Trail project, but several of our volunteers noted enough (17) permit violations to merit an impressive letter to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) asking for immediate action to protect remaining rare plant communities and Alameda Whipsnake habitat, including independent monitoring, penalty fee collection for mitigation, and beginning weed removal. We have not received a reply yet from CDFW.

 

Brief updates

– Hilltop Drive, Richmond: One of our volunteers noted construction spoils and indiscriminate herbicide spraying on native grasslands off of this Highway 80 exit.

– Point Pinole, Richmond: Wildlife populations may be declining due to drought or park management practices, including vegetation management.

– Berkeley Global Campus, Richmond: Construction plans are currently paused, which gives us the opportunity to learn more about the native flora and prairie grasslands.

 

Our Conservation Chair Jean Robertson led the meeting and kept our discussions focused. Want to get involved with our committee meetings? We love having more hands on deck! Please contact myself, or our Conservation Chair Jean Robertson (conservation-chair@ebcnps.org). Let us know  briefly what conservation projects in your area you are interested in contributing to, and what skills you can volunteer.

The Conservation Committee will meet again on 26 April, 2016.

Participate in field trips with our chapter from our Meetup page.

Read more conservation updates from our April 2016 chapter newsletter, the Bay Leaf.

 

Karen Whitestone

Conservation Analyst

conservation@ebcnps.org

On 19 February 2016, our organization participated in an Environmental Advisory Council hosted by Assemblywoman Catharine Baker. About thirty representatives from other conservation and land management organizations, park districts, municipalities, and nonprofits around the East Bay Area attended to represent our top important issues to Baker over a two hour period. I represented our chapter by reiterating our stance on the value of the Tesla area. Most of the others also used this council gathering as a platform to state that Tesla contains many more possibilities than an off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation park expansion. Additionally, many agreed that the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) did not appropriately address extensive evidence submitted that OHV use is inappropriate for an area containing so many biological and botanical treasures. I delivered copies of the letter we delivered to the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation (OHMVR) Commission on 05 February 2016, plus a map and description of our Corral Hollow Botanical Priority Protection Area (BPPA).

The Tesla debate is not news to our readers. In fact, this issue was not news to Ms. Baker, either. She supports keeping open space for varied recreation, especially in support of healthy lifestyle education. She responded to many points, and spoke briefly to us on her engagement with the Carnegie park employees. As of this date since the meeting, we have not heard her take a public, political stance on the Tesla expansion.

In related news, the OHMVR Commission has further delayed deciding on the Tesla expansion. The Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA) General Plan Team emailed a project update on 18 March 2016, to those who signed up for that free service on their website. The team is incorporating feedback received from the 05 February 2016 meeting in Tracy, CA, which will then be published as the Draft General Plan and Final EIR to the project website. The OHMVR Commission will set a date to meet again and consider approval. The meeting will be public, and preceded by a 30-day public notice. This is great news, because it indicates that the 60 speakers and large volume of submitted written comments inspired the Commission to wait to vote on approval until another round of revisions could be assimilated into the document. We look forward to investigating these revisions when it is published sometime in Summer 2016.

Baker represents California’s Assembly District 16, which stretches from Orinda over to Walnut Creek, to Livermore and further South. The Carnegie SVRA falls neatly within her constituency boundary. Baker plans to convene Environmental Advisory Council meetings every six months or so, throughout her elected term.

Our organization’s mission declares important goals for promoting and protecting native California plants. We primarily do this by increasing understanding among the public of the importance of our native plants, and providing reliable information in support of their conservation. I enjoyed the opportunity to engage with our elected official to present reliable information on Tesla, for the possibility of influencing public policy and opinion.

We encourage you to engage, as well. Attend a city council or utility district public meeting to learn about your local projects and issues. Elected officials want to hear from the people they represent, and these days, many host informal hikes or coffee groups to inspire candid conversation. Share native plant news or events with us as you hear about them, we will spread the word, and we may see each other at a meeting!

Karen Whitestone

 

Upcoming Events:

04/23/2016: Walk and Talk with Assemblywoman Baker

05/22/2016: Pelican Dreams fundraiser benefiting Save Tesla Park

 

A brief update on the Meeting of the Off Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation (OHMVR) Commission, taking place at Tracy City Hall, regarding planned expansion project into the Tesla area, as proposed by Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA):

On Friday, February 5th, 2016, many local organizations and members of the public stood up with EBCNPS at the OHMVR Commission Meeting. We spoke out on the Carnegie SVRA General Plan and proposed expansion into the Tesla area. Passion was high at this event, the last opportunity for public comment on this project. Sticker badges of “I Own Carnegie” contrasted with “Save Tesla Park” around the room. Most importantly, a majority of speakers remained adamantly opposed, and submitted succinct opposition comments into public record.

Please read EBCNPS’ submitted comments from the Commission Meeting, stating that this Proposed Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) lacks appropriate consideration of important evidence previously submitted in full. The true effects of the General Plan and Final EIR on botanical resources continue to be misjudged, to the point of failing to satisfy California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements. We asserted, yet again, that these Proposed Final EIR  and General Plan documents should not be certified or approved.

As Conservation Analyst, I represented EBCNPS at this meeting. I spoke to summarize important points from our submitted comment letter. We attached our Corral Hollow Botanical Priority Protection Areas (BPPA) map with description, and a Special- Status Species and Habitat Occurrences on Tesla Expansion Area map, which specifically illustrates a talking point on curly blue grass grassland, a rare natural community. This grassland is recognized by California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and depicted as up to 175 acres in size on the special- status map. It is unclear why the coarse vegetation mapping used for their impact analysis overlooks these and other botanical and cultural resources.

In fact, we recommended that the Tesla area is so very significant as to merit a “sensitive area” recognition as defined by Public Resources Code, to serve as permanent mitigation for ongoing impacts of OHV use at the existing Carnegie SVRA. I also reinforced in comments that EBCNPS thinks Tesla should be permanently preserved with no OHV use.

As you analyze these documents for yourself, please keep in mind that delaying the planning of smaller projects as part of a program- level planning process is an over- generalized approach in this case, inadequately accounting for the summary impact of small projects on the whole Tesla area. Where there could be significant impacts to resources requiring legal protection, appropriate steps to analyze those impacts must be taken, and definitely were not taken by this Proposed Final EIR. Any small project would undeniably effect the whole. Steps to ensure complete analysis is performed before action would be taken on the expansion plan are also not outlined. The only impact deemed significant and unavoidable by this Proposed Final EIR is that on air quality, which is not supported by the evidence we and many other groups submitted. We are thrilled that so many others agreed with us.

Reporting on this event included The Independent’s article summary of the “sharp criticism” for the Tesla expansion plan, and, an article on how to understand the fuel tax allocation source of funding for the purchase of Tesla property by Carnegie SVRA in the 1990s.

Small victory that the OHMVR Commission did not vote on the General Plan and Proposed Final EIR at this meeting! What can we do now? Within 6 months, the Commission will decide whether to approve the General Plan and EIR. Hopefully, they will take extensive time to consider the resources needing protection on the Tesla property. Please continue to show your support by keeping your ears open about Tesla topics.

If you have the time, read through the FEIR, comments, or appendices. Many groups also made important opposition points backed by valid evidence.

We will await the Commission’s decision, and report back to you.

Karen Whitestone

 

 

Greetings, fellow native plant enthusiasts!

My name is Karen Whitestone, and I am the new Conservation Analyst for this East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society (EBCNPS). I am taking over from the productive Mack Casterman. You may have already seen me around, delivering commentary at meetings or visiting our beautiful local open space in the East San Francisco Bay Area. As I get up to speed on worthy projects, please, introduce yourself.

I look forward to meeting and working with you. This blog will be one way you can keep in touch with EBCNPS on hot topics in local conservation. I encourage you to join me at public meetings, where land you and I care about is on the agenda.

Updates forthcoming: Meeting on Draft FEIR for Carnegie SVRA Tesla expansion (2/5/16), EBCNPS Conservation Committee meeting (2/17/16).

Are you in the East Bay, and heard of something happening now? I want to know!

 

Karen Whitestone

Conservation Analyst

East Bay California Native Plant Society

conservation@ebcnps.org

510 734 0335

 

Learn more about EBCNPS here:

What are we doing now? http://ebcnps.org/meetings/

The Bay Leaf arrives monthly: http://ebcnps.org/newsletter/

Where do we care? Check out the Botanical Priority Protection Areas: http://ebcnps.org/guide-botanical-priority-protection-areas-east-bay/botanical-priority-guidebook-mashup/

View of Mt. Diablo from Tesla Park

View of Mt. Diablo from Tesla Park  photo: Mack Casterman

On June 29th, EBCNPS submitted a comment letter in response to the Preliminary General Plan and accompanying Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area in Eastern Alameda County. This letter is a major step in a multi year process that will continue into the future.

EBCNPS’s concern regarding this plan is that it proposes to expand motorized off road vehicle recreation into a 3,000 acre parcel that is known as Tesla Park. This area is listed as a Botanical Priority Protection Area by EBCNPS, and the plan and its DEIR fail to consider and address the major environmental impacts that would occur if such an expansion was to take place.

Our letter can be viewed here: EBCNPS General Plan_DEIR letter FINAL June 2015 with attachments

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Conservation Analyst Contact Information

1-510-734-0335
conservation@ebcnps.org