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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 October 3, 2012, EBCNPS submitted comments for the Recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Report for the proposed Roddy Ranch Project in Antioch.

This project involves development of 540 acres of land for residential homes in the southern area of Antioch. The development area is part of our “Four Valleys” Botanical Priority Protection Area and is thus of major concern to our chapter. This area is recognized by CNPS for priority protection because it represents a transition zone between the eastern flanks of the northern Diablo Range, the San Joaquin Valley, and the Los Medanos Hills. This area contains both sandy and alkaline soils which support a wide variety of rare and unusual plant species that are worthy of protection. The Recirculated DEIR predicts significant environmental impacts (including impacts to rare plants and unique native plant communities) due to this project, even after proposed mitigation efforts are completed.

A copy of our comment letter and its attachments can be found at the below links:

EBCNPS Comment Letter for Roddy Ranch DEIR 10_3_12

Attachment 1_CNPS transplanting policy

Attachment 2_Navarretia nigelliformis radians

The East Bay Chapter of CNPS holds one seat on a 12 seat Public Advisory Committee for the implementation of the Eastern Contra Costa Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). The goal of this committee is to provide input on the function of the HCP Conservancy. The group consists of representatives from 4 groups: environmental, developer, local landowner, and agriculturalist/conservation easement holders. Quarterly meetings provide a venue in which new information is reported as well as open discussion on topics that arise which have not been covered by the original document. The last meeting on November 10th continued to address the difficult question of whether “non-covered activities” should be allowed to provide mitigation credits to the HCP. The governing committee of the HCP asked that the Advisory Committee provide a recommendation for dealing with this issue.

Some of the examples presented indicate that this would be a good idea. For example, CalTrans required a small permit to allow for road widening for improving safety on a small section of rural roadway. Other such “non-covered activities” present a more difficult conundrum.  Notably, the Antioch question.

Antioch was a non participant in the HCP process.  All other local agencies and cities helped participate and pay for this plan, whereas Antioch flat out said “No thanks.”  Well, we moved forward with this giant (geographical) hole. The plan was eventually completed and the exclusion of Antioch worked perfectly fine. Now, Johnny-come-lately would like to obtain permits and guarantees from the HCP for new development.

EBCNPS disapproves of this recommendation. We were the only member at the table that asked that consideration for Antioch projects be removed from this recommendation. A fair discussion ensued, but in the end, John Kopchik, head of the HCP Conservancy didn’t feel this was the place to discuss this topic. We still disagree. The camel’s nose is under the tent. Allowing a non-participating (opposing the initial plan) agency to “opt-into” the plan when it is convenient for them sets terrible precedent. It allows for the City and its developers to benefit from the hard work of others without bringing any value to the table.  No sweat, no blood – just glory (in the form of permits and “pre-approved mitigations”).

EBCNPS will be writing a letter to the Advisory Committee and Governing Committee asking that this question continue to be discussed before any recommendations are forwarded for approval.

Please see item 2b – “Mitigating non-covered activities” for more information by clicking here.

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

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