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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 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!

 

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.

 

 

 

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/

The Oakland Zoo recently submitted a request to the City of Oakland for a permit to kill 57 heritage Oaks and other native trees in Knowland Park.  Many many more trees that don’t require a permit to kill will be taken out, and the Zoo acknowledges 481 could be impacted during the construction of the Zoo’s proposed expansion development in the highlands of Knowland Park.

Please join us in writing a formal letter protesting the issuance of this permit. The citizens of Oakland must speak out to make sure that the publicly funded Oakland Zoo is not allowed to destroy these native heritage trees on public park land. These trees make up part of Oakland’s natural heritage and indeed lend their name to the city itself.

The Friends of Knowland Park have made it easy to let your concern be heard by sending the one click letter available at this link:

 http://www.saveknowland.org/tree-removal-objection-letter/

The comment deadline is June 23rd.

Thank you for your help!

View of Mt. Diablo from Tesla Park

View of Mt. Diablo from Tesla Park

Con

Compare the above picture with this one showing the ongoing unmitigated habitat destruction occurring in the existing Carnegie SVRA.

On April 23rd, the California State Park’s Off-Highway Motor Vehicular Recreation Division released its new Preliminary General Plan for and accompanying Environmental Impact Report for Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area (CSVRA) . This plan includes the expansion of Carnegie onto 3,400 acres of wildland in eastern Alameda County (an area commonly referred to as Tesla Park). The General Plan and EIR can be found at this link: http://carnegiegeneralplan.com/document-library

EBCNPS is preparing to submit detailed comments on the plan. We are working to establish Tesla Park as a non-motorized low impact historic and natural resource park and preserve. We believe that such a designation would provide the best protection for the rare native habitats and critical wildlife corridor encompassed by the Tesla Park land while still providing recreational and educational value to the general public.

To learn more about Tesla Park and its wonderful natural resources, please visit: www.teslapark.org . While you’re there, be sure to sign up to the mailing list, like the facebook page, and consider making a donation to the effort. Also, be sure to check out our Corral Hollow Botanical Priority Protection Area description on page 12 and 13 of our BPPA Guidebook at: http://ebcnps.org/bppabotanical/GuidebookBPPA-EBCNPS-download-web.pdf

We need all the help we can get to show strong support for a non-motorized alternative land use for this area. Please, review the documents and submit comments before the deadline on June 29th. We will be sending out more info shortly so stay tuned!

On April 3, 2015, EBCNPS submitted comments to Caltrans regarding the DEIR for the Alameda Creek Bridge Replacement Project. Our letter expresses concern that Caltrans has designed this project as an overbuilt highway widening project with little regard for the sensitive natural resources of Niles Canyon that will be permanently damaged as a result.

The DEIR examines several project scenarios, all of which would result in the removal of between 284 and 414 native trees in the riparian area of the canyon.

EBCNPS’s letter also noted that Caltrans is attempting to segment the Niles Canyon Corridor Project into several different projects that will all be subjected to independent environmental reviews. The cumulative effects of this entire project, the Niles Canyon Safety Improvements Project, Niles Canyon Short Term Improvements Project, and Arroyo de la Laguna Bridge Project must be properly considered as part of a total environmental review to ensure that cumulative impacts are properly quantified and understood.

EBCNPS’s letter can be found here: EBCNPS letter re: Alameda Creek Bridge Replacement DEIR 4_3_15

In 2011, the Alameda Creek Alliance had to sue Caltrans to halt its original project in the canyon due to inadequate environmental review. Unfortunately, Caltrans had already cut down nearly 100 native trees along the creek by the time the courts stopped the project. Caltrans has yet to mitigate for that damage.

FEMA Fuels Management Areas for Oakland and UC Berkeley

FEMA Fuels Management Areas for Oakland and UC Berkeley

On January 21st, EBCNPS submitted a letter to FEMA in response to the recently released Final Environmental Impact Statement for their East Bay Hills Fuels Management Plan. EBCNPS’s concerns are focused on changes FEMA has made to the Final EIS – specifically, modifying the projects proposed by Berkeley and Oakland which planned to remove Eucalyptus and restore native habitat. FEMA is now requiring that UC Berkeley and Oakland adopt a plan that is similar to that proposed by the East Bay Regional Park District, where Eucalyptus stands would be thinned and managed rather that removed. This raises an issue with the regulatory process since both UC Berkeley and Oakland’s projects were determined to be self mitigating due to the native habitat restoration that would have been achieved.

EBCNPS’s letter can be viewed here: CNPS FIES Response Letter 1_12_15 FINAL

The release of the Final EIS has raised more questions that it has answered. EBCNPS plans to continue following this issue as it develops.

The 2015 CNPS Conservation Conference is coming up in a few weeks. Join over 1,000 conservation and native plant enthusiasts in San Jose! Attendees include scientists, conservationists, CNPS chapters, university professors and students, policymakers, professional and amateur botanists, landscaping professionals, and land-use planners from California and beyond. The Conference will take place on January 15th 16th and 17th and there are pre-conference workshops and field trips occurring on January 13th and 14th. Visit the conference website for more information and to register to attend: http://www.cnps.org/cnps/conservation/conference/2015/

This event only happens once every three years, and with the location so close to our chapter area, this is one not to miss!

On November 14th, EBCNPS submitted comments to the East Bay Regional Park District regarding their Notice of Preparation for a Supplemental Environmental Impact Report for their Albany Beach Restoration and Public Access Project. Our comments focused on the importance of making sure the eelgrass beds that exist just offshore of the project area are protected both during construction and during recreational use of the beach after the project is completed. A copy of our letter can be viewed here: 11_14_14 NOP Comment

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