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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

Ancient oak within the proposed Oakland Zoo expansion area

Ancient oak within the proposed Oakland Zoo expansion area

On November 18th, the Oakland City council voted 6-2 to approve the Oakland Zoo’s proposed conservation easement – taking the final step in approval for the Zoo’s proposed expansion project that would remove public access to roughly 77 acres of public wildland in Knowland Park. With this vote, the Oakland City Council sent a message that public land in Oakland is up for grabs to any private entity that wants to profit from it.

The most heartening part of the challenging night was that supporters of the park packed the council chambers and were eloquent to a person in their support for protecting the park. It was clear that had the audience voted, the easement would have been crushed. And the divide between what the public wants and what it got from this city council is manifest. On the zoo’s side I can recall only zoo staff, a few zoo volunteers, and zoo board members speaking. We also know that hundreds of e-mails were sent to CC members, and one of our petitions hit 17,000 signatures. So, the outpouring for the park, for the native plant and wildlife resources was overwhelming. Four reps from Sierra Club spoke, one from Defense of Place, and letters came in from the Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental organizations. Not a single local environmental organization supports the Zoo’s project.

Councilmembers Councilmembers Kaplan and Kalb were the dissenting votes. Kaplan gave no reasons for her vote (although we know from our talks with her that she is a park user, was deeply offended by the removal of public access to benefit a private entity). The person who nailed the reasons for opposing the conservation easement was Councilmember Kalb who made it clear that the easement on already protected public park land is double-dipping–regardless of what the zoo’s paid biological consultant said–and that easements like these shouldn’t be used. He also made plain that the city—regardless of whether it was a successful legal strategy–should have required the Zoo to complete a full EIR with the implication that the mess that the city is facing is because it never did the Alternatives Analysis which would have been required in an EIR document. Although Dan doesn’t lose his temper, he scolded the city and the Zoo for dodging this critical step. “It’s not something that a good nonprofit should’ve done,” Kalb said to Zoo representatives, adding, “The city made a mistake in not pushing you to do it.”

While we obviously failed to win the vote (which we knew was a long shot), we succeeded in getting this issue out in front of the public after a long uphill fight. Those of us who remember the meetings in 2011 recall the challenging efforts to inform decision makers and the public about the native plant species and communities in the park. CNPS was often cited in the discussions and certainly vilified by the opposition, which if anything has helped us in the eyes of the public. I don’t think we’ve ever had more media attention, and the environmental community did join our cause in full force.

The Knowland Park Team will be de-briefing and assessing next steps, so stay tuned. We cannot adequately thank those who have poured their hearts into this effort. For now, let’s get out to the park and continue to enjoy and learn from it while we can.

Dublin voters made their voices heard in yesterday’s election! Measure T, written and supported by developers was defeated in a landslide of more than 4 to 1 with 83% of voters voting NO to development outside of Dublin’s Urban Limit Line.

The defeat of this measure ensures continued protection for Doolan Canyon (Part of EBCNPS’s East Dublin and Tassajara Botanical Priority Protection Area), and sends a strong signal to developers that Dublin residents value their open space areas and deem them worthy of protection.

Thanks to the many residents of Dublin who volunteered their time and energy to ensure that this misleading measure was soundly defeated. Thanks also to the local environmental groups who joined EBCNPS in opposing this measure: Tri-Valley Conservancy, Save Mt. Diablo, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Vineyards, Greenbelt Alliance, Alameda Creek Alliance, and Ohlone Audubon.

A report from the Contra Costa Times can be found here: Landslide defeat for Measure T in Dublin

On October 7, 2014, EBCNPS sent a letter (linked below) to the Oakland City Council regarding their closed session meeting to discuss the Oakland Zoo’s proposed 53 acre Conservation Easement in Knowland Park.

Letter_re_legality_of_closed_session_10_7_14 Final

Oak- Grassland Interface at Knowland Park  photo: Mack Casterman

Oak- Grassland Interface at Knowland Park photo: Mack Casterman

The East Bay Express just reported on the results of a recent poll by the Save Knowland Park Coalition that found that 77% of Oakland Voters oppose the Oakland Zoo’s current expansion proposal. We are hopeful that Oakland’s elected officials and Zoo executives will view the results of this poll as a wake-up call and that it will inspire them to consider alternatives to their current environmentally destructive proposal.

You can view and comment on the article here: http://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2014/10/16/save-knowland-park-releases-poll-showing-strong-voter-opposition-to-oakland-zoo-expansion

Doolan Canyon – photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle

Some great articles were posted this week on SF gate and Contra Costa Times regarding the community opposition to the developer funded “Measure T” in Dublin which would allow for urban development in Doolan Canyon – one of EBCNPS’s Botanical Priority Protection Areas.

SF Gate: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Decision-in-Dublin-development-or-open-space-in-5797606.php

Contra Costa Times: http://www.contracostatimes.com/dublin/ci_26649973/contra-costa-times-editorial-dublin-voters-should-decide

Photo Credit: Scott J Hein

Photo Credit: Scott J. Hein

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.

www.cocohcp.org

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

EBCNPS comments for BDCP July 2014

 

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