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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

native nassella grassland2

Native Stipa pulchra grassland intergrading with upland habitat at Pt. Molate
photo: Lech Naumovich

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

View from Pt. Molate - Photo by Russell Mondy

We urge citizens of Richmond to come out to the March 8th City Council meeting

Please voice your concerns over the Final EIR/EIS document and its negative impacts on the community, both human and natural.  We are at a critical turning point and we believe it is important for citizens to support their elected officials as they take on the task of how to reject this poorly-planned casino project and move towards a better vision at Point Molate.  Please support our new elected and members of the Citizens For a Susatinable Point Molate.  Key points to state would include:

1. Impact to eelgrass beds are unmitigated and significant impacts will probably go unmonitored – the developer states that project proponents will take action if losses are observed.  This requires a clear and well defined program for monitoring that will note threshold changes in the eelgrass and observe the grasses, through all the seasons, over the entire period of time from construction to 5-years after construction is complete.  Otherwise we may never know the full impacts of this project.

2. The grassland habitat in Point Molate is incorrectly identified as “Annual Grassland”.  Instead this is an invaluable patchwork of coastal grasslands that are considered rare by the California Department of Fish and Game.  Therefore, impacts to this sensitive resource are completely ignored.

3. Impacts to birds and wildlife are inadequately presented since it unclear what the impact of traffic, lights and unceasing activity will have on these species and their habitat.  We believe that the impact of regular traffic will greatly deteriorate the quality of all habitat on the San Pablo Peninsula.

Recent KQED radio program on Point Molate: This show was taped on March 2, 2011 at KQED studio.

Public Hearing: A special City Council meeting to consider the certification of the Final EIR will be held on Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. at the City Council Chambers, 440 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond, CA, 94804.

Report Availability: The FEIR may be viewed and printed from the developer’s website here.  Other pertinent documents can be located at the root directory here.

Hard copies of the document are also available at the following locations:

  • Richmond Public Library, Main Branch 325 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond, CA 94804;
  • Richmond Public Library, Westside Branch 135 Washington Avenue, Richmond, CA 94801; and
  • City of Richmond, Planning and Building Services Department, City Hall, 450 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond, CA, 94804

We’re happy to spread the word about the “3rd” Habitat Goals project which is now published: The Subtidal Habitat Goals.  EBCNPS reviewed the draft document and provided some input on impacts to eelgrass beds, specifically with regard to Point Molate and the East Bay.   We also asked that the document provide some information on how to establish marine reserves where eelgrass resources might be best conserved.  Here’s our previous post on this plan.

An excerpt from the Subtidal Habitat Goals website:

Subtidal Habitat Information is Now Available

Government agencies with authority for managing the estuary lack sufficient information about subtidal habitats in the bay to inform planning decisions. Although a tremendous amount of scientific information is available from research and monitoring in the bay, little of it is useful in making decisions about specific proposals for develpment or restoration as it relates to subtidal habitat. Part of the reason for this shortfall is that subtidal habitats are usually invisible in the bay’s turbid waters, and most sampling methods cannot provide detailed information about the location and condition of the various habitats. Equally important is the need to learn more about the functions of these habitats, how they respond to environmental change, and how to protect and enhance them.

This report describes six subtidal habitat types with maps showing their known current distributions, and analyzes present-day threats to those habitats. It presents recommendations for addressing those stressors, for advancing scientific research and understanding, and for protecting and restoring subtidal habitat within the constraints and challenges of an urbanized estuary, and of incomplete knowledge. It also describes some of the pioneering efforts that have taken place to restore subtidal habitat in the bay.

Neither a policy nor regulatory document, this report offers guidance on opportunities for subtidal restoration and protection. Implementation will occur through a number of avenues: local governments may incorporate these recommendations into their planning processes and documents, non-profits may use them when seeking funding for restoration or management projects, and researchers may wish to refer to the report when setting priorities for research. Regulatory agencies may use this report to evaluate, revise, or implement their policies.

You can read the FULL REPORT HERE

 

Excerpt from Page 158: Restoration Opportunities (bold type added by us)

Subtidal-Wetland Design Integration Restoration Objective 1-1:

Select sites that have the greatest opportunities for integrating subtidal habitat with other restored or important habitats for pilot subtidal restoration projects near locations identified by the San Francisco Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals Project. Possible locations include:

• San Pablo Bay: study potential resources and restoration activities in areas offshore from Sears Point, San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge and Tubbs Island, and other restoration sites.

• Corte Madera area: Muzzi Marsh, Corte Madera Ecological Reserve, Heard Marsh: existing wetlands and restored eelgrass, link to living shoreline project

• Richardson Bay: wetland restoration linked to existing oyster/eelgrass populations

• Breuner Marsh and Point Molate: link to Point San Pablo eelgrass bed

• Eastshore State Park: wetland restoration linked with oyster and eelgrass restoration, creek daylighting

• Central and North Bay Islands: link rocky habitat with eelgrass and oyster beds

• South Bay Salt Pond sites; Eden Landing and other sites: link to southernmost eelgrass population, native oyster restoration.

marsh grindelia opening

The EBCNPS Conservation Committee will be kicking off 2011 with a formal conservation committee meeting at 7pm on Jan 25th @ Laura Baker’s home [79 Roble – Oakland].  We invite all current members of the conservation committee and general CNPS membership who may be interested in becoming more active with conservation to attend as we discuss some of our current conservation challenges and plan for the next year or so.  We will have our EBCNPS Guidebook to Botanical Priority Protection Areas of the East Bay on display so that you can view the published 11×17″ full-color book in all its glory.

Our agenda will include: Point Molate, Cowell Ranch Historic Park General Plan, the Pinole Valley Mitigation Bank, Vasco Winds DEIR, and Planning for conservation in the Tassajara area (San Ramon) – as well as strategic planning for the EBCNPS conservation program.

Conservation Analyst Appeal

We will also discuss the current Conservation Analyst appeal at the Conscom meeting, which has now eclipsed $28,000, which leaves us only $7,000 short of our goal!  This year’s donations have rained in from many members and we hope that those out there who haven’t yet donated would consider donating even $20 to the CA fund!  Every dollar counts!

On Tuesday, December 7th, the outcome of a Upstream funded “Point Molate Alternatives” study was presented to the City Council.  This study was intended to determine if there were viable project alternatives that were not considered in the initial Point Molate Casino/Resort EIR.  The original document vetted a total of 6 alternatives including 3 with a casino, 1 mixed use plan, 1 total parkland plan, and a no project alternative.

Four final submissions (out of 28) were determined to be appropriate for EIR analysis.  These alternatives were considered to be in compliance with the existing reuse plan, open space regulations, and provide an economic engine for the City of Richmond.  Here are the final four alternatives.

1. Cannabis production facility

2. Research park

3. Green, mixed-use development

4. Private wildlife park

In the end, the City Council voted not to include these alternatives in the environmental review process, which would have delayed this developer-driven process even longer.  Instead, they asked that the project move forward with the FEIR as planned.

At this point, we believe that delay would be to the benefit of Upstream.  The reason is that Upstream probably faces an enormous economic headwall with the current conditions, and it is difficult to imagine that Upstream will be able to realize the development of this project.  The City of Richmond needs to continue to inquire whether Upstream has secured the promised funding for the project.   Upstream has promised that financing is in place, although they previously failed to name their fiscal sponsor publicly.

The fastest way to start anew would be to have this current process run its course and then it could be buried.  A swift finish to the fatally flawed Point Molate EIR process is what needs to happen now so that an authentic and honest process can be initiated.  We believe councilmember Butt agrees.  His editorial is reproduced below.

Here’s the original link to the article.

It was truly a historic November 2nd in Richmond.  Both Measure U was defeated and the City Council is now packed with a majority of progressives. The Casino vote has tipped against the developer and for a better planning effort at Point Molate.  This is truly exciting and testament to the fact that there is a strong grassroots group who cares about creating a better Richmond!

Also, Measure W failed in San Ramon, which keeps Tassajara Valley as open space!

The details:

Measure U   NO: 57.5%   YES: 42.5%
Measure W   NO: 71.9 %   YES: 28.1%

Richmond MayorGayle McLaughlin: 40.5%                                             Bates: 36.6%    John Z: 22.9%

Richmond Council Winners: Rodgers (pro-casino): 14.3%    Booze (anti-casino): 14.8%   Beckles (anti-casino): 13.22% – These new additions (with re-election of Mayor McLaughlin) now provide a 5-2 vote against the casino!

Great work everyone!!!

Here’s a link to the Contra Costa Times article on the defeat of Measure U.

CCTimes article on Measure W.

photo by Sparky

photo by Sparky

An Open Letter to the Community On Measure U

The most critical East Bay election this year is Richmond’s city race where voters will decide whom to elect for city council and mayor and whether to support Measure U, the Richmond Citizen’s Advisory vote to approve a casino at Point Molate. There are few local races that will have broader implications for the future of Richmond, our East Bay shoreline and the greater bayshore environment.

And yet, the silence on Measure U from major Bay Area environmental organizations is deafening. No spirited debate among the leading environmental organizations, no call to action to vote down the casino except from the East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society. These are strange times indeed. What cast such a pall over a critically important public discussion and the public service that it provides citizens?

The unhappy truth behind this situation is the application of a powerful weapon—the threat of a poison pill. Since we first learned of the proposed settlement between Upstream Developmentand Citizens for Eastshore State Park and SPRAWLDEF more than a year ago, we have been told that the agreement and its benefits will dissolve if any major environmental organization contests the Environmental Impact Report. Our unequivocal response has been that we would not agree to give up our legal rights. Since we have never seen the settlement agreement, we cannot know whether the poison pill is real or merely a threat. But the developer promise of big money that could go away if somebody else ruins the deal (big carrot, bigger stick) has had a chilling impact on public discourse. Who wants to be perceived as the spoiler?

From our perspective, it’s one thing to sue and negotiate your own settlement, and to that extent we believe that the negotiators operated in good faith. It is quite another to agree to a condition that would attempt to impose a private settlement upon an entire community without public debate, particularly when the terms include approving a publicly unpopular mega-development. Apparently the cynical ploy worked. Visit the website of nearly any major Bay Area environmental organization or read their ballot recommendations and you won’t find mention of Richmond’s Measure U. In some cases you’ll find statements of support for the settlement agreement from different organizations with sentences composed of the exact same text. Environmental groups prejudged the outcome, and rather than waiting to hear the will of the Richmond voters, these organizations have gotten out front with a pro-casino message.

We believe that it is in the public interest to understand what effect the poison pill claim has on the public process. It brings us no great pleasure to notice how powerfully it silenced an entirecommunity whose reputation is built on transparency. And, yes, we remain adamantly opposed to the casino and to anything other than sustainable development at Point Molate. The irony is that the prospects have never been better for defeating the casino and clearing the path for sound planning to protect Point Molate and the San Pablo Peninsula. Polls show Measure U going down to defeat.

Perhaps the best news of all is that strong vibrant grassroots groups such as the Citizens for a Sustainable Point Molate and the Richmond Progressive Alliance have organized out of the understanding that they cannot look to the environmental community to oppose the casino, and they have found the resolve to carry the fight forward on their own terms. We plan to give the mall the support we can. We urge Richmond residents to vote No on Measure U. Our non-profit status bars us from endorsing candidates, but we urge those who oppose the casino to learn which candidates share their views and get out and vote. The Richmond Progressive Alliance has election signs and materials. Contact them at their office at 317 11th Street, Richmond, 510-412-2260.

Sincerely,

Delia Taylor – President

Laura Baker – Conservation Committee Chair (510) 684 – 4572

Lech Naumovich – Conservation Analyst (510) 734 – 0335

East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society

Pt Molate by John Curley

We hope you will join the majority of the residents in Richmond who are voting No on Measure U.  Recent polls show strong local opposition against the Point Molate Casino/Resort project which promises to build a sorely out-of-place Las Vegas-style casino on rare bay side ecosystems.  In addition, State and Federal lawmakers have spoken out against Measure U which will most likely be challenged in the courts.

Here’s Diane Feinstein’s message.

More information here.

Hikers enjoying Point Molate

EBCNPS will be issuing a press release on Point Molate today.  We continue to support the Richmond community and the Mayor in their efforts to create a better Richmond.  We hope you’ll join us in voting no on Measure U on November 2nd.

Here’s our press release for No on U and Point Molate

Here’s a piece from KQED that highlights some of the conservation issues.

Contra Costa Times – The Play on Point Molate

more to come…

Molate fescue grass among wildflowers

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Conservation Analyst Contact Information

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

Conservation Analyst Fund