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A 935-unit mixed-use community is proposed for the former Oak Knoll Naval Medical Center.  EBCNPS generally supports redevelopment in urban areas, but commented at community meetings in early 2016 that this project fails to protect a large population of the rare and iconic Oakland star tulip (Calochortus umbellatus) and native needlegrass grassland on the site.

Please attend an upcoming public meeting to learn more on currently published Draft Supplemental EIR. Here is the Agenda (see item 3, pg 6), and Staff Report. Join EBCNPS and speak or submit comments to Oakland City Planning Commission:

6:00PM @ Wednesday, October 5, 2016

@ Council Chambers, City Hall, One Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Oakland

oaklandstartulip

(Photo: Oakland star tulip, Calochortus umbellatus, CNPS rank 4.2, EBCNPS rank *A2)

Written comments due October 12, 2016 on the Draft Supplemental EIR. We currently reading this document and formulating our comments, but currently, our focus is on:

  • Opposition to proposed relocation of 732 Oakland star tulip bulbs to build houses (see CNPS policies, positions and guidelines, especially Mitigation Guidelines).
  • Opposition to proposed removal of thousands of mature trees. Although we are supportive of removing unhealthy or unsafe trees, and nonative trees in favor of native trees, and generally favor the City of Oakland Tree Preservation Ordinance, we are analyzing their removal and replanting plan for allowing for further protections.
  • Support of Rifle Range Creek restoration plan, especially with inclusion of native plants in landscaping plans.
  • Support removal of eucaluptus at Urban Wildland Interface between the proposed project and surrounding homes.
  • Recommend increased open space on the Oak Knoll itself, where construction of a large outdoor exhibit and extensive accessible trail system with associated parking spaces, are avoidable large scale impacts that should be reduced or reconsidered completely.
  • Recommend equipment hygiene standards for reducing spread of invasive weeds.

Please let us know if you would like to join our efforts. Keep an eye out for more updates throughout the month of October.

Karen Whitestone

conservation@ebcnps.org

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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

 

 

In the quiet confines of Southeastern Contra Costa county lies a seemingly endless expanse of rolling hills filled with California annual grassland vegetation.  In some of these valleys, alkaline soils have formed over hundreds of thousands of years, providing habitat for rare California flora. One such known repository of alkaline grassland is along Kellogg creek.

The creek drainage and habitat around it is currently a wind farm, which is planned to be “upgraded” with larger turbines in the near future.  EBCNPS provided the following comment letter on the Vasco Winds DEIR, hoping that the alkaline values of this site can be better protected with this “repowering” process.  EBCNPS also notes that this falls within the Byron Botanical Priority Protection Area, insert shown below.  Although we believe that this habitat contains more rare plants than currently recorded, the project failed to conduct a focused survey for rare plants (as well as locally rare flora) which we believe makes the EIR incomplete and out of compliance with CEQA. EBCNPS is also concerned with how this will affect the ongoing Altamont Wind Power Resource Area HCP, as well as the approved Eastern Contra Costa HCP-NCCP.

 

The DEIR should be posted by the County here. [Caution this is a large PDF file and may take a while (2-3 minutes) to load.]

Heath Bartosh, EBCNPS Rare Plants Chair, and two other CNPS members recently encountered a rare rock sanicle (Sanicula saxatilis) with reporters from the San Francisco Chronicle.  Here’s the full article.

Sanicula saxatilis by Heath Bartosh

Sanicula saxatilis by Heath Bartosh

“Where’d you go?” called Joe.

“Mmmgrumph. Ow! I’m OK,” said Ron. Translated from couple speak, that’s: “I haven’t tried to work this combination of gravity-defying gymnastics while not stepping on anything precious since I worked in Jenny Fleming’s garden, and I was 25 years younger then and her rocks weren’t this sharp.”

This is Extreme Botany.

Leaving bits of blood and skin to the genius loci, we joined California Native Plant Society botanists Heath Bartosh, Nick Jensen and Shannon Still downslope. Tucked into the rocks were botanical gems: a Mount Diablo phacelia and a scattering of Mount Diablo jewelflowers. Endemic to the mountain, neither had been confirmed at this spot near the summit since the early 1990s.

This was part of the CNPS Rare Plant Treasure Hunt, teaming professional botanists with amateur volunteers statewide in an ambitious effort to document the survival of California’s botanical rarities. In a way, the phacelia and the jewelflower were easy targets, with semi-precise location records. Other plants’ historic locations are vague: “A lot of plants from the late 1800s only have ‘Antioch’ as their collection site, because that’s where the botanists got off the train,” explained Bartosh.

The goal is to update some 30,000 known occurrences of rare plants and record geospatial information for them, for a database maintained by the California Department of Fish and Game. “Thousands of these occurrences, up to 40 percent, haven’t been documented in over 20 years,” said Jensen. Some Diablo species were last recorded by legendary botanist Mary Bowerman in the 1930s. “When you have old data, it’s hard to make accurate decisions about conservation priorities.”

On a shoestring budget, Still is responsible for coordinating treasure hunts over most of California; another CNPS botanist, Amber Swanson, covers the deserts. Current data would help inform planning for solar facilities in the Mojave Desert: “We can find whether some desert plants are as rare as we think they are.”

“If volunteers are inexperienced,” Still told us, “we team them up with someone knowledgeable. Up to half the people we’ve logged so far are amateurs.” The largest response has come from the Bay Area.

Other local groups had already been tracking down rare plants. For the past two years, National Park Service botanist Michael Chassé has led forays in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, from Mori Point in San Mateo County to Nicasio Ridge in Marin County. This year, he’s partnering with the CNPS effort. “The park tries to get people excited and involved about these treasures in a way that continues to protect the resources,” Chassé said. There’s a serendipity factor: His groups have found undocumented occurrences for the San Francisco wallflower and Marin checker lily.

Like the coast, Mount Diablo is home to a concentration of uncommon plant species – some found nowhere else, others at the northern or southern limits of their ranges. “Many plants at the edge of their range are disjunct, found in population islands,” said Jensen. That’s where evolutionary changes are most likely to happen.

After the first finds, we scrambled back up the talus slope and circled the summit on the interpretive trail named for Bowerman. Bartosh flushed a small rattlesnake, who did not have the courtesy to rattle. Bright yellow Mount Diablo sunflowers, banks of red larkspur and orange wind poppy, lustrous white bitterroot flowers and the raspberry-pink blossoms of sickle-leaved onions surrounded us, but Jensen, Still and Bartosh were after less showy specimens.

On a rocky slope below the visitor center, they discovered what Jensen called “the most important of the find of the day”: rock sanicle, a parsley relative with yellow flower clusters and geranium-like leaves. Another Diablo specialty, it was last documented at this spot in 1973. We’d walked the Bowerman trail half a dozen times before; dazzled by the bitterroots, we never noticed the sanicle. Bartosh sprawled on the talus for close-up photography while Still took a GPS reading.

On the way back, as the team coined the “extreme botany” term, we thought of what CNPS education director Josie Crawford had said earlier: “Our hope is that young people will go out and see what a great life professional botanists have.” We’re not young, but we’re sold.

Resources

— California Native Plant Society’s Rare Plant Treasure Hunt page:www.cnps.org/cnps/rareplants/treasurehunt

— Golden Gate National Recreation Area rare plant surveys: michael_chasse@nps.gov

California Tiger Salamander (Gerald and Buff Corsi © 1999 California Academy of Sciences)

California Tiger Salamander (Gerald and Buff Corsi © 1999 California Academy of Sciences)

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has issued their list of species undergoing the required 5-year review process. This process asks the Service to review current information on the listed species and then decide whether the listing status for a given taxon should be amended.

This year USFWS is reviewing 10 species that are the responsibility of the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office. None of the plants fall within the East Bay area, so we will not be commenting in this year. A Federal Register notice published on May 21, 2010 is intended to alert the public to the reviews under way and request all relevant information from the public. Other offices are responsible to review 24 other species that occur in California and Nevada. The full Federal Register notice can be found at: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-12170.pdf. To give us adequate time to conduct the review, the comment period closes on July 20, 2010.

Although no plant species will need a direct response from our chapter, all of the listed fauna are important conservation targets.  The California Tiger Salamander is one such taxon that helps protect vernal pool and vernal swale habitat by acting as an umbrella for rare flora.  If anyone has information on the distribution and health of any of the listed species, they are encouraged to write into the Service during the comment period.

Please send comment information to: Field Supervisor, Attention: 5-Year Review, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, Room W-2605, Sacramento, CA 95825. Information may also be submitted electronically at: fw1sfo5year@fws.gov . To obtain further information, contact Kirsten Tarp at the Sacramento office at (916) 414-6600.

Spring is an exciting time, but it’s been a long time since it has been this exciting for Redwood Regional Park.  The Serpentine Prairie is now in full bloom.  Goldfields, purple needle grass, owl’s clover, and poppies now carpet the upper portion of the prairie which is normally barren by May 1.  Thanks should go to the East Bay Regional Park District that fenced off the sensitive serpentine habitat in the fall of 2009.  This is the first year for this new stewardship regime.

The results are simply stunning.  Please go out and visit the park and see for yourself.

Presidio Clarkia in flower

Presidio Clarkia in flower

Cobweb thistle (Cirsium occidentale) on Mt Diablo

As we start a new decade, we at East Bay CNPS want to wish everyone a healthy and happy 2010!

Thank you for your efforts towards protecting native flora.  Please look for our upcoming 2009 Conservation Committee Annual Report.

Fritillaria agrestis by John Game

Fritillaria agrestis by John Game

The East Bay Chapter of CNPS has been working on a publication that will help communicate the value of our local botanical resources to a greater general public.  This project, the Botanical Priority Protection Areas (or BPPA), outlines 15 of the most important landscapes in the East Bay that convey a “sense of place”.  Many of these areas will have development proposals in the next decade and we hope that our project will help communicate the importance of these areas.
There is a team of individuals that is helping make this project a success.  Please feel free to email Lech Naumovich (conservation@ebcnps.org) with comments and suggestions on this project.  Thanks for your everyone’s generosity and support!!!

Here’s a sneak peak at a DRAFT layout of the 4 Valleys area near Antioch, CA.

DRAFT 4 Valleys BPPA publication

Typical landscape in the East Bay Hills

Typical landscape in the East Bay Hills

The much anticipated “twin goals” plan for the East Bay Hills has been released for public review.  This plan looks  to reduce wildfire risk and actively manage parkland resources in the East Bay Hills.  EBCNPS has been active in providing germane resource information related to this effort.  Please read our Environmental Green Paper on East Bay Hills Vegetation Management.  EBCNPS will be reviewing the Park District’s plan and providing written comments as appropriate.

East Bay Regional Park District: The EB Hills plan

The first public meeting will be held on Wednesday, September 2, 2009, at 7:00 p.m. at the Trudeau Center, 11500 Skyline Blvd., Oakland.  Comments are due by October 1st, 2009.

Just south of the Alameda county line is a rare white Metcalf Canyon jewelflower (pictured below). [Streptanthus albidus ssp albidus]

Metcalf Canyon Jewelflower

In the East Bay, we have the purple subspecies of this plant – the “most beautiful jewel flower” [Streptanthus albidus ssp peramoenus].

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

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