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--the California "Mega-Park" Project

Tracking measurable success on preserving and connecting California's Parks & Wildlife Corridors


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

SCC 9/2008

Land Purchases on the September 25th Meeting Agenda of the State Coastal Conservancy

673 acres along Napa Crestline Trail
220 acres on L.A. County's Palos Verdes Peninsula
333 acres on Mount Diablo in Contra Costa County

TENTATIVE AGENDA LOCATION: Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center, 921 Waterfront Drive, Eureka, CA

DATE: Thursday, September 25, 2008

TIME: 9:00 am

8. Consideration and possible Conservancy authorization to disburse up to $370,500 to Mendocino Land Trust for acquisition of the 5.8 acre oceanfront Hare Creek Beach Property for public access, habitat conservation, and open space preservation, south of the City of Fort Bragg, in Mendocino County.

12. Consideration and possible Conservancy authorization to disburse up to $1,650,000 to Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District for the acquisition of the 673-acre Moore Creek Property in Napa County for the protection of natural resources and public recreation.

13. Consideration and possible Conservancy authorization to disburse up to $1,400,000 to the East Bay Regional Park District for the acquisition of the approximately 333-acre Chaparral Spring property for open space, wildlife and habitat preservation, public access, and limited agricultural uses.
18. Consideration and possible Conservancy authorization to disburse up to $5,500,000 to the City of Rancho Palos Verdes to acquire the 191-acre Upper Filiorum property and the 28-acre Plumtree property on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, Los Angeles County, to assist in implementing the City's Natural Communities Conservation Plan.

20. Consideration and possible Conservancy authorization to disburse up to $ 679,000 to the City of Laguna Beach for acquisition of the 4.5-acre Bunn property adjacent to the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park (LCWP) in Orange County for open space, public access, and habitat preservation; and related costs.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Desert Update from the California Wilderness Coalition for September 2008

Senate Advances CA Desert & Mountain Heritage Act

On September 11, 2008, with nearly 100 wilderness activists and volunteers present, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee reported out 53 public lands bills, including the CA Desert and Mountain Heritage Act. The bill is now ready to be considered by the full Senate. If passed, the bill would protect 191,000 acres of wilderness including areas in Joshua Tree National Park and Beauty Mountain. It would also protect four rivers as “wild and scenic” including Fuller Mill Creek.

With a dwindling legislative calendar, our folks in DC and in the field are working hard to make this bill a priority for our legislators. CWC applauds the hard working volunteers as well as the bill’s champions—Representative Bono Mack and Senators Boxer and Feinstein. For more information please visit:

There’s more wilderness out there…

Over the years CWC has continually helped monitor existing wilderness areas and inventoried potential new wilderness areas. Here in the desert, we are at a critical and exciting juncture. With the help of dedicated volunteers, local community leaders and our coalition partners, we have readied a proposal for several new wilderness areas in the desert and we’d like YOUR help! Join us on an outing to one of these spectacular and often little known wild places. Then add your voice to the growing movement to designate these places as wilderness. Together we can ensure that wild California is protected for generations to come.

Upcoming Hikes & Camping Trips

Saturday October 4th Cady Mountains Wilderness Day Hike Meet in Barstow 8:30 AM Contact: Laurel Williams 909-260-8833 for details

Enjoy a day of exploration in a landscape of rugged yellow and dark brown, horizontally striped canyons in one of the few areas where the Mojave River flows above ground. We will hike through lands that were utilized by Native Americans as a water source and Jedidiah Smith and Kit Carson traveled through in the early 1800’s. Keep your eye out for the elusive desert bighorn sheep as well as other wildlife like prairie falcons, golden eagles, coyotes, bobcats, jackrabbits, antelope ground squirrels, Mojave fringe-toed lizard and the desert tortoise. Bring 2 liters of water per person, sturdy walking shoes or boots, hat, sunscreen, snacks and a picnic lunch. If you are planning on joining us, please leave a message in advance at or 909-260-8833.

Sunday October 5th Big Morongo Preserve Photography Hike Meet at 7:00AM in the parking lot of the Preserve. From LA, take the I-10 East to State Highway 62 North. In Morongo Valley, turn right onto East Drive. After 1 block, turn left at Preserve sign. There is a parking lot at the end of the lane. Contact: Laurel Williams 909-260-8833 Join CWC and naturalist and wildlife photographer David Lamfrom from the National Parks Conservation Association for a leisurely hike through biologically rich riparian forest and mesquite forest, and a foray into desert hills for a potential opportunity to view desert bighorn. Bring you camera! Our early morning start will give us ample opportunity to snap photos of the over 240 species of birds that utilize Big Morongo as a refuge. Bring 2 liters of water per person, sturdy walking shoes or boots, hat, sunscreen, snacks and a picnic lunch. If you are planning on joining us, please leave a message in advance at or 909-260-8833.

Saturday & Sunday October 11-12th Surprise Canyon car camp and hike Meet in Victorville 8:00 AM Contact: Laurel Williams 909-260-8833 for details Surprise Canyon is a true rarity in the California desert with its abundant year round flow of water and lush riparian habitat. We will car camp below the canyon and hike up through the thick vegetation, looking for signs of the bighorn herd that uses the canyon. Some rock scrambling and stream splashing involved. Camp potluck dinner on Saturday night. Must bring willingness to get your feet wet and an extra pair of shoes and socks. If you are planning on joining us, please leave a message in advance at or 909-260-8833.

October 31 (eve) – November 2, Friday (eve) – Sunday
CONGLOMERATE MESA EXPLORATION/CARCAMP Contact: Laurel Williams 909-260-8833 Come with us and explore this pristine area overlooking Owens Valley and ranges to the east. Meet Friday evening near Darwin and car-caravan to our camping location at 6500’. Moderately strenuous hike on Saturday to little-known unroaded, unmined, ungrazed area south of Cerro Gordo, threatened by the potential of an open pit cyanide heap leach gold mine. Mostly trail-less cross-country, except for part of an 1870’s freighting trail between Keeler and Death Valley. Some rock scrambling. Saturday evening social and pot luck. Sunday explore the Malpais Mesa Wilderness from the 1950s Santa Rosa mine. Drive to campsite requires high clearance vehicle, carpooling at meeting point may be possible. Resource guide: Tom Budlong. Contact Laurel Williams 909-260-8833 for more information.

Ways to Get Involved

Volunteer to lead a hike, host a wilderness party, or write a letter to your elected officials! There are many ways to make a difference in this exciting new campaign. To find out more and to get involved in protecting desert wilderness, please contact Laurel Williams at or 909-260-8833.

Spotlight on Malpais Mesa Proposed Wilderness Additions

Conglomerate Mesa is the area’s central feature. At 7,700 feet, this mesa is an astonishing plateau amidst a rugged landscape that accentuates the 3,800 foot drop from the mesa to the valley floor. The mesa’s western slope features rolling badlands and from the top the view is simply breathtaking. Absolutely pristine, it is roadless and has never been settled, mined, grazed, or used by ORVs. The area contains the remains of primitive shelters and old foot and mule trails from California’s mining past. A hike to the top of the mesa is rugged and the landscape dry. There is a delightful surprise for the hiker who finds the hidden summit registry at the top. as well as dramatic 360 degree views of the Owens Valley and Sierra Nevada to the west and Death Valley and Telescope Peak to the east. Mule Deer, Boghorn Sheep, Golden Eagles, and threatened Mojave Ground Squirrel are some of the areas inhabitants. A rich Joshua Trees forest dominates the midlevel elevations while creosote, low desert shrubs, and grasses are found in lower elevations. Piñon pines and Juniper trees are found toward the top. This beautiful place is at threat from the Idaho-based Timberline Resources Corporation. The company has applied to bulldoze roads and conduct exploratory drilling on this stunning and picturesque landscape.
Their exploration could lead to open-pit cyanide heap-leach gold mining.
CWC is working to protect this incredible place as wilderness.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Govts. Dickering Over Expanding El Dorado County Plant Preserve in the Sierra Nevadas; Battle over protections for Sierra endangered species continues

"Officials mull preserve expansion"
Some seek to run a road through the preserve

(Sacramento Bee El Dorado section, 9/12/08) By Cathy Locke

El Dorado County officials say they are interested in adding a key piece of land to a rare-plant preserve but will not authorize its purchase until they reach an agreement with state and federal agencies.

The Board of Supervisors also said the 20-acre Carriage Hill property, north of Highway 50 and east of Cameron Park Drive in Cameron Park, is overpriced at $3.32 million.

Supervisor Ron Briggs asked the board to authorize the American River Conservancy to purchase the property using funds collected from developers to offset the loss of rare plants due to development. The four 5-acre parcels would be added to the Pine Hill Ecological Preserve.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has identified the Carriage Hill property as a priority for acquisition because it contains five of eight rare-plant species that grow in the area's gabbro soils.

In addition to the rare plants, the acreage is important because it would connect two other properties within the preserve, making the lands easier to manage, said Rosemary Carey, a representative of the California Native Plant Society. But some area residents said it would be a mistake to preclude development of land along the Highway 50 corridor. They noted that the general plan, the county's blueprint for growth, designates the Carriage Hill parcels for multifamily housing and the property is needed to help the county meet its regional housing allocations.

Bill Pimental said he owns property that is bordered on three sides by the Carriage Hill parcels, and his access road would go through the middle of the preserve, making it difficult to further develop his land.

Four of the rare-plant species have been found on his property, "so maybe we should talk about selling it to you," Pimental told the supervisors.

Art Marinaccio, a Shingle Springs resident and member of the Taxpayers Association of El Dorado County, said the board should not authorize purchase of any more lands for the Pine Hill preserve until it has an agreement with the Fish and Wildlife Service and the state Department of Fish and Game defining their responsibilities and the county's regarding administration, use and maintenance of preserve lands and associated costs.

He also said the county should have an agreement with the federal Bureau of Land Management allowing construction of a roadway through the preserve lands to connect Wild Chaparral and Palmer drives. The link would help divert local traffic from Highway 50.

Supervisor Briggs said he would like the board to pursue the acquisition, but he requested additional appraisals.

"The price seems to be high, but I don't want (the property) to get away from us," he said.

Supervisor Jack Sweeney argued that the county should not approve the purchase of any additional property until it has an agreement with state and federal agencies.

Until then, he said, the county doesn't know where it stands with regard to preserve lands.

"We have to wait 'til we have (an agreement)," he said. "Then I would be happy to jump in and buy it, but not at this price."

The supervisors agreed to postpone action on the purchase request until an agreement is reached with the Fish and Wildlife Service and Department of Fish and Game. They also directed staff members to obtain preliminary appraisals for the Carriage Hill property.


RELATED: "Pine Hill Preserve" (BLM-California, Folsom Field Office)
Located in western El Dorado County, Pine Hill Preserve is home to a collection of eight rare plant species. Three of the plant species that grow in the Pine Hill Preserve are endemic, which means they grow nowhere else in the world. Two more species are nearly endemic, with only a few plants found elsewhere. This assemblage of rare plants is part of a unique community confined to soils known as the Rescue soils, named after the nearby community of Rescue, CA. The Pine Hill Preserve is operated under a cooperative management agreement with several agencies and organizations.


Agency Protects 1.8 Million Acres of California Frog Habitat

Thanks to a December lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, this Tuesday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to grant Mark Twain's favorite amphibian no less than 1.8 million acres of federally protected habitat spanning 28 California counties. The California red-legged frog, made famous in Twain's "The Celebrated Frog of Calaveras County," has lost 90 percent of its historic population due to urban development, wetland draining, pesticides, and myriad other threats. Still, in 2006, the Service gave in to development-industry pressure and cited a bunk economic analysis to severely slash the habitat protections the frog needs to survive. The new proposal for habitat protections isn't nearly as good as a 2001 agency proposal -- which would have protected a hefty 4.1 million acres, thanks to a Center suit -- but it is almost quadruple the agency's last designation. That dramatic cut was retracted after federal investigators learned the decision was politically tainted by former Interior Department official Julie MacDonald. Read more here:

Feds Sued for Removing Safety Net for Sierra Nevada Species

Last week, the Center for Biological Diversity and allies took the Bush administration to court for dramatically weakening management plans for 10 Sierra Nevada national forests. Before December 2007, the U.S. Forest Service was required to closely monitor the well-being of indicator species -- plants and animals that help show an ecosystem's overall health -- and ensure that those species wouldn't be harmed before approving projects like logging and road building. The original management requirements helped keep populations of Sierra Nevada plants and animals -- including the northern goshawk, California condor, and Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep -- well-distributed and healthy. But new provisions passed in December compel the Forest Service to monitor only 13 of the original 60 management indicator species, allowing the agency to stay totally out of the loop on the vast majority of the Sierra's bellwether inhabitants.

Represented by Earthjustice, we filed our suit with Sierra Forest Legacy, the Sierra Club, and Defenders of Wildlife on September 9 to show that the latest weakening of protections violates the law. Read more here:

California Desert News:

--Should Solar Power Plants Escape Environmental Impact Review?
--More Mining near Calico, north of Barstow
--Two Military base expansions threaten endangered plants and public use

"The Sun King" (Wall Street Journal, 9/14/08)
Opinion page: "Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican, thinks he has a partial solution to America's dependence on high-priced foreign oil. But he says liberals and environmentalists are rejecting it. Mr. Rohrabacher -- who notes 130 pending applications for solar power projects on federal land administered by the Bureau of Land Management -- has introduced a bill to allow the building of such plants without environmental-impact studies."

"Mining company renegotiates purchase of Langtry property" (San Bernardino County Sun, 9/14/08)
"Langtry comprises about 400 acres, and it's estimated to have 72 million ounces of silver and almost 3 million tons of barite. The company also wants to start drilling by year's end on the Laviathan Property, a 1,300-acre piece of land owned by the Bureau of Land Management and also located in the Calico Mining District ... Barite is a heavy material used in manufacturing oil drills."

"Wildlife service believes Fort Irwin plant not endangered" (Barstow Desert Dispatch, 9/16/08)
"After completing a five-year review of 16 endangered species in California, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommended Sept. 10 that the status of the Lane Mountain milk-vetch be changed from endangered to threatened." The plant "is found only in an approximately 20-mile strip of land north of Barstow, with about half the habitat on Fort Irwin and half on Bureau of Land Management lands. The milk-vetch improves the quality of desert soil by converting nitrogen from the air into a natural fertilizer."

Lane Mountain Milk-vetch to Be Dishonorably Demoted

After calling a truce in July over protecting habitat for California's Lane Mountain milk-vetch, last Wednesday the Bush administration renewed its assault on the unique, pea-like plant when it announced it would downgrade the milk-vetch's Endangered Species Act protections. The Lane Mountain milk-vetch, found only in the central Mojave Desert -- mostly within the recently expanded boundaries of the Fort Irwin Army base -- is threatened with destruction by off-road vehicles, tank training, mining, and suburban development. On July 24, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledged the plant's danger when it settled a lawsuit with the Center over a flawed 2005 decision not to protect any habitat for the species; the agency agreed to propose new habitat protections by 2010. Yet less than two months after the settlement, the Service did a sudden about-face and recommended that the plant be reduced to threatened rather than endangered status under the Endangered Species Act -- despite the fact that the milk-vetch exists in only four populations on the planet. Check out our press release at and get more on the Lane Mountain milk-vetch on our Web page.

"Public meetings planned for Twentynine Palms Marine Corps withdrawal application" (BLM-California news release, 9/15/08)
The Bureau of Land Management and the Marine Corps will host public meetings on October 23 and 24 to present the proposal for possible expansion of the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base and to discuss the legislative withdrawal process of the public lands in San Bernardino County. The locations, times, and formats for the meetings will be announced in the near future.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

County to fund restoration of 140 acres of coastal wetlands in urbanized Orange County


"HUNTINGTON BEACH – A project to restore 140 acres of marsh in Huntington Beach will go before the county Board of Supervisors today for final approval and possibly $1 million in funding...

When the conservancy was formed in 1985, the wetlands area was zoned as a residential area and owned primarily by Caltrans, Southern California Edison and private individuals. The group lobbied to get the area designated for conservation and then worked deals to purchase the land – piece by piece."

for full story:
Public Support for Preservation and Restoration of Ventura County's Ormond Wetlands is Needed Now

The Ormond Beach wetland area supports over 200 species of migratory birds, including the endangered California least tern and western snowy plover. This area is renowned for its ecological value, but is still heavily fragmented and hard pressed by development. The lagoon site and surrounding wetlands once totaled 1,000 acres, but now only 250 acres of the original wetlands remain.

The City of Oxnard is conducting environmental review of potential commercial development, light industrial development, and residential development of up to 1200 units in areas that currently support agricultural uses - and are near, or adjacent to, the Ormond wetland area. Development in these areas would further impinge on the already severely diminished wetland area and interfere with efforts to expand and restore the Ormond wetlands.

EDC is representing the Los Padres Chapter of the Sierra Club on this critical coastal issue. Please add your voice to this effort by writing to the City of Oxnard to state your support for the expansion and restoration of the Ormond wetland system and request that the re-circulated Draft Environmental Impact Report include additional alternatives that would reduce or avoid the impacts of development in the Ormond wetland area, including:

--Considering offsite alternatives for project development.
--Setting aside all land in the project area South of Hueneme Rd for resource protection.
--Setting aside all land in the project area North and South of Hueneme Rd. for resource protection

Send comments by 5 pm, Monday September 22 to:

ATTN: Kathleen Mallory
RE: North and South Ormond Beach Recirculated Draft EIR (SCH #2005091094)
City of Oxnard
Planning Division
214 S. C St.
Oxnard, CA 93030
FAX 805-385-7417

For more information see the City of Oxnard's website at: esourceID=364

Friday, September 12, 2008

September 20th: Cache Creek Celebration in the Blueridge Berryessa Natural Area

Hello Yolohikers!

On September 20th, Tuleyome,,will be hosting our 3rd annual Cache Creek celebration. Come out to Cache Creek Canyon Regional Park and spend the day with friends, go for a hike or bike ride, swim in the creek, or just relax and enjoy a BBQ dinner. For those who want to spend the night, we've reserved the group campgrounds (which are the best and closest to the creek). To get there from Yolo County, just take Highway 16 through the Capay Valley, past Rumsey, until you get to the middle campground.

Here is a google maplink:

The event is free, just bring a potluck item to share. We'll provide the hot dogs and veggie dogs and drinks. Kids and dogs are welcome. Both are known to eat food that falls on the ground.
Please RVSP to Debra Chase at Tuleyome, via email:

Hope to see you there!
Lake County Supervisors ask community for $2.5 million for Mt. Konocti

(photo from

By Tiffany Revelle, 9/6/2008

LAKE COUNTY -- Preserving more than 1,600 acres on top of Mount Konocti is the focus of a fundraising campaign approved Tuesday by the Lake County Board of Supervisors.

Public Services Director Kim Clymire spearheaded efforts to buy the property. After the board approved the purchase of five parcels on the county's centerpiece mountain from Buckingham Peak, L.L.C. and the Fowler Family Trust in August, Clymire asked the board's permission to solicit funds for the $2.5 million the county still needs to raise after making a $100,000 down payment. "People are going to have to step up to the plate - $5, $10, $15, $20 - it all makes a difference. If people think this is a good idea and all they can afford is $5, that's great. It amounts to the issue of pride in participation," fundraising committee member Chuck Lamb said.
Organizations including the Bureau of Land Management, Lake County Land Trust and Sierra Club, among others, are contributing, according to Lamb. He said the county is counting on individual donations to make up most of the purchase price.

The county opened escrow on the property in August and has until Sept. 31, 2009 to pay the balance of the $2.6 million price tag for the largest piece of the mountaintop land on Wright Peak, Howard Peak and Clark Peak. The land includes 1,512 acres between four contiguous parcels, and neighbors land owned by the Bureau of Land Management.

The county used a surplus of geothermal royalties to purchase a 176-acre parcel on Buckingham Peak for $1.2 million.

The county's Chief Administrative Officer, Kelly Cox, said whatever money is raised will be used to purchase the five parcels, which he said will free up geothermal royalty money the county hopes to use to buy land or easements that will connect the county's 176 acres on Buckingham Peak to Clearlake State Park. He said that would allow hiking trails to be established.

Lamb set up a Web site,, as a central fundraising point. On Friday, a donation tally at the site said $1,300 had been collected. Cox said Clymire presented that figure to the board Tuesday, adding that he knew at least $500 more had been donated since then.

The site also has a "store" link, where visitors can see items the group will be selling to add to the purchase. The items include a T-shirt, calendars, holiday cards and a tote bag, all featuring photographs of the mountain. He said visitors will be able to purchase items starting this weekend, and can make donations electronically starting Tuesday.

Donators may also make donations at the Lake County Public Works Department, located at 333 Second St. in Lakeport. Lamb said checks should be made payable to the County of Lake, with "Mount Konocti acquisition" on the note line. For more information, call Clymire at 262-1618.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Court Decision Freezes Stormwater Permitting; Entire Program in Limbo

July 2008 court decision and its aftermath has effectively frozen construction and stormwater permitting in southern California and created a game of high stakes political chicken among the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board ("Regional Board"), the regulated community, and the Court system.

A decision by an Orange County Superior Court judge ordered the Regional Board to set aside its March 3, 2005 Resolution (No. 2005-003) concluding the 2004 Basin Plan Triennial Review and adopting the 2004 Prioritized List of Basin Plan Issues for Investigations. The court also imposed specific requirements that will apply to any reconsideration of the 2004 Review or to the next scheduled review, and halted any regulatory activity designed to achieve "potential" beneficial uses for storm water and to any regulatory activity relating to water quality standards developed without consideration for economic impacts or for water quality conditions that "could reasonably be achieved."

The decision has sent shock waves through all affected stakeholders. For example, a July 16, 2008 memorandum from the Chief Counsel of the State Water Resources Control Board ("State Board") concludes that the Regional Board must immediately cease enrollments under statewide general National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for discharges of construction and industrial storm water within the Los Angeles Region. This prohibition on new enrollments will remain in effect until such time as the State Board reviews, and, as appropriate, revises the water quality standards in the Los Angeles Basin Plan, as applied to stormwater discharges, in a manner consistent with State law. The freeze on new enrollments means that no new construction projects can begin in this region because all such projects must comply with the construction stormwater program, which has now been gutted.
This decision serves as the most recent chapter in an action brought by a group of 22 Southern California cities, along with the Building Industry Defense fund, against the State Board and the Regional Board seeking to compel these public agencies to correct mistakes of law and procedure committed during the 2004 Basin Plan Triennial Review.

This order reflects the court's judgment that the 2004 Triennial Review failed to give due consideration for the mandatory factors and requirements specified in the state Water Code. The staff report filed with the Regional Board on January 12, 2005 includes a commitment to consider revisions to beneficial uses proposed by staff and stakeholders and states that beneficial uses include "both existing and potential uses" in contravention of Water Code section 13241(a), which states that the uses that may be considered shall be past, present, and "probable future" beneficial uses. Despite this, the plan includes a provision for re-evaluation of potential uses.

The Court also questioned another provision in the Basin Plan that gives high priority to incorporating by reference provisions contained in the California Toxics Rule (CTR) promulgated by the US EPA that sets numeric criteria for priority toxic pollutants for all inland surface waters and enclosed bays and estuaries in California. Although such administrative action would not immediately place new requirements on permittees, it nevertheless revises existing water quality objectives without due consideration for Water Code sections 13241(c), requiring analysis that water quality conditions be reasonably achievable and (d), requiring consideration of economic impact.

This decision sends the Boards of both agencies back to the planning process for Basin Plan reconsideration or review in light of the court's decision. In the interim, and at a minimum, the enrollment of new dischargers in the Los Angeles region under the existing general storm water permits will cease until new Basin Plan standards are approved, or the court's decision is modified or overturned. An appeal of the decision by the State and Regional Board is expected.
For environmentalist activists, the decision clearly constitutes a defeat. Their efforts to use the TMDL process to impose strict discharge requirements on local impaired water bodies will now depend on how the water board balances water quality objectives with the statutory factors enumerated in the Water Code, which mandate consideration of feasibility and economic concerns.

By responding with the drastic measure of freezing all stormwater enrollments, the Regional Board is effectively playing a high stakes game of chicken with the Court and the regulated community. Concurrently, the Regional Board has also sought a new trial. In the interim, the entire local stormwater permitting process remains in limbo.

Kenneth A. Ehrlich is a partner in Jeffer, Mangels, Butler & Marmaro's Government, Land Use, Environmental & Energy Department. The firm has offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Orange County.

Portion of Tejon Ranch Sprawl Located in L.A. County is Rejected by County Science Panel

(Photos from, and photoshopped together thanks to Lucienne Levy)
By JENNY SHEARER, Bakersfield Californian staff writer

A committee of biologists has reservations about a proposed Tejon Ranch Co. masterplanned community and advised Los Angeles County leaders not to approve it.

The Significant Ecological Area Technical Advisory Committee determined there weren’t enough wildlife corridors in the plan, said Shirley Imsand, senior biologist for the LA County Department of Regional Planning. The corridors appeared to dead-end at the edge of Centennial. Without sufficient territory in which to hunt and roam, species may decline.

“My feeling was that the committee felt there was potential for the development, but in its design, it wasn’t quite enough,” Imsand said Thursday.
The seven-member group cited the lack of a detailed management plan for the open spaces and natural areas in the project, she added.

Centennial would add 23,000 apartments, condos and single-family homes, public facilities and commercial options to land Tejon owns in northern Los Angeles County.
Barry Zoeller, Tejon Ranch’s vice president for corporate communications, said the company was disappointed by the committee’s decision but not surprised.

“SEATAC, to our knowledge, has never recommended a development project,” he said. “All the biological information becomes part of the environmental report, which is reviewed by the planning commission and the supervisors. We’re confident that they will believe, as we do, that Centennial is an environmentally sensitive community planned in the right way and in the right place.”

Land management plans will be explained in forthcoming reports, he noted.
In May, Tejon and environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, announced an agreement that would set aside up to 90 percent of ranch-owned lands for conservation.
In exchange, the participating groups agreed to not oppose Centennial and Tejon Mountain Village, a planned resort community in southern Kern.

A representative with the Center for Biological Diversity thinks the LA biological committee’s decision could make it problematic for Tejon to advance Centennial through the land-use approval process.
“It indicates that the Centennial project, one, is not compatible with the county (regulations) and two, it’s recognition that this is a huge impact to the natural resources of Los Angeles County,” said biologist Ileene Anderson.
The center was among the groups negotiating with Tejon but backed out over differences about agreement elements.

Centennial’s environmental impact report may not be available for public review until early or mid-2009, said Jeff Lemieux, a principal planner for LA County.


Contact: Ileene Anderson, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 654-5943

September 9, 2008

Key County Panel Rejects Tejon's Enormous Centennial Project

LOS ANGELES— An important Los Angeles County science advisory committee refused Monday to approve a proposed megadevelopment on the Tejon Ranch wilderness in the northern portion of the County. The 23,000-home Centennial development, which would include strip malls and other commercial parcels, would harm two Significant Ecological Areas designated by the County. The development also would displace the last herd of pronghorn antelope in Los Angeles County and destroy the beloved wildflower fields around the Gorman area.

“The Technical Advisory Committee members are safeguarding Los Angeles County’s world-class wild heritage,” said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity, referring to the Significant Ecological Areas Technical Advisory Committee, or SEATAC. “They recognize the biological significance of the Tejon Ranch and could see no justification for why a new city should be built there. The last wild area of Los Angeles County needs to remain wild.”

The Centennial project, the largest housing development ever proposed in California, would be an enormous new city isolated from existing metropolitan centers, workplaces, and infrastructure. It would be an example of “leap-frog,” sprawl development that would require extensive commuting to jobs and services, which will increase traffic on the Interstate 5 corridor and further foul the air in an area that already is notorious for poor air quality.

In the 1970s, the County’s General Plan designated Significant Ecological Areas, or SEAs, based on the unique biological and ecological resources. Plans for proposed developments in these SEAs must undergo heightened review by SEATAC, a panel composed of scientists, in order to assure maintaining the integrity of the SEAs. Representatives of the Centennial made an unprecedented four visits to the SEATAC, and each time the developers failed to make adequate changes to the project that would retain the area’s ecological significance.

“It is no surprise that a proposal to bulldoze 8,300 acres of open space that cannot be replaced causes so much concern,” Anderson said. “Even in these tough economic times, Centennial developers were unwilling to compromise their development plans to protect the quality of life in Los Angeles County by conserving irreplaceable wildlife habitat.”

The Centennial project will now be considered by the Los Angeles County Planning Commission — without SEATAC’s approval

For more information on Centennial and other Tejon developments please go to

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national nonprofit conservation organization with more than 180,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Review of District Land Purchases & Gifts in Fiscal Year 2007-2008 in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties

Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District
Annual Report 2007-2008 (published September 2008)

As an open space agency, the District’s primary purpose is to preserve open space. This is further reflected in the District’s mission “to acquire and preserve a regional greenbelt of open space land in perpetuity.” The District uses its available resources to purchase
land of a significant open space value and that might be lost to development if the District fails to act. The District also actively strives to purchase open space through gifts and matching grants.

The District owns 57,000 acres of preserved open space, and that land is contiguous to approximately 230,000 contiguous acres preserved and owned and managed by others

The following is a summary of the land purchases and gifts of land received this past fiscal year.

• The District accepted a gift in October 2007 of the 0.73-acre Delahay property as an addition to La Honda Creek Open Space Preserve.

• In November 2007, the District purchased the 71.34-acre Behroozi Trust property. The
property is adjacent to Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve’s Kennedy Trail along its western boundary, making it a natural extension to the Preserve. This property purchase is important for the protection of the scenic ridgeline, views from the Kennedy Trail, and valuable wildlife habitat. Oak woodland, grassland, and chaparral ridges are characteristic of the property’s upper ridges and the north-facing slopes are wooded with
oak, bay, and madrone. (The Delahay property and the Behroozi Trust property are the two properties purchased that closed escrow in fiscal year 2007-2008.)

• Also in November 2007, the District approved the purchase of the 80-acre Merrill Trust property as an addition to the Cathedral Oaks Area of Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve. Several ravines and a major tributary to Hooker Gulch bisect the property’s steep slopes.
The rugged hillsides are densely covered with many chaparral species, which give way to coast live oak and bay trees. Preservation of this land will aid in protecting the Los Gatos Creek watershed, the scenic backdrop visible from surrounding open space lands, and valuable wildlife habitat.

• For many years, the District has worked cooperatively with the Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation Department to purchase property connecting between County and District lands in the Lexington Reservoir and Soda Springs Creek watershed. The first property purchased in the New Year, the 56.88-acre Beatty Trust property, is surrounded by Lexington Reservoir County Park and provides a natural extension of the Kennedy-Limekiln Area of the District’s Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve. The property is vegetated with oak woodland and grassland, and chaparral on the upper elevations. The property directly overlooks Lexington Reservoir and enjoys excellent views of the entire Lexington/Los Gatos Creek basin and the surrounding open space and park lands.

• Also in January 2008, the 1-acre Della Maggiore property was approved as an addition to the Cathedral Oaks Area of Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve. This property forms the backdrop to the Lexington Reservoir Basin and is superbly scenic, with views that extend
toward Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve and as far as Santa Cruz. A nearby perennial creek and diverse landscape provide excellent habitat connections for a variety of wildlife, including the mountain lion. Potential future public recreational trail opportunities may be possible.

Mindego Ranch
• The most significant land purchase initiated this past fiscal year is the 1,047-acre Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) Mindego Ranch property, as part of the District’s Coastside Protection Program to preserve open space and agricultural land on the San Mateo County coast. Located near Alpine Road and Skyline Boulevard and the town of La Honda, Mindego Ranch will be incorporated into the District’s adjacent 1,978-acre Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve, increasing the size of the Preserve by more than one-third. In March 2008, the District purchased the property from POST for $22.5 million, a $6 million gift from the $28.5 million POST paid for Mindego Ranch in
fall 2007. The California Coastal Conservancy provided the District with a $7.5 million grant toward the purchase, and the District has also secured a $564,000 grant from the Per Capita Grant Program under the Clean Air, Safe Neighborhood Parks, and Coastal Protection Bond Act of 2002.

Restoring Natural Resources

As part of the purchase due diligence process for the property, environmental site assessments wereinitiated and solid waste and landfill debris was confirmed on the property. This provides an opportunity for the District to restore the property to its natural
condition and to showcase its efforts through public outreach and education.

Protecting Threatened Species

A substantial portion of the upper headwaters of Mindego and Alpine Creeks, both tributaries of San Gregorio Creek, originate on the property. Numerous springs with year-round water provide aquatic habitat for critical species, including steelhead trout, a species listed as federally threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The varied
habitat also provides a rich resource for mountain lions, coyotes, badgers, the San Francisco dusky-footed woodrat, and a wide variety of raptors, including golden eagles. Along with the rare and endangered San Francisco garter snake and the threatened California red-legged frog, this property affords potential breeding habitat for the long-eared owl, a state species of special concern. With Douglas fir dominated forests, oak woodlands, chaparral, and open meadowlands, Mindego Ranch showcases the great
biodiversity of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Plant species of special concern potentially
present are western leatherwood, Ben Lomond buckwheat, legenere, and Dudley’s lousewort.

A Tradition of Grazing

Mindego Ranch has been the site of an active grazing operation, managed by the True family who have owned the ranch since 1954. When the tenant lease expires in October 2008, the District will manage the grassland habitat through conservation grazing and will prepare a long-term grazing management plan in accordance with the District’s
Coastside Service Plan and its Grazing Management Policy.

An Opportunity for Public Access

Beginning this fall, the public will have the opportunity to visit Mindego Ranch by participating in a series of docent-led hikes featured in Outdoor Activities. (Please refer to page 3 for the schedule of activities.) Hike participants will enjoy 360-degree views that extend all the way to Monterey Bay from atop Mindego Hill’s 2,143-foot peak.

Here's a website we stumbled across which is working on a similar goal as our project, ie. summarizing land preservation work all around the USA:

Nature Conservancy USA map

USA national conservation wall map—untouched areas
Garcia River forest in Mendocino County


In the past decade protection of open space and natural areas by state and local government has dramatically increased, thanks primarily to voters who approved nearly 1,300 state and local ballot initiatives since 1998 (at a 76% success rate). Florida, California, and Colorado have been leaders at the state level. Localities use an array of methods to fund conservation—bonds, sales taxes, lottery funds, development fees, and more. State conservation spending per capita varies widely across the nation. Source: The Trust for Public Land

open spaces at risk

San Francisco Bay Ridge Trail making big gains

Conservationists, agencies link efforts for 550-mile trail around the Bay
By Denis Cuff/MediaNews Group

CASTRO VALLEY - She could have done another vacation in Maui, but Sheila Daly rode her horse and camped for six days this summer along the rugged San Francisco Bay Ridge Trail to nourish her inner cowgirl.

A little known and partially complete 550-mile route around the Bay, the ridge trail gave her challenging hills for exercise, scenic views of water, and campsites where screeching owls and howling coyotes serenaded her band of travelers on the edge of wildlands and suburbs.

"I've been to Maui. It's crowded. I would rather escape in the hills here," said Daly, a Saratoga businesswoman. "It brings you back to the era of the way it was: the roughness, the outdoors, nature. I think I was a cowgirl in a past life."

Daly and some 75 other horse riders and hikers spent over a week trekking up to 100 miles from Castro Valley to Pinole in an annual trip to draw attention to the loop trail that will encircle San Francisco Bay. The trip ended on Labor Day weekend.

More rural, more natural and less known than the San Francisco Bay Trail along the shoreline, the Bay Ridge Trail is more than half complete after two decades of effort by conservationists, recreation advocates, and 75 cities, counties, park and water districts, and other public agencies.

Solano County residents are invited to attend a meeting Monday in Vallejo that will discuss the county's trails, progress made so far, and upcoming projects.

Donna Burla, a spokesperson for the Bay Area Ridge Trail council, said anyone not familiar with the trails throughout the county, including parts of Lynch Canyon, should come to Monday's meeting to get information, maps and ask questions.

There are a wide range of trail options for all skill levels in Vallejo and around the county, Burla said, including places people can hike on their own as well as trails that require a guide.

"I feel if we don't plan trails now we will lose the opportunity to experience great trails and these places will get built up and lost to development," Burla said.

Burla said the group is also looking for volunteers to be trail leaders for hikers, bikers and equestrian groups.

Some 313 miles of the trail - most of it dirt - is open for use by hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers. About half of the other 257 miles is under public ownership, although not yet built.

Trail advocates predict it will take another 15 to 20 years to finish the ridge trail and a network of campsites for long trips, such as adventurers take along the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia.

"Ultimately, we would like to have camping spots so people could do the entire trail and stay in tents or huts," said Janet McBride, executive director of the Bay Area Ridge Council, the nonprofit group spearheading trail planning.

Many people confuse the ridge and shoreline trails, or question the need for both.

Recreation advocates say each trail has a distinct character, but complements the other.

"We think of them as two large wheels with spokes in between to connect them," McBride said.

The shoreline trail is paved, closer to large population centers and freeways. It is lined with many buildings and waterfront parks such as the East Shore State Park from the Bay Bridge to Richmond.

The ridge trail follows the ridges from Tilden Park to Mount Tamalpais through more remote open spaces, and thick forests and brush. It also serves as a wildlife travel corridor for deer, coyotes, mountain lions, falcons, hawks and other creatures to move about to find food, shelter and mates.

"From the ridge trail, I can look down and see all the buildings, all the parking lots and all the people rushing about," said Daly one late August day before mounting her Tennessee Walker named Murphy to begin her trip at Chabot Regional Park in Castro Valley. "On top of the mountains, I see this is a place to get away and to recharge."

Remote as it looks, the ridge trail is close enough in so that when finished, it can be reached by a 30-minute drive from anywhere in the Bay Area.

That closeness can be convenient, as when the East Bay group ran out of ice one day and someone accidentally left the mayonnaise jar in a shopping cart back at the grocery store.

"We'll make another store run this afternoon for mayonnaise and ice," said Bob Cooper, head chuck wagon cook and one of the many volunteers who supported the hiking and riding group. "That's something you can't do on the Pacific Crest trail in the Sierra."

The group also lined up a masseuse to give massages to horses, riders and hikers at campsites.

On one day when Oakland park officials threatened to rescind the group's camping privileges because of high fire danger, East Bay Park officials supplied them with take-out food. That eliminated the group's need to cook and preserved camping rights, said Morris Older of Orinda, one of the volunteer organizers of the trek.

The creation of the ridge trail is a grassroots effort with no lead government agency to oversee trail planning or operation.

Trail advocates formed the nonprofit Bay Area Ridge Trail Council in 1987 to plan the route and press cities, counties, park districts, and nonprofit open space groups to buy land or secure public access rights to cross land.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Help to put an end to Gravel Mining in the Russian River!

Please write a letter or attend the hearing on September 16th, 2008 at 2:30pm at the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors

Help defend one of the biggest victories for the River that our Supervisors are prepared to reverse - the 10-year limit of Open Pit strip mining of our aquifer! Urge the Supervisors to deny the Syar mining company permit and uphold the 10-year limit to protect our aquifer and farmland!
Activists in McCloud Celebrate Withdrawal of Nestle Water Bottling Contract


San Francisco, CA--Activists in McCloud, California won a decisive victory yesterday when the bottled water giant Nestle announced it will kill its water-bottling contract with the McCloud Community Services District. Inked in 2003, the deal would have allowed Nestle to pump up to 200 million gallons of water from nearby Mt. Shasta springs, enough water for 614 typical U.S. families. The bottled water giant had since scaled back the plan due to mounting public opposition led chiefly by the Protect Our Waters Coalition.

The announcement came just days after California Attorney General Edmund Brown Jr. threatened to challenge the company’s contract in McCloud due to the environmental impacts of diverting water from the area.

“The cancelation of the Nestle contract is step forward for customers of the McCloud watershed”, said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “Thanks to the California Attorney General’s office the people of McCloud have been given another chance to protect their water from exploitation by Nestlé’s water barons.”

"This is great news for McCloud's residents, for our ecosystems, and for future generations,” said Brian Stranko, of the Protect Our Waters Coalition and CEO of Cal Trout. “Cancelling this contract with Nestle was the only environmentally and economically responsible thing to do. A watershed this special should be managed with transparency, public participation and sound science, not empty promises and closed doors. We are heartened to see this step in the right direction."

Nestle had been using the promise of new jobs to convince residents in McCloud of the need for a new water-bottling facility. Yet a recent study by Food & Water Watch reveals that bottled water plants employ few people and the jobs that do create are low paying and dangerous. According to The Unbottled Truth About Bottled Water Jobs, bottled water factories employ on average only twenty-four people and the typical salary of a bottled water worker is more than ten thousand dollars less then that of typical manufacturing jobs. In 2006, bottled water manufacturing had one of the highest rates of workplace injury and illness, with one out of every 11 workers maimed or infirm—a rate 50 percent higher than the broader manufacturing and construction industry.

Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer rights organization based in Washington, D.C. that challenges the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources. Visit

Redwoods league buys Mattole land for BLM

John Driscoll/The Eureka Times-Standard

The Save-the-Redwoods League has acquired 216-acres between Humboldt Redwoods State Park and the King Range National Conservation Area and transferred it to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The property is the latest addition to a project known as Corridor from the Redwoods to the Sea. That is nearly 10,000 acres connecting the lush old-growth redwood forests in the Southern Humboldt County park to the ocean.

”In the BLM Arcata Field Office we share Save-the-Redwoods League's vision to connect critical wildlife areas in California,” said Field Manager Lynda Roush. “This land transfer is a significant stepping stone in extending the Corridor from the Redwoods to the Sea.”

The acquired land connects habitat and provides protection for threatened species in the area, according to a league press release. Endangered coho salmon and steelhead trout exist in several streams on the property, the league said, and second-growth redwoods and Douglas fir forests protect the Mattole River from soil erosion and improve habitat for aquatic species.

The land was bought from a family for about $200,000 with funding from the league and the Resource Legacy Fund Foundation's Preserving Wild California Program, league Executive Director Ruskin Hartley said in a phone interview. Hartley said the league has been working in the Mattole River area since at least 1999, initially buying some property from Eel River Sawmills. He said it's been important since large parcels in the Mattole are becoming more scarce, and the effects on wildlife and streams have been dramatic.

”The league's Corridor from the Redwoods to the Sea project is significant because virtually all of the remaining wild land in the lower 48 states is divided into isolated islands,” Hartley said. “Linking areas of wildlands is key to effective conservation. It allows us to protect landscapes where animals and plant species can thrive, reproduce and flourish.”

Save-the-Redwoods League Secures Protection of Forest Habitat for Wildlife Corridor Project

Business Wire, July 1, 1999

SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--June 30, 1999-- Save-the-Redwoods League, with the commitment of $2.6 million of state funds in Governor Gray Davis' budget signed this week, took the next critical step towards permanent protection of the wildlife Corridor from the Redwoods to the Sea. The League exercised its option with Eel River Sawmills to purchase 3,800 acres of forested lands: major stepping stones in a corridor for wildlife between Humboldt Redwoods State Park, the world's largest old growth redwood forest, and BLM's King Range National Conservation Area, the longest unroaded coastal area in the lower 48 states. "The State's support for this project coupled with the commitment of a broad range of donors and Eel River Sawmill's responsiveness and patience makes possible the protection of these sensitive lands so important to the wildlife that depend on old growth redwoods and Douglas-fir," said Kate Anderton, the League's acting Executive Director. Donors for the project include the Columbia, Mead, and Compton Foundations, the Goldman Fund, large private donors and other public sources.

The State's contribution to the project resulted from the advocacy of Senator Wesley Chesbro and Assemblymember Virginia Strom Martin, the region's elected representatives who championed the project in their respective houses. Senator Byron Sher's leadership on the Senate Budget Subcommittee was pivotal in the legislature's solid support for the funding. The League anticipates that the properties will be owned and managed for natural resource values by the US Bureau of Land Management. Management strategies will build on the good stewardship of the private owners in the corridor. "This project is possible in large part because of the very long term exemplary management of large ranches in the area. Private ownership and management of those lands has huge benefit to the values being protected through this conservation effort, and will continue to be an important component of the Corridor," noted League Director Anderton.

Local citizen groups in Southern Humboldt County have spearheaded the effort over more than 25 years to protect the area surrounding the BLM Gilham Butte late seral reserve, the centerpiece of the Corridor. Removing the prospect of timber harvest on the area's steep slopes will protect and enhance the waters of the region's coho salmon and steelhead spawning habitat. Dave Walsh of Redway's Ancient Forest International, pleased with the now certain future for these lands, said, "The goal of this purchase is to ensure habitat connectivity for the wildlife in this important old growth Douglas fir reserve."

The project still requires additional funding to reconfigure certain parcels and purchase other parcels that complement and expand the benefits of the private and public lands in the Corridor. The Save-the-Redwoods League is a nonprofit organization, established in 1918, which acquires and protects primeval forestlands for protection in public parks and preserves. Since 1918, the League has contributed more than $4 billion worth of land to the California State Parks and Redwood National Park. Project map available at

State Board to Decide Fate of Imperiled Wetlands and Wildlife

news from the Defenders of Wildlife,

Time is running out -- the California State Water Resources Control Board is only accepting comments until noon on Monday, September 8th, so please speak out now! Water is the lifeblood of California. Right now, the State Water Board is deciding the fate of our state’s wetlands and riparian areas -- and with it the fate of the endangered amphibians, birds, salmon and other species that depend on these areas to survive. We need your help to speak out for our wetlands and wildlife. Tell the State Water Board that you support strong protections for our wetlands and riparian areas -- and the plants and animals that depend on them to survive. Wetlands and riparian areas -- the vital habitat that can be found along streams and rivers -- provide essential habitat for California wildlife. They also help protect against flooding, provide clean water to our communities and replenish our groundwater reserves. Take action now to help us tell the State Water Board to protect the one resource none of us can do without: water. Well over 200 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians depend on California’s wetlands, riparian areas and vernal pools. Vernal pools are temporary pools of water that, despite being dry at times, teem with life. Because they have no fish, they allow amphibians, insects and other creatures -- including the imperiled tiger salamander, giant garter snake, and fairy shrimp -- to develop safely into adults. But these special places could be lost without strong protections. Shockingly, California has already lost more than 90% of its wetlands and riparian areas. We can’t afford to lose more. That’s why it’s so important that we take action now to protect these critically important areas before it’s too late. Stand up for California’s precious wetlands and riparian areas -- and the wildlife that depends on them. Take action now to make your voice heard on this important issue. The federal government isn’t protecting our waters -- and the U.S. Supreme Court has recently handed down several decisions that have removed crucial protections from many of California's wetlands, riparian areas and waters. That’s why the State needs to step up its efforts to protect these vulnerable -- and irreplaceable -- areas and do what it does best: set the example for the rest of the nation. But we’ll need your help to make it happen. Take action to urge the State Water Board to adopt strong policies that will protect our wetlands and riparian areas, and our wildlife.

All written scoping comments must be received by 12 p.m. on September 8, 2008 and should be addressed to:

Jeanine Townsend, Clerk to the Board
State Water Resources Control Board
1001 I Street, 24th Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814

Comment letters may be submitted by email to (if less than 15 megabytes in total size) or by fax at (916) 341-5620. For email submittals, please indicate in the subject line: Comment Letter – “Policy to Protect Wetlands and Riparian Areas"


A project discussion paper for the workshop/scoping meetings may be obtained via the Internet on the State Water Board Web site at:

Interested parties may subscribe to an email list serve for future notices about the Policy at: Choose: Wetland and Riparian Area Protection Policy

Sample Letter from the Sierra Club California,

Jeanine Townsend, Clerk to the Board
State Water Resources Control Board
1001 I Street, 24th Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814

submitted by email to:
subject line: Comment Letter – “Policy to Protect Wetlands and Riparian Areas.”

The co-signers of this letter are pleased to respond to your request for scoping comments regarding the State Water Resource Control Board’s (Water Board’s) development of a State Wetland and Riparian Areas Protection Policy (WRAPP). The need for the WRAPP has been admirably described by your staff. Our federal government’s retreat from protecting our nation’s wetlands and streams is unprecedented, and the impacts to California’s environmental health will be disastrous unless the state takes its own actions to protect its wetlands and streams. Loss of those streams and wetlands no longer protected by the federal government will result in significant declines in water quality and biodiversity as well as flood control, carbon sequestration and the many other functions these small, intermittent and ephemeral streams and isolated wetlands provide to our state. For this reason, the proposed Wetland and Riparian Area Protection Policy (WRAPP) should be as expansive as possible in definition and rigorous in regulation so as to provide true protection to all the waters of the State. In Phase I of the WRAPP, you propose to regulate only dredge and fill impacts to wetlands and streams. However, there are many other ways in which our state’s streams and wetlands are destroyed, such as draining, mechanical excavation and deep-disking. In order to achieve the state policy (Executive Order W-59-93) of “no net loss of wetlands,” these practices must also be regulated. To fully protect the state’s wetlands and streams from all the means of destruction and degradation described above, the State Water Board should adopt a policy in WRAPP Phase I stating that any action that results in the alteration of the physical state or the hydrologic regime of a wetland or stream is a regulated activity. As the WRAPP Scoping Discussion Paper states, “[T]he Policy is to include “a wetland definition that would reliably define the diverse array of California wetlands….” We believe that the one-parameter (Cowardin) definition developed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and used by the California Department of Fish and Game is the most comprehensive wetland definition, and thus the most capable of defining “…the diverse array of California wetlands….”

The California Coastal Commission has used this definition in a regulatory framework for decades. The fact that the Coastal Commission uses this definition in its regulatory framework and that this use has survived for so long indicates its functionality and legality as the tool to define California’s wetlands. Other tools such as the “Arid West” regional supplement to the Army Corps’ Wetland Delineation Manual, combined with a functionality test based on the functions of riparian areas, may also prove useful adjuncts to a one-parameter definition. The Discussion Paper asked for comments on the Avoidance Requirements and Alternative Analysis components of the federal 404(b)(1) Guidelines. These guidelines provide the regulatory structure for the federal wetlands protection program. However, the “avoidance” mandate of the 404(b)(1) Guidelines, “… no discharge of dredge or fill material shall be permitted if there is a practicable alternative to the proposed discharge…(USC §230.10(a)).” is completely ineffective since the Army Corps approves over 99% of its §404 permit applications. Under the 404(b)(1) Guidelines, wetland-destroying projects can be approved only if the applicant can demonstrate that there is no alternative upland location available for the “basic purpose” of the project. For special aquatic sites, including wetlands, the guidelines further state that there is a presumption that there are alternate upland sites for the project, as long as the projects are not water dependent. Because headwater, intermittent and ephemeral streams are so important to the State, we believe they should be added to the category of “special aquatic sites” if that classification is retained in the WRAPP as part of the avoidance regulatory process. Even with this added presumption, however, applicants always convince the Army Corps that there is no alternate site for their project, even though wetlands occupy only 5-7% of the State’s land area. Applicants do this by creating very narrow definitions of their projects. For example, they define “projects” as a housing project plus a golf course, or a restaurant on the waterfront. In reality, the projects are housing and feeding people. The golf course and waterfront location are amenities, and are not necessary for the basic purpose of the project. The State Water Board must improve upon the “Alternatives Analysis” process so that applicants cannot narrowly describe a project simply to defeat the Alternatives Analysis. In the WRAPP analog of the 404(b)(1) guidelines, applicants must define a project’s “basic purpose” as the generic function of the project. The WRAPP regulatory process also must empirically test each applicant’s economic claims by examining comparable past projects. For example, are housing projects without golf courses providing sufficient returns in the proposed geographic area to make a housing project financially feasible? Additionally, the WRAPP should include guidance that clarifies that an applicant cannot define the proposed geographic location of the project so narrowly that no alternate site can be available. Avoidance must consider the hydrologic and ecological needs of the wetland or stream system and require avoidance of those upland areas necessary for the continued functioning of the wetland or stream’s hydrologic and ecological systems. For some aquatic features such as streams and vernal pools, adjacent uplands play critical roles in providing both the hydrology that sustains the streams and wetlands and the upland habitat essential for species that depend on both habitat types to survive.

Mitigation must include appropriate upland surrounding habitat in order to provide protection for complex aquatic and upland ecological systems such as vernal pool complexes whose habitat value is in part dependent upon the interplay of uplands and pools. Species that migrate between pools but spend much of their time on uplands, such as the California Tiger Salamander, are dependent upon such complexes. Recent studies have shown that wetland and stream mitigation usually fails to recreate all the functions provided by the destroyed wetlands and streams. For that reason, the WRAPP should require high mitigation ratios at the minimum rate of at least three, five or ten acres of mitigation wetlands or streams for every acre of wetland or stream destroyed depending on functional value lost. The National Research Council in 1992 recommended these ratios in Restoration of Aquatic Ecosystems. All mitigation sites should be protected and preserved in perpetuity through appropriate deeding instruments. Applicants should be held responsible for remediating failed mitigation efforts. To ensure their capability to take such actions, applicants should be required to create financial instruments, such as bonds, to fund future remediation efforts. When considering mitigation, neither preservation nor enhancement should be considered adequate compensatory mitigation tools. Preservation and enhancement both result in net loss of wetland acreage. Because mitigation banks suffer the same flaws as individual mitigation projects, and because studies have shown that banks result in the movement of wetlands from high- priced urban areas to cheap-land rural areas, we urge a limited role for mitigation banks in the WRAPP. These banks should only to be used to mitigate small fills for applicants who cannot otherwise afford mitigation requirements. Mitigation banks also have been a useful tool for agencies, such as Caltrans, that make repeated small wetland fills as a result of their agency responsibilities. Banks, however, should not be used by those agencies for individual projects that have large, significant wetland or stream impacts. Finally, a watershed perspective is an essential component of a fully effective WRAPP. However, watershed planning is an intensive and costly process. Most existing watershed plans are designed to solve specific problems, such as flood control, and are not appropriate for use in the WRAPP. Where applicable, the state board should encourage applicants to draw up watershed plans that fully consider wetlands effects. Thank you for your attention to our suggestions. Yours,

Sierra County Rezones Timberland Owned by Sierra Pacific Industries for Probable Development North of Lake Tahoe

Plaintiffs Say Change Violates CEQA because the rezone changes allowed use of lands from logging to logging AND development, yet the environmental impacts were not revealed or considered.

August 22, 2008

Why is the challenge to Sierra Pacific Industries Rezone important?

Some have questioned the timing of the High Sierra Rural Alliance’s challenge of Sierra Pacific Industries rezone of over 7000 acres of land zoned Timber Production to General Forest. Since SPI has not stated its specific intentions for the parcels, the logic goes HSRA’s challenge is based on the speculation that development will occur. SPI has stated the rezoned parcels will continue to be managed for timber production. But, the reality of that statement is just as speculative. Once the requirement that the land be managed for timber, which is a requirement of the Timber Production Zone but not the General Forest Zone, is removed how the land will be used is unknown. The fact that SPI will lose generous tax benefits by rezoning, but does not plan on changing the use makes us wonder. The County’s Board of Supervisors is not obligated to grant the rezone, especially because there does not seem to be any compelling reason for it, or benefit to the County. The rezone and the policy of rezoning without analysis weaken the goals and policies of the County’s General Plan.

That the lawsuit is an economic burden on Sierra County has also been used to criticize the HSRA’s action. However, the County requires all applicants for land use entitlements indemnify the County against any litigation the County’s approval of the project might cause. All costs to the County of the suit will be paid by SPI. It is worth noting that the converse is not true. If the Board denies approval of a project and the applicant sues, the County would have to pay for its own litigation costs.

The fundamental question for the Board in a case where a party is requesting a rezone without committing to a specific project is whether or not the County wants to change its original objective for the area in question. By exempting rezones of TPZ to GF from environmental analysis, the Board is adopting a policy which threatens the fundamental goals of the Sierra County General Plan. All TPZ parcels are not created equal. Some are close to established communities possibly making a rezone consistent with the General Plan. Some are remote, making a rezone inconsistent with the General Plan. The attached map shows the location of TPZ parcels in the County (shaded) and the rezoned SPI parcels in red.

The lands SPI has rezoned from TPZ to GF are located on Henness Pass Road between Perazzo Meadows and Jackson Meadows Reservoir, a remote area within the Tahoe National Forest checkerboard. HSRA believes entertaining possible development plans in this area is contrary to the fundamental goals of the General Plan and threatens to undermine the rural landscape the Plan embraces, as well as, impact three watersheds, fragment sensitive habitat and increase fire danger.

Through an intensive public process, Sierra County residents crafted a comprehensive General Plan to guide the County’s growth and land use pattern from 1996 to 2012. In the General Plan the community specifically identified policies and implementation measures which would assure the accomplishment of that fundamental goal. In order to protect its forests a Forest designation was created. The goals of the Forest designation are to ensure the continued availability of private timberlands; ensure the continued viability of timber production; allow for the managed production of forest lands; retain the open space and scenic values these lands provide; and prevent conversion to residential uses and other incompatible uses. The Timber Production Zone is a special zone within the Forest designation which was created by the State of California through the Timber Production Act of 1982. The program confers tax benefits to property owners who own Class A timberlands. When the Act became law Counties which chose to take part in the program compiled lists of eligible properties and put Class A lands in TPZ. A process followed allowing property owners to contest or accept the classification. Parcels zoned TPZ are limited in use to timber management and compatible uses and are taxed at a substantially reduced rate from similar Forest designated parcels which are zoned General Forest. Among the uses potentially allowed on lands zoned General Forest include forest estates, country clubs, golf courses, guest ranches, riding stables, mines, quarries, gravel pits, sawmills, summer home tracts, mobile home parks, travel trailer parks, recreational trailer parks, airports and heliports.

The lands SPI has rezoned from TPZ to GF are located on Henness Pass Road between Perazzo Meadows and Jackson Meadows Reservoir, a remote area within the Tahoe National Forest checkerboard. HSRA believes the rezone is contrary to the fundamental goals of the General Plan and threatens the pattern of rural clustered development the Plan embraces. The rezone is a policy level decision that would allow some form of development to occur in an area where virtually no development was possible. HSRA believes now is the time for the Board to analyze whether or not the County wants development to be able to occur in this area. To wait until a specific plan is proposed removes an important level of discretion. Once the property is zoned GF, the question will be what kind of development will be allowed. The opportunity to decide whether or not the land should be developed at all will be lost. HSRA believes the public decided in the General Plan that this was not an area appropriate for development. The HSRA is committed to defending the goals and policies of the Sierra County General Plan.

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Toll Road Backers Still Trying to Resurrect the Rejected State Park Superhighway!

The Department of Commerce's September 22 public hearing at the Del Mar Fairgrounds on the Toll Road is approaching quickly and the deadline for requests to speak is September 12. Somewhat peculiar to this hearing is the requirement that a physical copy of your request must be mailed to the Department of Commerce. We encourage you to send in your request to speak by the end of this week in order to allow sufficient time for the request to arrive. Make sure that your request contains your Name and Address. Send your request to the following address:

Thomas Street, NOAA Office
of General Counsel for Ocean Services
1305 East- West Highway, Room 6111
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Alternatively, you may email your Name and Address to by Sept. 7 and we will send your request for you.

Awareness Demonstrations

It is imperative that we generate a strong presence of opposition to the Toll Road for the 9/22 hearing. As such, we will be taking to the streets to bring attention, and attendance, to the coming hearing. At these demonstrations, we will be waving signs, holding surfboards, and constructing miniature plastic tents to emphasize the harm to the camping and surfing experience that would be wrought by the proposed Toll Road. We'll bring the supplies. All we need is your exuberance.

September 7th @11am: Pico Ave, near Interstate 5, in San Clemente, CA

Meet us at Staples parking lot in San Clemente at 11am.
93 Via Pico Plaza San Clemente, CA 92672
Get Directions

September 21st @ 9am: San Elijo Ave and Chesterfield Dr. in Cardiff, CA

Meet at the corner near the Patagonia Store
2185 San Elijo Ave Cardiff by the Sea, CA 92007
Get Directions


Save San Onofre
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E-Mail the editor:

rexfrankel at

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