Indexed News on:

--the California "Mega-Park" Project

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


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Everyone is Getting a Huge Cut in Water from the State Aqueduct

excerpted from


After two extremely dry years, CBS 5 has learned that California will drastically slash the amount of water it gives to districts statewide.

In what could be the worst crisis in Decades, the California Department of Water Resources tells CBS 5 it will cut supplies to water districts by 85 to 90 percent.

"It's pretty serious right now…California has had its second critically dry year. We are looking at going into a third potentially dry year. We have actually drawn down our reservoirs…we are actually having difficulties delivering water this year," said Wendy Marin of the California Department of Water Resources.

From the Sierra, through the mighty Sacramento San Joaquin Delta and along the California Aqueduct, the State delivers water for drinking and irrigation to 25 million Californians each year.

There are 29 state agencies that deliver this water and every one will see huge cutbacks beginning January 1st.

(for more, click on the link above)
Western Aggregates and Group Announce Agreement For 180-acre Salmon Habitat Enhancement Easement Along Yuba River

Published on Oct 10, 2008 October 10, 2008;

Marysville, California - Western Aggregates (Western) and the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) announced today that they, along with the Yuba River Preservation Foundation (YRPF) and Yuba Outdoor Adventures (YOA), have signed an Agreement in Principle to establish a conservation easement along three miles of river frontage of the Yuba River downstream of the Parks Bar Bridge. The easement area, consisting of approximately 180 acres of land owned by Western Aggregates, will be used by the four signatories for habitat restoration for salmon, trout, and other native Yuba River species.

"Western Aggregates is excited about being involved in this habitat restoration project," said David Greenblatt, Senior Vice President of Western Aggregates. "Western has teamed up with SYRCL to utilize SYRCL's expertise and experience in these salmon restoration projects to promote opportunities for salmon population growth, riparian habitat restoration, and general improvement to the Yuba River. Through months of discussion, we were able to develop a joint program that uses Western Aggregates' lands with SYRCL's knowledge about river flows, habitat restoration, and fisheries enhancement with a goal to restore habitat for salmon, trout, and other native biota of the Yuba River," added Greenblatt. Lloyd Burns, President of Western Aggregates, noted that "this project will be good for the community, good for the river, and good for the fish."

The 24 miles of the lower Yuba River below Englebright Dam support one of the last wild salmon populations in all of the San Francisco Bay watershed. With pre-Gold Rush salmon runs estimated at roughly 100,000 in the whole of the Yuba Rivers, current salmon runs have reached a critically low level of 2,600 adult spawning salmon in 2007. In addition to migration barriers, quality riparian and side channel habitat have been identified by fisheries biologists as a key factor that limits the success of juvenile salmon. This project will especially focus on opportunities for salmon recovery and the physical restoration of salmon habitat.

for full story:

Monday, October 27, 2008

WCB 11/2008

Another 9511 Acres of Wildlife Habitat Will be Purchased With State Funds

November 20, 2008
10:00 A.M.
1/ State Capitol, Room 112
Sacramento, California 95814


*8. South Fork American River, Lower Canyon Unit, $410,000.00 Expansion 3, El Dorado County
a grant to the American River Conservancy for a cooperative project with the California Resources Agency to acquire 45± acres to protect riparian and upland habitat located near Folsom Lake, in El Dorado County. (Proposition 40)

*12. Burton Mesa Ecological Reserve, Expansion 1, $469,000.00 Santa Barbara County
To consider the acquisition of 20± acres to protect rare and threatened species in the community of Lompoc (Proposition 117)

*13. Western Riverside County MSHCP, $177,000.00 Expansions 4 and 5, Riverside County
To consider the allocation for two grants to the Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority to acquire two properties totaling 80+ acres to protect threatened and endangered species and wildlife corridors and to further implement Natural Community Conservation Planning efforts, located near the City of Lake Elsinore (Proposition 12)

*14. Whitewater Canyon, MacKenzie Ranch, $410,000.00 Riverside County
To consider the allocation for a grant to Friends of the Desert Mountains (Friends) for a cooperative project with the Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy, the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to acquire 260± acres to protect endangered species and wildlife corridors (Proposition 12)

*15. Crestridge Preserve, South Crest, Expansion 3, $250,000.00 San Diego County
To consider the allocation for a grant to the Endangered Habitats League (League) Inc., to acquire 29± acres to protect threatened and endangered species and wildlife corridors, located west of the community of Crest (Proposition 84)

*16. The Environmental Trust Bankruptcy, $30,000.00 San Diego, Kern, Imperial, Riverside, San Bernardino Counties.
TET acquired most of the 3600 acres of Conserved Property (mostly in San Diego County) in connection with mitigation obligations of private third parties under federal, State or local requirements.

To consider the acceptance of properties as agreed to in negotiations surrounding the bankruptcy and reorganization of The Environmental Trust (TET). The Department of Fish and Game, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the City of San Diego and the County of San Diego are working cooperatively to transfer the properties previously held by TET to non-profits, State and local government entities to ensure protection of the habitat and open space on the lands. (Proposition 84)

19. Daugherty Hill Wildlife Area, Expansion 11, $610,000.00 Butte County
To consider the acquisition of a conservation easement over 582± acres to protect deer winter range for the Bucks Mountain/Mooretown deer herd located near the Sierra foothill communities of Bangor and Rackersby (Proposition 117)

20. Daugherty Hill Wildlife Area, Expansion 12 $935,000.00 Yuba County
To consider a cooperative project to acquire of 529± acres with the Trust for Public Land and the Sierra Nevada Conservancy to protect oak woodlands habitat and deer winter range located near Collins Lake, in the Sierra foothills(Proposition 117)

21. Truckee Basin (Perazzo Meadows), $765,000.00, Sierra County
To consider the allocation for a grant to the Truckee Donner Land Trust for a cooperative project with the Department of Fish and Game, Trust for Public Land, the Resources Agency, and the California Transportation Commission to acquire 982± acres to protect critical fawning areas and summer range for mule deer of the Loyalton-Truckee deer herd and winter migration corridors west of Highway 89, near Webber Lake (Proposition 117). For more information:

22. Elkhorn Basin Ranch, $3,780,000.00 Yolo County
To consider the allocation for a grant to the Yolo Land Trust for a cooperative project with the Sacramento Valley Conservancy, the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency and the Packard Foundation to acquire three properties totaling 685± acres to protect riparian habitat and agriculture land and to connect large tracts of land located between the Sacramento River and the Yolo Bypass, southeast of Woodland (Proposition 40)

24. Watsonville Slough Conservation Area, $5,510,500.00 and Expansion 1, Santa Cruz County
To consider an allocation for two grants to the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County for cooperative projects with the Department of Fish and Game, State Coastal Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy to acquire two properties totaling 441± acres to protect coastal wetland and upland habitats, provide sustainable habitat for sensitive species, and reduce adverse impacts to the water quality and supply in the slough system located west of Highway 1 in the City of Watsonville (Proposition 84)

25. East Merced Vernal Pool Grassland Preserve, $4,400,000.00 Expansion 6, Merced County
To consider the allocation for a grant to the California Rangeland Trust to acquire a conservation easement over 2,912± acres to protect rolling grasslands with a high density of vernal pools and associated rare and endangered species located northeast of the City of Merced (Proposition 40)

26. Midland School Oak Woodlands Conservation Easement, $4,155,000.00 Santa Barbara County;
To consider the allocation for a grant to the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County for a cooperative project with the Trust for Public Land and the California Transportation Commission to acquire a conservation easement over 2,725± acres to protect and preserve oak woodland habitat in Los Olivos (Proposition 84)

27. Palo Verde Ecological Reserve, $2,585,000.00 Expansions 1 and 2, Riverside County
To consider a cooperative project with the Trust for Public Land to acquire two properties totaling 422± acres to protect desert wash and riparian habitat along the Colorado River located north of Blythe (Proposition 50)
71 Mansions OK'd by Santa Barbara County Politicians for Gaviota Coast




As expected, by a three to two vote, the Board of Supervisors last Tuesday gave away a huge piece of the Gaviota Coast to an Orange County developer. The Board approved 71 mansions sprawled across nearly a thousand acres of highly valuable agricultural lands. The Board also adopted revised project conditions and development agreements that operate to tie the hands of future Boards of Supervisors and constrain the Coastal Commission’s ability to fully review the project. Supervisors Carbajal and Wolf voted against the approval of the project. Over 100 different approvals were granted in Supervisor Firestone’s motion to approve the project as proposed. A deeply flawed environmental impact report was accepted as adequate by the three supervisors, even though the project description was substantially revised in May after the final EIR was released, and in the face of a last minute letter from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service voicing substantial concerns over the project’s impact analysis. What did the Board of Supervisors Accept? The Board accepted a policy consistency analysis that principally deferred to the developer’s threats as a reason to overlook policy inconsistencies. The Board agreed to sign two lopsided development agreements that tie the hands of future Boards by insulating the developer against revised conditions, new circumstances or changes in law. The Board made last-minute changes to the conditions allowing the developer to delay or avoid mitigating the impacts of a portion of the development. Naples Coalition President Phil McKenna started: “Democracy was the biggest loser with the approval of the Naples development. The three north county supervisors ignored the unanimous community testimony opposed to developing Naples , delivered through years of public hearings.” He continued: “the north county supervisor's vote to develop Naples , particularly after each trumpeted their affection and devotion to the Gaviota Coast , was shameful and hypocritical. They demonstrated a complete lack of political leadership and imagination in blindly approving the developer’s dream project without question.”

What's Next? The Naples Coalition announced that it will appeal the Supervisor’s actions to the Coastal Commission and the Superior Court. “In their haste to get this project approved before Supervisor Firestone left office, gross procedural errors were made. These errors and violations of law provide a fertile field for challenges to the Board action and keep open the door for a far superior outcome at Naples ” stated the Coalition’s attorney, Marc Chytilo.

The Naples Coalition works in collaboration with the Santa Barbara Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation and their attorneys, the Environmental Defense Center . Appeals will be filed at the Coastal Commission within 10 days, followed by a lawsuit filed within 30 days of the Board’s action.

What Can You Do? Continue to stay informed through regularly visits to: or

Help the Naples Coalition fund the upcoming appeal. Checks payable to: Naples Coalition, PO Box 1099 Goleta, CA 93116 or credit card donations can be made through paypal at

Visit: for a sneak preview of the Naples Coalition's upcoming ad in the SB Independent

For further information contact: Marc Chytilo, Esq. Law Office of Marc Chytilo, Phone: 805-682-0585, Email:

Learn about Linking Butterfly Habitat in the City of San Francisco at 10/28 Meeting


Although it has a funny name, the Green Hairstreak Butterfly has a serious problem. This
San Francisco native's habitat is disappearing, and without certain species of host flowers nearby for its eggs, it simply won't lay them.

But our unlikely hero with emerald wings has motivated a community to save it, with a swath of wildflower communities that will connect two of its last remaining habitats and create The Green Hairstreak Corridor. Join us to learn about this nickel-sized native and the parks, people, and philosphy that are preserving its unique San Francisco ecosystem.

A panel discussion and presentation with California Native Plant Society, Nature in the City, San Francisco Parks Trust, and Liam O'Brien- a lepidopterist recently featured in the SF Chronicle. Hosted by Brent Dennis, Director of the Conservatory of Flowers.

Tuesday, October 28th
5:30 - 7:00pm
Conservatory of Flowers
100 JFK Drive, Golden Gate Park
(event space behind/east of main building)
Refreshments Served

Due to space limitations, this event is open to SFPT Members and invitees only, and RSVP is required. Please RSVP to Donalda Watson-Walkinshaw at 415.750.5443 or by emailing

Sunday, October 26, 2008

State Proposes To Revoke Auburn Dam Water Rights


In a draft decision released today, the California State Water Board proposes to revoke the Bureau of Reclamation’s water rights to build the controversial Auburn Dam on the American River. Citing California’s tough “use it or lose it” water rights policy, the Water Board noted that the Bureau failed to construct the project and apply water to beneficial use with due diligence as required by state law.

Friends of the River has worked for over 33 years against the construction of Auburn Dam. Since its inception the dam has represented a project that was very expensive and destructive to the environment, while at the same time providing little benefit to the region. Friends of the River successfully convinced Congress to deny authorization and funding for the Auburn Dam in the 1990s. With no practical prospect of building the dam any time in the foreseeable future, the Bureau was unable to convince the Water Board that it deserved to retain its water rights. Without the state-granted right to store water behind the Auburn Dam, the Bureau will not be able to build the giant structure, which threatened to flood more than 50 miles of the American River.

Ron Stork, Friends of the River’s Senior Policy Advocate, has worked tirelessly in opposition to the dam for several years. His efforts to seek better flood protection for the Sacramento valley through improvements to Folsom Dam and regional levees made Auburn Dam practically unnecessary. More recently, Rob lobbied the Water Board to pursue the water rights revocation and prepared and submitted more than 400 pages of testimony. The draft decision from the Water Board is replete with references to Ron’s expert testimony.

The review of the Bureau’s water rights was prompted in part by a threatened lawsuit in 1999 by California Attorney General Bill Lockyer. Lockyer noted that the Bureau was illegally diverting water from the North Fork American River at the former Auburn Dam construction site, even though the dam had never been built. Lockyer’s threat led to a recently completed project that closed the Auburn Dam diversion tunnel and restored flows in the surface channel of the river.

In a fortuitous juxtaposition with the Board’s proposed water rights decision, Friends of the River is presenting the prestigious Peter Behr Award to former Attorney General Bill Lockyer this Friday in San Francisco, for his role in restoring the North Fork American River.

The Water Board is scheduled to consider approval of the final order revoking the Auburn Dam water rights on December 2, 2008. Final revocation of the water rights will remove a significant threat to one of the few remaining free-flowing segments of the American River and the 40,000-acre Auburn State Recreation Area, which attracts more than a million visitors annually.

While this ruling does not completely eliminate the possibility of an Auburn Dam, the dam's backers are certainly going to have to do a lot more work to bring the dam back from its coffin.

We here at Friends of the River certainly think that today's ruling is something to celebrate.

Steve Evans
Conservation Director

More on this story:
Measure W in the East SF Bay Will Help Complete the Bay Ridge Trail and Parks System in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties

(click on map to enlarge)


I am writing to ask for your vote on an urgent environmental issue in the Bay Area. The East Bay Regional Park District's Measure WW will appear on the November 4th ballot in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.
Measure WW:
· Extends 1988's original parks bond measure, to protect our parks, with no tax increase
· Preserves open space, establishes new parks and trails
· Rehabilitates aging park facilities, restores sensitive wildlife habitats
· Protects and renews our urban creeks and ponds
WW needs 2/3rds support in order to pass, so the campaign needs your help today:
1) Spread the word to your friends, family and colleagues, by forwarding this email.
2) Make a financial contribution to the campaign.
3) Sign up to
Volunteer . email Mauricio Garzon, Community Organizer for the Sierra Club
Please help pass Measure WW today. This is going to be a very, very close election, and your involvement can make the difference.

Save Mount Diablo's Mangini Ranch (Scott Hein)

Several More Parcels are Saved Near Mount Diablo

From Fall 2008 issue of "Diablo Watch"

East Bay Regional Park District has optioned the 153-acre Schwartz property as an addition to Morgan Territory Regional Preserve and must complete purchase by February. The property is not yet accessible but it’s easily viewed from the Morgan Ridge Trail or Highland Ridge, across the road in SMD’s Morgan Ranch addition to Mt. Diablo State Park.

Save Mount Diablo has just protected two parcels on the eastern ridge of East Bay Regional Park District’s 1,030 acre Clayton Ranch land bank, at the mouth of Dark Canyon. 17 acre Marsh Creek-II was purchased at the end of May, and 35 acres of the 38-acre Marsh
Creek-III property was protected with an easement in July with the help of Contra Costa County Supervisor Susan Bonilla.
Private Groups Give $25 Million for Sierra Nevada Conservation Work

Governor announces public-private partnership for the Northern Sierra
October 8, 2008

from the Governor's office, Sacramento Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today joined with environmentalists, business leaders and government officials to announce the launch of a public-private partnership between the State of California and the Northern Sierra Partnership to fund environmental preservation while supporting economic growth. The Northern Sierra Partnership, which consists of two local land trusts, a regional business council and two large conservation organizations, was created to complement the goals of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, established when the Governor signed legislation in 2004 identifying needed actions across 25 million acres of land from the Oregon border to Kern County. To aid in these efforts, the Governor announced today that $25 million in private funds have been raised to date, including $10 million commitments each from the Morgan Family Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

To read the full story:


Take a Desert Wilderness Hike with the California Wilderness Coalition!

Friday, October 31 (eve) – Sunday, November 2

Conglomerate Mesa Exploration and Camping Trip

Meeting Time TBD

Come with us and explore this pristine area overlooking Owens Valley and ranges to the east. Meet Friday evening near Darwin and caravan to our camping location at 6500’. The outing consists of a moderately strenuous hike on Saturday to little-known unroaded, unmined, ungrazed areas south of Cerro Gordo. These areas are currently being threatened by the potential of an open pit cyanide heap leach gold mine. The terrain is composed of trail-less cross-country land, except for part of an 1870’s freighting trail between Keeler and Death Valley. There will be some rock scrambling, a Saturday evening social and a pot luck. On we Sunday, we will explore the Malpais Mesa Wilderness from the 1950s Santa Rosa mine. The drive to the campsite requires a high clearance vehicle. Carpooling at meeting point may be possible. If you are planning on joining us, please contact Laurel Williams in advance at or 909-260-8833. The resource guide will be Tom Budlong.


Sunday, November 9th, and

Saturday, December 20th

Big Morongo Preserve Day Hike

8:00 AM to 2PM

Join CWC for a leisurely hike through a biologically rich riparian forest adjacent to Joshua Tree National Park. This desert oasis boasts over 240 species of birds, cattails, desert willow, mesquite, and is an important water source for wildlife like bobcats, bighorn sheep, and black bears. This family-friendly hike will allow us to see some 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, a 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. The trail is stroller and wheelchair accessible.

Meet at 8:00AM in the parking lot of the Preserve. From Highway 62 in Morongo Valley, head South on East Drive. After 1 block, turn left at Preserve sign. There is a parking lot at the end of the lane.


Saturday, November 15th

Cady Mountains Day Hike from Afton Canyon

8:30AM to 4PM

Join us for a cross country hike through rugged landscape and winding slot canyons just North of Barstow. Our hike will take us through lands that were utilized by Native Americans as a water source and Jedediah Smith and Kit Carson traveled through in the early 1800’s. We will start in Afton Canyon, often called the Grand Canyon of California, with beautiful red, gold, brown, and purple striped walls. This area is one of the few places where the Mojave River flows above ground, and the surface water attracts a variety of wildlife. We will hike roughly 4 miles keeping watch for bighorn sheep and other animals. Dress for the weather, wear sturdy shoes or hiking boots, bring 2 liters of water and a lunch. Do not forget your camera! Contact Laurel at or 909-260-8833 for more information.

Meet in Barstow at the Starbucks at 1620 E Main St at 8:30AM

Carpooling from Claremont, Rancho Cucamonga and Victorville possible.


Afton Canyon, gateway to the Cady Mountains

Sunday, December 7 th

Cady Mountains Day Hike from Hidden Valley

8:30AM to 4PM

Join us for a cross-country hike over a rugged landscape and through lands that were utilized by Native Americans and Jedediah Smith and Kit Carson traveled through in the early 1800’s. We'll start in Hidden Valley, smack dab in the middle of the Cady Mountains, with rugged desert mountains rising on either side of vast bajadas. We'll hike roughly 4 miles keeping a look out for bighorn sheep and other animals. Dress for the weather, wear sturdy shoes or hiking boots, bring 2 liters of water and lunch. Don't forget your camera! Contact Laurel at or 909-260-8833 for more information.

Meet at 8:30 AM in Newberry Springs off Highway 40 at the Texaco gas station parking lot, north side of the highway. Carpooling from Rancho Cucamonga, Claremont and Victorville possible.

San Francisco bay front battle to play out on Redwood City ballot

By Paul Rogers, San Jose Mercury News

Ralph Nobles still remembers sailing his boat on San Francisco Bay in 1962, right when developer Jack Foster began pouring enough dirt to fill 1.5 million dump trucks into the wetlands along San Mateo County's shoreline.

"I just felt sick in my heart. They went out with their dredges to San Bruno Shoal and piled up millions and millions of tons," said Nobles, 87, a retired physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project. "They changed the whole hydraulics of the bay."

Lost were vast amounts of habitat for ducks, fish, harbor seals and other wildlife. Born was Foster City, a community of 28,000 people today.

Now Nobles is opposing a new plan for 1,433 acres of Cargill Salt property on Redwood City's shoreline — a plan he says would lead to the biggest bayfront development since Foster City. He and other environmentalists have put up a huge roadblock, Measure W, which Redwood City voters will consider Nov. 4.

The most high-profile environmental battle in the Bay Area this election, Measure W, if passed, would require approval by two-thirds of voters to develop not just the salt ponds but any open space land in Redwood City.

Although the measure has been endorsed by many of the region's major environmental groups, it has sparked nearly $2 million in campaign spending, alarm from some neighbors and broad opposition from local political leaders.

Opponents call it overly draconian and muddled.

They contend the measure is poorly written and could require some property owners to go to the voters any time they wanted to remodel their homes, churches or businesses. And its reach could include hundreds of homes in Redwood Shores that might want to build boat docks.

"Measure W was hatched overnight in some legal board room. The consequences would be devastating for homeowners," said Jay Reed, a spokesman for DMB Associates, an Arizona developer working with Cargill Salt to draw up plans for the site.

Although they have not unveiled a detailed project yet, DMB is proposing to develop half the property with homes, stores, parks and commercial buildings and restore the other half to wetlands.

That kind of balance, with clustered housing near jobs and a potential future ferry terminal, is just what Silicon Valley needs, they argue.

"We have done a wonderful job of exporting housing to the Central Valley. This project has the opportunity to be anti-sprawl," said John Bruno, general manager for the DMB-Cargill project.

Bruno said a two-thirds vote is an unreasonable standard.

"We've seen it in Sacramento. You have minority rule," he said.

DMB has held more than 400 meetings with school boards, Rotary clubs and other groups since 2006.

The property has been used since 1901 to make salt. For years, Cargill has evaporated salt in giant ponds around the bay and scraped it from the Redwood City site to sell as road de-icer.

But the company has cut production since 2003, when it sold 16,500 acres around Alviso, Fremont and Sunnyvale to the state and federal government for $100 million to be restored as wetlands for wildlife.

The Redwood City property was to be included in that deal. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, however, cut it out after appraisals — later found to be flawed by state regulators — showed it would raise the price beyond what she said Congress would fund.

Environmentalists say they want all of the site converted back to wetlands.

"This is not infill development like Bay Meadows or Santana Row. This is building on the Bay," said David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay in Oakland. "It should be part of the bay again."

Through Oct. 18, the Yes on W campaign raised $384,000, with 92 percent coming from Save the Bay. No on W raised $1.5 million, with 88 percent from DMB Associates.

Measure W is endorsed by the Sierra Club, Committee for Green Foothills, the Sequoia Audubon Society, former state Sen. Byron Sher and former U.S. Rep. Pete McCloskey.

The measure is opposed by the Redwood City's City Council, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, the Port of Redwood City, Oracle and the major youth sports leagues in Redwood City.

In August, the City Council placed a competing item, Measure V, on the ballot. It affects only Cargill's property and would require a lower threshold of 50 percent voter approval for development. If both pass, the one with the most votes becomes law.

One of the leading opponents of Measure W is Mark Fassett, whose home through a quirk of planning is located in an area designated as "park" in the city general plan. Fassett, 45, is a member of the Sierra Club. He said he opposes Cargill's development plans, but worries that if he wants to build a backyard shed, or tries to sell his home, he'll face red tape.

"I feel for what Save the Bay is trying to do. But they went too far," he said. "They accidentally ensnared us."

Lewis, of Save the Bay, says the measure will only require a public vote on zoning changes, not administrative permits like backyard sheds or docks. He says DMB and Cargill "have built a campaign on one big lie. It's a scare tactic."

The city's lawyers say the measure can be read two ways. Tim Willis, a San Leandro attorney working with the city attorney's office on the issue, said the initiative is "confusing" and will end up in court if it passes.

"Clearly things like a boat dock or a tool shed would not need a two-thirds vote," he said. "But you may be prohibited outright from even getting a permit for them."

Environmentalists have a long history of defeating bayfront development in Redwood City. In 1982, Nobles organized a ballot measure to kill plans by Mobil Oil for 4,700 homes at Bair Island. The area is now a wildlife refuge. In 2004, he helped defeat a plan to build 17 high-rise condominiums near the Port of Redwood City.

"People want to live here because there is a healthy San Francisco Bay," he said. "And if you destroy that, you destroy our most precious commodity."

If Measure W loses, Nobles said, he'll wait for Cargill to submit a project, then put that on the ballot.

"We've done it before," he said. "And we'll do it again."


Deja vu all over again

A powerful out-of-state developer is poised to get rich off a massive development on Redwood City salt ponds. After the City Council unanimously approves the development, residents turn out in droves for a signature campaign. Council members form an opposition group called "Save Redwood City." Neighborhood activists are attacked as "outsiders."

Confusing ballot language written by the Council misleads voters. The developer-funded campaign outspends the grassroots groups by at least 10 to 1.


This story describes Redwood City residents' 1982 fight to save Bair Island, which is now being restored to tidal wetlands.

Almost the same script is being replayed today. Save The Bay, along with local neighborhood and environmental groups, is once again fighting the permanent destruction of restorable Bay wetlands—this time against "Toxic Ten" giant, Cargill.

Yes on W bullet points

Learn more at You can help! Please call (650) 740-5971 or email

View the Yes on W video on YouTube.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

New Data Shows High Use of Tejon Ranch by Condors;
Proposed Developments Would Destroy Important Habitat


LOS ANGELES— Data recently acquired from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service show continuing high use of Tejon Ranch by California condors, particularly in the proposed development area of Tejon Mountain Village. The Center for Biological Diversity obtained the GPS and satellite data for the past several years through a Freedom of Information Act request. The data, previously unavailable to the public, clearly demonstrate that areas slated for development in a May 8 conservation “deal” are frequently used by condors for feeding and roosting –essential behaviors for condor recovery.

“These data reinforce the importance of key parts of Tejon Ranch as critical habitat for California condor recovery,” said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Unfortunately, the conservation ‘deal’ failed to include or consider these data, and critical habitat for the condor was traded away to development. Clearly, a mistake has been made.”

A map prepared by the Center showing the data points overlaid with Tejon Ranch’s development plans and with existing designated critical habitat for the condor is available at A high-resolution version of the map is available at

The California condor is an Endangered Species Act success story – so far. Their numbers rebounded from a low of 28 in the mid-1980s to more than 140 free-flying condors in 2007. Substantial private and public resources have enabled this success, especially by protecting habitat that is critical to the bird’s survival. The curious condors do not do well near dense human developments. They mostly prosper in wide-open, windswept, rural areas, where they provide carrion cleanup services. Tejon Ranch contains 130,000 acres of federally designated critical habitat for the California condor, which the birds rely upon today for foraging, roosting and soaring. Their historical and contemporary use of Tejon Ranch continues to highlight the importance of maintaining this area of critical habitat for the condors.

“The California condor continues to teeter on the brink of extinction, so we must assure self-sustaining habitat is available for the birds,” Anderson said. “Without habitat, condors can’t survive in the wild.”

For more information on California condors and Tejon Ranch developments please go to

More on Big Solar Plans in the Desert


"Solar project under review" (Imperial Valley Press, 10/20/08)
"If Stirling Energy Systems’ 750 megawatt solar project is completed, one Imperial County supervisor believes it would reaffirm this county as the No. 1 energy producer, at least in this state...." Another supervisor "said the county would like to see the Stirling project go forward, while working with the off-road community to diminish any potential impacts."
(Note: this news site may require free registration to view its content online.)

RELATED: "Environmental review process begins for solar project in Imperial County" (BLM-California news release, 10/17/08)
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, together with the California Energy Commission, today published a notice announcing that the agencies intend to prepare an environmental impact statement/staff assessment for the Stirling Energy Systems' Solar Two Project in Imperial County. The project, to be located about 14 miles west of El Centro, involves about 6,500 acres, including 6,140 acres of BLM public lands and 360 acres of private lands.

"Take a look at coincidences in solar power deal" (Oakland Tribune, 10/16/08)
Editorial: "There is a fascinating relationship tied to a breakthrough solar-energy complex near the Mojave Desert Preserve. What is significant about this is the players involved stand to make a handsome sum of money becoming the first solar-generating station on U.S. Bureau of Land Management land ... VantagePoint has a major stake in Oakland-based startup BrightSource Energy, which is planning to spend $2 billion to construct solar power plants along the Nevada border, and has locked up a deal to sell electricity to PG&E, enough to power 321,000 homes annually. "
A Shift in Route May End Battle Over Power Lines in Anza Borrego State Park


"In Shift, Sunrise Powerlink Could Avoid Anza-Borrego" (Voice of San Diego, 10/22/08)
"For nearly three years, whenever San Diego Gas & Electric talked about the Sunrise Powerlink's proposed path through Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the company and its representatives were adamant: Building the power line through the park was unavoidable ... to tap into undeveloped renewable energy sources in Imperial County ... The company said it has not completely abandoned the path through the park, but felt that it could still achieve its goals -- increasing reliability and tapping renewable energy -- if state regulators chose the southern route ... The California Public Utilities Commission ... is expected to make a final ruling before year's end."

RELATED: "Our opinion: Powerlink route seems clear" (Imperial Valley Press, 10/18/08)
Editorial: "It looks like San Diego Gas and Electric may be on its own in supporting the northern route for the proposed Sunrise Powerlink. Momentum continues to grow for the project to take the southern route, which would follow existing power lines ... This project must move forward and the time for scratching heads and delaying decisions is over. The 2010 deadline is not realistic, but the way things are going it will be more like 2020. If SDG&E really wants to get this done, accept the southern route and move on."
(Note: this news site may require free registration to view its content online.)

RELATED: "BLM, CPUC release final EIS/EIR for proposed Sunrise Powerlink Project" (BLM-California news release, 10/14/08)
The Bureau of Land Management and the California Public Utilities Commission have published a joint final environmental impact statement/environmental impact report analyzing the Sunrise Powerlink project proposed by San Diego Gas & Electric Company and a range of alternatives. (Repeated from last week's News.bytes)
How California Laws Protect Oak Trees

October 2008

California Oak Report

MND: Full Mitigation Price for Every Stump
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) oak woodland mitigation standards apply equally to mitigated negative declarations (MND) and environmental impacts reports (EIR). However, MNDs must meet a much more stringent legal standard for the reduction of oak woodland impacts than an EIR.

For an EIR, oak woodland impacts must be reduced to the extent feasible within the law, with the local Board of Supervisors or City Council ultimately deciding project oak mitigation sufficiency. Local officials prerogative lies in their EIR discretionary power to invoke an “overriding consideration” in the interest of the public good. Unless it can be proven in court that local officials failed to proceed as required by law, their project decision is final.

For a MND, mitigation measures must reduce all substantial oak woodland impacts to a less than significant level. Local officials have no mitigation discretion to exercise in a MND; the MND is required to scientifically and factually demonstrate that every potential oak woodlands impact has been reduced to less than significant. Significant oak woodland effects are the sum of wildlife habitat impacts and carbon dioxide emission impacts due to woodland conversion to a non-forest use.

Developers prefer MNDs to EIRs because of the cost savings. Therefore, it is important to be vigilant in assuring the project complies fully with CEQA oak woodlands mitigation law. The fact is that the cost of mitigating oak impacts in a MND are proportionally much greater than for an EIR. Less room to spread the development cost often leads to MNDs cutting oak mitigation corners. Lawsuits filed against inadequate oak woodland MNDs are very effective because they defeat the pecuniary motives of the developer and are easily proved in court.
Feds Make Huge Cut in Tiny Rodent's Protected Habitat

10/23/2008 Center for Biological Diversity news

The Bush administration one-upped itself in the bad habitat-protection-move department last Friday when it reduced protected habitat for the San Bernardino kangaroo rat by even more than it originally proposed to do. Eliminating an astonishing 76 percent of land once set aside for the kangaroo rat's survival and recovery, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shrunk the species' federally protected habitat from more than 33,000 acres to a mere 7,779 -- thousands less than the reduction just proposed in April (which was bad enough). And while the San Bernardino kangaroo rat may be small, it needs habitat protection in a big way: Thanks to the triple threat of dams, mining, and sprawl, the rat is now left with just 5 percent of its historic habitat -- much of which has recently been targeted by big-box warehouse development. A 1999 lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and Christians Caring for Creation was behind the endangered rodent's original protected habitat designation. We've also helped save the kangaroo rat's home from specific threats posed by dams and development.

Read more in the Press-Enterprise.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Look at Wildlife Trackers in North San Diego County

Presenting the Preserve Calavera Tracking Team
By Karen Merrill, February 2005

The Calavera area is the largest remaining contiguous native habitat in coastal North County. It is considered ‘core’ habitat in the North County regional Multiple Habitat Conservation Plan (MHCP). Some of the natural features found here are an extinct volcano, a lake, the main tributary of Aqua Hedionda creek and Coast Live Oak over two hundred years old! Hundreds of plants, lots of wildlife! What a gem…right in our backyard! Did I mention there are 15 developments in various planning stages that will impact this urban oasis? Enter Preserve Calavera, whose mission is to preserve and protect as much of the 3,000 acres as possible. While working diligently to help shape the ‘footprint’ of these developments, it became apparent that the linkages or corridors through these projects look good on paper but out in the dirt look tenuous at best. So, the Preserve Calavera Tracking Team was formed and transects set up to monitor movement through the proposed Wildlife Corridors. The data collected over the last four years will be used to assess the viability of the linkages as the projects move forward. In other words, we aim to make sure that line on paper translates to a veritable wildlife highway!
8 page photo presentation on Buena Vista Creek and El Salto Falls

From the San Diego Tracking Team’s ( ’s October 2008 newsletter:
The Preserve Calavera (PC) organization ( was formed to protect the core habitat in Carlsbad—originally 3,000 acres of open space with 15 developments slated for much of it. Diane Nygaard, President of PC, saw the need to gather good baseline data to help with our efforts to secure viable wildlife movement corridors through these proposed developments. Hence, the Preserve Calavera Tracking Team was formed.

For a schedule of wildlife tracking hikes:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fresno Loses Environmental Law Suits at High Rate

Developer-Friendly Interpretation of State Law by City Leads to Numerous Losses in Court

excerpted from the Fresno Bee, Sept. 28. 2008

Since the start of 2005, 10 CEQA actions against Fresno have been decided, and the city won just once. Fresno settled six cases and lost three -- the losses coming in appellate court decisions made during a 14-month period ending in May....

Fresno finds that projects are likely to produce significant effects far less often than other similar-sized cities in California, The Fresno Bee found in an analysis of CEQA records sent to the state.

In a 10-year period ending in July, Fresno required a full environmental review for nine out of 73 projects, or 12% of the time, according to the CEQA database.

By comparison, California's 20 biggest cities, except Los Angeles and San Diego, required a full environmental review for 26% of projects.
The results seem to indicate that Fresno is reluctant to require a full review, said McCoy of the Information Center for the Environment, which maintains the database....

The city erred by allowing developer DeWayne Zinkin to pay just $44,000 for the traffic the shopping center would add to Highway 41, when Caltrans estimated the fee at $307,000, the court said. Fresno's decision would leave the public "holding the financial bag," the court said...

As a result, the city failed to make a reasonable effort to offset the effects of development, a key CEQA requirement, the court said.

The city violated the other key part of CEQA by failing to inform the public about the likely effects of the shopping center, the court found.

The court said the city's reviews were "deeply flawed": Instead of comparing the project's expected effects against existing conditions, the city wrongly based its review on a comparison with a "massive hypothetical office park," creating a "misleading report." The city staff misrepresented findings to the City Council, which received them at the last minute, the court said...
Klamath River Dam Removal Public Hearings

Dear Friends,

The State Water Resources Control Board is beginning the process to determine whether the water behind PacifiCorp’s Klamath River dams meets the clean water demands of the federal Clean Water Act. Without a "section 401" permit PacifiCorp cannot obtain a 50-year license to continue operation of the dams, which could lead to dam removal.

Make your voice heard! Please attend a hearing next week (or in Sacramento the following week) hosted by the Water Resources Board.

There will be five opportunities to make your opinions known:

Monday, Oct. 20 @ 1:30 Six Rivers National Forest1330 Bayshore Way, Eureka — north of Bayshore MallMonday, Oct. 20 @ 6 p.m. Yurok Tribe Headquarters190 Klamath Blvd. Klamath, CA

Tuesday, Oct. 21 @ 12 p.m., Karuk Community CenterHighway 96, Orelans, CATuesday, Oct. 21 @ 6 p.m. Union High School Student Union431 Knapp Street, Yreka, CA

Wednesday, Oct. 29 @ 3 p.m. California EPA Bldg., Byron Sher Auditorium1001 “I” Street Sacramento I have pasted some talking points below. Please don't hesitate to contact the NEC if you have questions. But please do attend the hearings. Bring a sign. Say something. Or just show up.

Thanks, Greg King
Executive DirectorNorthcoast Environmental Center

Talking Points:

The dangerous conditions created by dams is well known. The shallow, warm reservoirs behind the dams create massive plumes of blue-green algae, which produce the highly toxic microcystis aeruginosa at levels that sometimes reach 4,000 higher than the World Health Organizations considers a "moderate" risk to human health. The microcystis is so toxic it can actually kill a person. Imagine its impact on protected fish.As Eli Asarian and Patrick Higgins, of Kier Associates, point out in their May 30, 2007 Memorandum Report, Comments on Klamath River Nutrient, Dissolved Oxygen, and Temperature TMDL Implementation Plan Workplan Outline for CA (NCRWQCB, 2007), “The evidence showing links between KHP reservoirs and incidence of fish disease epidemics (Stocking and Bartholomew, 2004; in press); toxic algae blooms (Kann and Corum, 2006) and nutrient pollution (Kann and Asarian, 2005; Asarian and Kann, 2006) is very substantial.”In its letter to PacifiCorp the Water Resources Control Board itself noted that, " [T]here is substantial evidence to indicate an increase in fish disease on the river, an increase in the toxic blue-green algae Microcystis aeruginosa, and an overall decline in fish populations.”PacifiCorp’s dams pose a risk not just to recovery of salmonids, but overall survival of anadromous fishes in the Klamath River, including Coho salmon, protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

--Greg King
Executive Director
Northcoast Environmental Center
1465 G StreetArcata, CA 95521(707) 822-6918


Pacificorp's 265 page request for a license to keep the dams in operation: (2.8 megabyte file)
Governor Pushing for New Limits on CEQA--the Law that Now Makes Developers Pay to Fix the Problems they Cause

From 10/17/2008 PCL Insider:


Last month, as the deadline to sign or veto proposed legislation drew near, Governor Schwarzenegger approved SB 375 (Steinberg), which links land use planning, transportation funding, and housing policy in an attempt to promote smarter developments that will help the state meet its greenhouse gas emission reduction mandate. SB 375 offers incentives to promote sustainable development by redefining how the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) will be applied to the best-planned communities. For example, residential and mixed use development projects that help the region reach its emission reductions goals won't have to analyze certain climate impacts during the CEQA process. The bill strikes a delicate balance between promoting sustainable growth while ensuring environmental review is not jeopardized.

However despite the delicate balancing act in SB 375, in his signing statement the Governor has suggested further limitations to CEQA for infrastructure and commercial projects. The Governor's suggestions would tip the scales and could significantly reduce the ability of local residents to participate in the CEQA process to push for better plans and projects.

Senator Darrell Steinberg, in a formal letter responding to questions raised about the role of CEQA in addressing global warming (see page 14 of the linked document), committed to discussing the issue next year. Senator Steinberg has promised to invite all interested parties. Staff from the Planning and Conservation League will be there to defend CEQA against aggressive efforts to weaken California's most power tool to protect public health and our environment.

Monday, October 20, 2008

With Some Big Builders in Bankruptcy, Is it Time for the State's Land Conservancies to Buy Choice Parcels?

Here's a good report from a builder's and mortgage blog. Geez, it would be GREAT if the conservancies could come up with the funds to buy that Stevenson Ranch parcel and Newhall Ranch. We will never have an opportunity like this again. I hope they have made contact with Barclays Bank Representatives. The bank may be very willing to relieve itself of this outlying raw land and Stevenson Ranch with no water is virtually undevelopable. There are many graded lots in Santa Clarita much closer in that will undoubtedly take care of the market for many years.

from: Lynne Plambeck, President, Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment


LandSource's DIP Lender Files Liquidating Ch. 11 Plan
Posted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 4:14 am

LandSource, the raw land and lot holding company owned by CALPERS and Lennar, has been a Chapter 11 debtor since June 2008. At the time of its bankruptcy filing, LandSource owed nearly $900 Million on a syndicated mortgage loan managed by Barclays Bank. Barclays and some of its syndicate members rolled up the loan into a $1+ Billion DIP loan due in June 2009.

On 10/13/08 Barclays Bank, as lead lender for the participants in the DIP loan, filed a proposed Chapter 11 Plan of Reorganization for LandSource. It is a liquidating plan, as was predicted on the record, in the Bankruptcy Court, by counsel for the Committee of Unsecured Creditors when the terms of the DIP loan were argued.

In the Liquidating Plan, Barclays Bank proposes that a Plan Administrator be appointed, who would conduct an auction of all of LandSource's assets 120 days after the Court approved the Liquidating Plan. Barclays reserves the right to credit bid for all or part of the debtor's assets. Barclays proposes that the Plan Administrator then sell any assets remaining after the auction in the ordinary course.

So far, neither the debtor nor the Committee of Unsecured Creditors have filed a competing plan. It would be tough to draft a credible competing plan, without Barclays and its participants cooperation, given the need to find a source to refinance the $1+ Billion DIP loan due in June 2009.

At the height of the real estate boom, LandSource's real estate was valued at $1.8 Billion. In open bankruptcy court, various parties have alleged that same real estate is now valued at $750 Million.

Among the real estate proposed to be auctioned:

--Newhall Land & Farming's remaining residential and commercial land in Valencia, California
--A brand new TPC golf course in Valencia, California
--Newhall Land & Farming's farm land in California's Central Valley and Ventura County
--Newhall Land & Farming's Newhall Ranch, which has conceptual planning approvals but no approved plat maps, no Army Corps permits and no California Fish & Game permits
--A huge, mountainous tract constituting the remainder of Lennar's Stevenson Ranch project, which has no water entitlements
--A high rise apartment building under construction in Marina del Rey, California
--The massive Bressi Ranch in San Diego County, California
--A large ranch in Moorpark, California
--Lennar's Mare Island military base redevelopment project on San Francisco Bay, a project with significant hazardous materials contamination yet to be remediated
--Land in the Friendswood area of Houston
--Miscellaneous land in Las Vegas
--Miscellaneous land in several states formerly owned by MW Housing Partners III, a CALPERS investment vehicle designed as a "land bank" for Lennar, before the LandSource venture between CALPERS and Lennar was created

Barclays Bank cannot expect that there will be any cash buyers willing to pay a reasonable price for these huge pieces of real estate at auctions held in 2009 by a Chapter 11 Plan Administrator.

Title to the properties will undoubtedly end up in an entity created by Barclays Bank and its loan participants....unless the Treasury wants to spend $750 Million in TARP funds to acquire this "prime" development land.

Barclays Bank's plan to auction these vast tracts of land brings to the forefront the question of what will happen to the hundreds of thousands of residential lots throughout the country which exist on paper, or in partially developed state, or are completed and weed covered.

The business of "land development" for massive housing tracts built by national homebuilders will not recover for years and years and years.


As Yogi Berra said "It's like deja vu all over again.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Back Country Land Trust donates 481 Acres in San Diego mountains to the USA

from Fall 2008 newsletter,

The BCLT has signed a Letter of Intent to donate 481 private acres of McAlmond Canyon in Las Californias near Potrero to the people of the United States of America. The value of this donation is a bit over $1,000,000.

These lands are near the Hauser Mountain Wilderness Study Area in San Diego County; north-northeast of Barrett Junction. Named for Captain C.G. McAlmond, pilot commissioner for the Port of San Diego in 1873, they contain important wilderness and environmental resources values, which will be managed by the Bureau of Land Management of the Department of the Interior. These lands will be protected in perpetuity from development; while permitting the people’s passive use for enjoyment.
Funding for the BCLT’s purchase of the property was generously provided under a grant from Resources Legacy Foundation Fund. Technical and administrative assistance was generously provided by The Nature Conservancy via Ms. Kathy Viatella, Senior Project Director.

The BCLT has been working in partnership with these organizations, and with the Conservation Biology Institute and The San Diego Foundation on the Las Californias Binational Conservation Initiative. This is a shared vision for landscape-scale conservation strategies, sustainable land use planning, and workable long-term management programs in the center of a globally signifi cant hotspot of biodiversity and cultures along the U.S.-México border.

This donation represents Phase 2 in a series of donations. Phase 3, the BCLT donation of another 250 acres in the Potrero Valley Road area of Las Californias valued at $500,000 is also in the works with completion scheduled for 2009.

The Back Country Land Trust has now preserved nearly 5000 acres in San Diego County.
We rely on our supporters to get this job done. Together, we can continue protecting cultural and natural resources, preserving open space for current and future generations to enjoy, and educating the public on the value of resource protection and environmental awareness. This work is critical and there is much that needs to be done.
November 4th Election Includes More Money for East SF Bay Parks says Support Measure WW

"It's a Win Win!"
In 1988, the voters of Contra Costa and Alameda counties passed ballot Measure AA for a parcel tax to raise funds which East Bay Regional Park District used to preserve 34,000 acres of open space, develop over 100 miles of trails, and fund hundreds of local parks and recreation projects.
On November 4, voters in Contra Costa and Alameda counties will have the opportunity to extend this measure with no increase in property taxes. Save The Bay encourages voters in these counties to vote YES on Measure WW to restore urban creeks, protect wildlife, and save open space, wetlands and the Bay shoreline.

Click here to learn more.

Army suspends Fort Irwin tortoise relocation plans after deaths of 90 animals

(Riverside Press-Enterprise, 10/10/08)"The U.S. Army has suspended plans to relocate more than 1,000 desert tortoises from Fort Irwin expansion areas this fall and next spring ... About 90 of the 556 tortoises moved in the spring are dead, mostly as a result of coyote attacks. Army and federal wildlife officials said this week that a timeout is needed to determine how many of the tortoises, a threatened species, would have died anyway and how many deaths should be attributed to the relocation effort ... Two environmental groups ... sued the Army and the Bureau of Land Management in July, contending that the move exposed healthy tortoises to diseased animals and placed them in a poorer-quality habitat."

"Army suspends relocation of Ft. Irwin tortoises" (Los Angeles Times, 10/11/08)"The Army's National Training Center at Ft. Irwin on Friday suspended its effort to move California desert tortoises off prospective combat training grounds and onto nearby public lands because the animals are being hit hard by coyotes ... Biologists theorize the problem may be connected to severe drought conditions, which have killed off plants and triggered a crash in rodent populations. As a result, coyotes, which normally thrive on kangaroo rats and rabbits, are turning to tortoises for sustenance.",0,5560419.story
You Can See Forever at Carrizo Plain National Monument

Teeming with wildlife, California's Serengeti offers an expansive view of a captivating past.

By Chuck Graham, 10/13/2008

Driving slowly on Soda Lake Road, I stopped every time something caught my eye, and with my binoculars scanned the horizon for various signs of life. After coming up empty on every occasion, something faint in the distance drew my interest. I jumped out of my truck and found myself standing between the expanse of the Temblor and Caliente Mountain Ranges, lost in silence within Carrizo Plain National Monument.

It wasn’t clear what I saw, but whatever it was vanished in the rolling grasslands about a mile away. I wanted to stretch my legs, so I picked up my 600 mm lens and took a stroll in that direction. Within 15 minutes, the grasslands came alive and I wasn’t alone anymore. The large heads of pronghorn antelope rose above the grass line, not sure themselves what was hiding behind a tripod. At least 30 of North America’s fastest mammal herded together. Not wanting to disturb the pronghorn, I backed away as they continued grazing across the largest remaining remnant of original San Joaquin Valley habitat.

for rest of story and photos:
Logging in Santa Cruz Mountains Halted by State Forestry Board

Thursday October 9, 2008

San Jose Water Co.'s plan to log more than 1,000 acres of redwood and Douglas fir trees near Highway 17 came to an abrupt end Wednesday when the state forestry board voted unanimously to side with mountain residents who had fiercely fought the proposal.

In a surprise announcement shortly after the nine-member Board of Forestry and Fire Protection made its decision, a representative of San Jose Water indicated that the company would not appeal the decision in court.

So the most contentious logging dispute in Santa Clara County in decades is suddenly over. "I believe this is it," said John Tang, spokesman for the water company. "We're very disappointed." Tang left open the possibility that the company might return in the future with a smaller timber harvest proposal, but he stressed that nothing has been decided.

Residents of Chemeketa Park and other nearby forested communities, who have battled the logging plan since 2005, reacted with joy and said they were shocked the water company was backing down. "We're ecstatically happy," said Kevin Flynn, a Cisco Systems manager who lives in Chemeketa Park. "It really surprises me that the company won't appeal, because they've been such a tenacious opponent. But I guess they realize they've been licked."

Opponents had vowed to sue if the forestry board approved the plan, arguing that the logging would generate noise, trigger landslides and increase fire danger. San Jose Water had said it wanted to log the 1,002 acres to reduce the danger of fire. Fire danger, however, was not the central point of contention before the forestry board Wednesday.

At issue was how much timberland is actually owned by the investor-owned company, which provides drinking water to about a million people in San Jose, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino and Campbell. After a 3 1/2-hour hearing at which about two dozen people spoke, the forestry board agreed with the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (also called Cal Fire) that the company owns more than 2,500 acres of timberland. So, it ruled, the company does not qualify for the open-ended logging permit it was seeking. Without an open-ended permit, the company has to come back for approval each time it wants to log a portion of the property -- a process that is more expensive and time-consuming. Cal Fire and the forestry board say the company owns 2,825 acres of timberland, while the company says only 1,971 acres of that actually bears commercially harvestable trees.

The forestry department's chief counsel has argued that "timberland" is defined in the state Forest Practices Act as any land "available for, and capable of growing, a crop of trees of any commercial species used to produce lumber and other forest products, including Christmas trees." That, the department's chief counsel wrote in legal briefs, means "timberland" includes not only areas with big trees but also land with small sprouts, stumps and even soils capable of growing trees.

San Jose Water and Big Creek Lumber, the Santa Cruz County contractor working with the water company, characterized that definition as unfairly broad.

"We're also disappointed in the decision, but it's up to our client to decide what to do next," said Bob Berlage, a Big Creek spokesman. "The law would absolutely allow other timber harvest plans to be presented."

For san jose water company logging map
santa cruz mountains anti-logging group

timberland owned by san jose water co.
map of parcels in santa cruz mountains

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Public and Private $$ to Save 5630 Acre Sonoma Coast Headlands by the Mouth of the Russian River

The Jenner Headlands is within our grasp!

The Jenner Headlands is a spectacular 5,630-acre coastal ranch, described by Sonoma County Supervisor Mike Reilly as being the “whole tiara” among a string of jewels along the coast. After nearly four years of complex negotiations, the Sonoma Land Trust has secured a contract with the landowners to purchase the Jenner Headlands. This will be the single largest conservation land acquisition in Sonoma County history.

Located north of the town of Jenner where the Russian River flows into the Pacific Ocean, and extending north along scenic Highway 1 and inland toward the town of Cazadero, this stunning coastal property offers dramatic views, redwood forests, multiple watersheds, fish-bearing streams, abundant wildlife, and more — including the opportunity to provide public access and a 2.5 mile segment to the California Coastal Trail. Without protection, the Jenner Headlands could be subdivided into more than 40 home sites.

"It’s very rare to be able to save such a large and diverse landscape along the coast,” said Ralph Benson, executive director of the Sonoma Land Trust. "We can’t let this opportunity get away."

Four years in the making
In 2005, Supervisor Reilly suggested that the landowners consider a conservation sale of the property as an alternative to development, and convened a group of nonprofit organizations and public agencies to work on the project. The Sonoma Land Trust took the lead, working closely with the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District.

"When we began working on this project four years ago, everyone assumed that a public agency would acquire and manage the land," said Benson. "But no public agency is positioned to do so today. The Land Trust decided to step in and take title so we wouldn’t lose this now-or-never opportunity to protect such a large and magnificent coastal landscape. It will probably be several years before a public agency is able to take responsibility for it. When that happens we would like to turn over a well-planned, well-managed unit."

The purchase price for the property is $36 million. This is based on extensive negotiations and an independent appraisal reviewed by our multiple public funding partners, including the Open Space District, State Coastal Conservancy, California Wildlife Conservation Board, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (which ranked the project #3 in the nation for funding). Early support for the project came from Petaluma’s Tellabs Foundation.

We have preliminary commitments for all of the funding needed to purchase the property. What remains is raising the money needed to responsibly manage and care for the property. We need to raise an additional $2 million by the time of closing.

Goals and ecological resource values
Once known as the Rule Ranch, this coastal property was purchased by John Rule in 1867 and has been used as a cattle and sheep ranch since then. The Land Trust and its partners have multiple goals for the Jenner Headlands — first and foremost, the land will be managed to enhance its significant ecological values.

The Jenner Headlands is home to numerous endangered and threatened species, including the northern spotted owl, red tree vole, osprey, peregrine falcon, bank swallow, steelhead trout and Coho salmon. Wide-ranging deer, coyote, bobcat, fox and mountain lion also frequent the property. Protecting a large landscape like this, which also connects to existing open lands, provides secure wildlife corridors and habitat that will help all species adapt to the unpredictable effects of climate change.

There are eight different watersheds on the property, including Jenner Gulch, which provides the domestic water supply for the town of Jenner. The property also includes a 3,100-acre redwood and Douglas fir forest that has been managed as forestland for the last 100 years. One of the primary objectives is to grow the forest older through sustainable forestry, which will help attain the ecological goals faster and provide income to supplement the costs of managing the property — with the added benefit of supporting the local economy. Cattle grazing has taken place on the land for decades and is expected to continue in order to maintain the health of the coastal prairie.

"Sonoma Land Trust has a lot of experience managing lands for ecological purposes, and successful conservation forestland projects exist that demonstrate that our multiple goals for the Jenner Headlands can be met," said Amy Chesnut, SLT acquisitions director who has managed the project from the outset. "We want to grow the forest older and healthier; we want to protect the estuary, creeks and the town of Jenner’s water supply; we want to keep the wonderful coastal prairie intact; and we want people to hike on the property and enjoy the ocean scenery. The ecosystem on the property is diverse and healthy, and we have an excellent opportunity to manage these lands to reach all of our goals — ecological, economical and recreational."

"This magnificent addition to our network of protected coastal lands — the headlands to the mouth of our region’s major river as it meets the sea — is an opportunity not to be lost," said Bill Kortum, former Sonoma County supervisor and Land Trust co-founder. "Stunning views, abundant wildlife and a vital link to the California Coastal Trail are within our grasp."

Next steps
The Sonoma Land Trust needs to raise $2 million over the next few months in hopes of closing on the property in early 2009. During the first 12 months of ownership, the Land Trust will conduct resource assessments that will guide the development of a management plan for the property. Arrangements will be made to provide public access as soon as possible.

"On clear days, the views from the Headlands extend all the way to Point Reyes and Mt. Diablo," said Supervisor Reilly. “Protecting land like this is like unearthing buried treasure — now this coastal jewel can sparkle for the whole world to see."


$36 million deal will preserve Jenner land
Six agencies buying 5,630-acre coastal headlands property in record conservation purchase


Published: Friday, October 10, 2008

The Jenner Headlands, a stunning swath of undulating coastal prairie and inland forest that almost soars off the sands of Sonoma Coast State Beach, is being bought for $36 million, the largest conservation acquisition in Sonoma County history.

The Sonoma Land Trust toured its new acquisition, the 5,630-acre Jenner Headlands purchased for $36 million, thursday October 9, which includes this vista looking south including Goat Rock, Bodega Head and Pt. Reyes and Highway 1. The property, north of Jenner where the Russian River enters the Pacific Ocean, extends 2.5 miles north along Highway 1 and inland toward Cazadero.

If the transaction, forged through a partnership of public agencies and environmental nonprofits, is completed on schedule early next year, public access would be conducted through organized tours sometime next spring.

The 5,630-acre headlands, now reachable only by private logging roads from Jenner or Duncans Mills, also would host a three-mile section of the California Coastal Trail.

The expanse of grass and woodlands is believed to rank among the largest privately held properties along the California coast.

"You could be looking at 40 homes or a golf course right now," west county Supervisor Mike Reilly said Thursday as he surveyed the property from boulders clustered around a wind-bowed oak tree. "Now, we have preserved one of the most dramatic views in California."

On a clear day, a vantage point on the Jenner Headlands provides a view of the Russian River's spillway into the ocean, Bodega Head and the Point Reyes Peninsula.

Under the pending transaction, the county's Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District would contribute about a third of the $36 million purchase price, while the rest would be split among the Sonoma Land Trust, the state Coastal Conservancy, the California Conservation Board, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's coastal and estuarian land protection program.

Ralph Benson, the Sonoma Land Trust's executive director, said his agency would take title to the land and would be responsible for managing public access to it.

Sonoma Land Trust already owns about 20,000 acres, including the 5,000-acre Baylands area in southern Sonoma County that once had been eyed for a casino.

"This is an opportunity we cannot pass up," Benson said as he, Reilly and officials representing agencies involved in the transaction strolled the headlands on the windy afternoon.

"Ultimately, we'd like to turn it over the the state parks system, but given the economy and the state budget, the timing isn't right for anything other than securing it for future generations," Benson said.

The Land Trust will launch a fund-raising campaign to raise its share, estimated to be about $8 million, he said.

Negotiations on the purchase date back about four years, a relatively short time compared with the usual course of transactions involving land conservation.

Reilly said the primary owner, New Orleans surgeon Dr. Ollie Edmunds, approached him several years ago about development potential of the hills above Jenner.

Edmunds was unavailable for comment Thursday, but his representative, Henry Alden, said Edmunds eventually concluded the land, which already was subdivided into about 40 plots, was better off in public trust.

Alden said some of the forest of Douglas fir and redwood trees had been logged within the past decade, but other portions hadn't been felled since the late 1800s.

"It was time to place it in the hands of the broader public," Alden said. "And to keep it in a condition that we can all enjoy."

The transaction needs official approval from several agencies as well as the Board of Supervisors, which governs the Open Space District.

Andrea Mackenzie, district general manager, said her agency had taken the lead role in financial arrangements, using money from the county's quarter-cent sales tax as leverage to secure funding commitments from other entities.

"This shows we can effectively leverage Sonoma County residents' broad support for open space protection and the sales tax to bring in additional funding that will increase protections for our county's coastline," Mackenzie said.


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