Tag Archives: habitat loss

In California, conservationists face off with vineyard owners 

Alastair Bland, GREENBIZ

Kellie Anderson stands in the understory of a century-old forest in eastern Napa County, about 70 miles north of San Francisco. To her left is a creek gully, a rush of the water audible through the thick riparian brush. The large trees here provide a home for deer, mountain lions and endangered spotted owls, while the stream supports the last remnants of the Napa River watershed’s nearly extinct steelhead trout.

“They want to take all of this out,” said Anderson, who sits on the steering committee of a local environmental organization, Save Rural Angwin, named for a community in the renowned wine country of the Napa Valley. She is studying a project-planning map of the area as she waves her free arm toward the wooded upward slope. “It looks like this will be the edge of a block of vines,” she said.

Anderson and two fellow activists, Jim Wilson and Mike Hackett, were visiting a property of several dozen acres that the owners plan to clear and replant with grapes, the county’s principal crop. The project is one of many like it pending approval by Napa County officials, who rarely reject a vineyard conversion project in the Napa Valley, a fertile strip that runs northward from the shores of San Francisco Bay.

In Napa County, neighboring Sonoma County and farther to the north in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, concern is growing among some residents, environmentalists and scientists about the expansion of vineyards into forested regions and the impacts on watersheds and biodiversity. In Napa, an aerial view reveals a carpet of vines on the valley floor, which is why winemakers hoping to plant new vines increasingly turn to land in the county’s wooded uplands. At these higher elevations, “about the only thing standing in the way of winemakers are the trees,” said Hackett.

“Napa is getting really carved up,” said Adina Merenlender, a conservation biologist at the University of California at Berkeley, who began studying the ecological impacts of vineyard conversions in the 1990s. “We see it all over the western and eastern ridges — it’s been relentless.” The transformation of shrub, oak and conifer habitat into new vineyards threatens wildlife migration corridors, she said. “We’re down to the final pinch points,” said Merenlender, referring to narrow corridors that eventually could become functionally severed from the relatively expansive wilderness areas in the mountains north of Napa County.

Federal fisheries scientists also have expressed concerns that the wine industry is harming endangered populations of steelhead trout. The creeks flowing off the hills of Napa County are critical to remnant populations of steelhead and salmon, and biologists with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) say the irrigation of vineyards has reduced stream flows and clogged waterways with eroded soils. “Extensive water diversions, groundwater pumping, and increased agriculture (vineyards) water use during the dry season have reduced the extent of suitable summer rearing habitat  … throughout much of the Napa River watershed,” NMFS scientists wrote in the Napa River chapter (PDF) of a 2016 report.

Read more at: In California, conservationists face off with vineyard owners | GreenBiz

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Forests, Land Use, Water, Wildlife

Endangered Species Day: Inside the effort to kill the Endangered Species Act

Christopher Ketcham, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

During the past five months Republicans have introduced 25 proposals to skirt, hamper, defang, or undermine endangered species protections. These include bills to amend the ESA to abandon its requirement to use “best available science” in listing decisions and to hand oversight of some of the law’s key management and decision-making provisions to state governments historically hostile to the act.

The Crow tribespeople call the grizzly bear their ancestor, the Elder Brother who protects their home, which is the land.

They have grizzly bear songs, grizzly dances, grizzly names for their children, grizzly lullabies that women sing to infants, and grizzly spirits that guide warrior societies and guard tepees, transform into human beings, and beguile their daughters.

Critics say the ESA is ineffective because so many species remain on the list, but supporters say that is exactly what illustrates its enormous success. Source: U.S. Fish & Wildlife.

So when the United States Fish and Wildlife Service said that grizzly populations in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem—encompassing portions of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho—would be removed from the U.S. government’s endangered species list this year and opened for hunting, I traveled to Montana to meet the chairman of the Crow Nation, A. J. Not Afraid, who has lobbied to stop the delisting.

We stood on a promontory in the Big Horn Mountains called Pretty Eagle Point, where Not Afraid showed me the grizzly habitat on the 2.3-million-acre reservation. In the distance there were snowbound peaks where grizzlies in summer eat army cutworm moths, and broad plateaus where the bears graze the grass and dig for grubs.

There were forests of fir and pine, watersheds feeding the streams that over millions of years carved the dark chasms of Big Horn Canyon and Black Canyon, where the bears like to amble in the rushing flow looking for fish.

Not Afraid, 43, had testified before Congress a few weeks before my April visit. He said he believed that delisting the grizzly would be a calamity for the animal.

He said that grizzly populations in the region did not appear to have recovered since being protected 42 years ago, as the Fish and Wildlife Service claimed, that Crows hardly ever see them anymore on the reservation, and that the trophy hunting unleashed with delisting would be an affront to tribes that hold the creature sacred.

“Fall of 2013 was the last time I saw a grizzly,” he said. He was hunting elk. There was a buffalo carcass on a slope where the bear had been feeding. The bear passed before him at a lope, 50 yards away. He recalled the vision sadly. “Because of the decrease in grizzlies, we encounter them only every few years now.”

Read more at: Inside the Effort to Kill the Endangered Species Act, Savior of Bald Eagles and Gray Wolves

Filed under Habitats, Land Use, Wildlife

State launches Sonoma Developmental Center ‘site assessment’ 

Christian Kallen, SONOMA INDEX-TRIBUNE

See the Transform SDC website for community and nonprofit input on what should be done with the SDC site and this Sonoma Land Trust article on the importance of the wildlife corridor through the site.

After what has sometimes seemed like an interminable delay, the wheels are starting to turn on the rollout toward closure of the Sonoma Develomental Center.

At least that’s how it looks now that the state Department of General Services has announced that a $2 million contract has been signed with a Bay Area engineering firm to perform a “site assessment” of the 860-acre SDC campus for use after the closure of the facility, scheduled for the end of 2018.San Francisco-based Wallace Roberts & Todd (WRT) entered the contract with the state in mid-April. The first step will be a “kick-off meeting” and team introduction, with the goal to develop a project schedule and define areas of responsibility and research for WRT and its subcontractors.

That meeting was scheduled for Monday afternoon, May 15, at the Slater Building on the SDC property. A final report of the group’s assessments is due in late December, after a number of intermediary benchmarks.

1st District Supervisor Susan Gorin, who’s also on the leadership team of the Coalition to Preserve SDC, said she’s “anxious” to work with the site assessment team and help facilitate community meetings so “they can fully gauge the community’s concerns, interests in eventual reuse of the campus and constraints to development.”

Read more at: State launches Sonoma Developmental Center ‘site assessment’ | Sonoma Index-Tribune | Sonoma, CA

Filed under Habitats, Land Use, Local Organizations, Wildlife

Forests disappearing at an alarming rate, mostly for human needs

Ann M. Simmons, LOS ANGELES TIMES

They cover a third of the world’s landmass, help to regulate the atmosphere, and offer shelter, sustenance and survival to millions of people, plants and animals.

But despite some progress, the planet’s woodlands continue to disappear on a dramatic scale.

Since 1990 the world has lost the equivalent of 1,000 football fields of forests every hour, according to World Bank development indicators from last year. That’s 1.3 million square kilometers of forest, an area larger than South Africa, according to the international financial institution.

With the observance of Earth Day on Saturday, conservationists seek to drive home the message that protection of forests is more critical than ever.

“The situation is dire,” said Orion Cruz, deputy director of forest and climate policy for Earth Day Network, an organization that grew out of the first Earth Day in 1970. “Forests are being eliminated at a very rapid rate and collectively we need to address this problem as quickly as possible. There’s still time to do this, but that time is quickly running out.”

Tropical regions are seeing the fastest loss of forests.

Indonesia, with its thriving paper and palm oil industries, is losing more forest than any other country. Despite a forest development moratorium, the Southeast Asian nation has lost at least 39 million acres since the last century, according to research from the University of Maryland and the World Resources Institute.

Brazil, Thailand, Congo and parts of Eastern Europe also have significant deforestation, according to United Nations data.

Read more at: Status of forests is ‘dire’ as world marks 2017 Earth Day – LA Times

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Forests, Habitats, Land Use, Sustainable Living

Bill McNamara is Glen Ellen’s ‘Indiana Jones’ of rare plants 

Meg McConahey, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

“When the plants go extinct, the animals that depend on them go extinct. And it’s completely ignored,” [McNamara] said. “Most biologists who are aware of this are convinced that by the end of the century, if current trends continue, we will lose half of all animals and half of all plants will be gone.”

For a onetime landscaper from California, it was a Cinderella moment — standing beneath the glass vaulted ceiling of the Edwardian Lindley Hall in London, accepting one of the world’s highest honors in horticulture.

The crowd that applauded American Bill McNamara as he accepted the prestigious Veitch Medal from the Royal Horticultural Society on Feb. 22, included finely dressed members of England’s titled gentry and some of the biggest names in the botanical realm over which Great Britain still rules.

“It was such a big honor, it was a shock,” said McNamara, now comfortably back in his bluejeans at Quarryhill Botanical Garden, a refuge for rare and endangered Asian plants that he gathered himself from seed in wild and remote corners of China. In just 30 years, a mere baby in the world of botanical gardens, Quarryhill has come to be considered one of the most significant collections of its kind in the world, numbering close to 2,000 species plants in their natural form, unchanged by man through hybridization.

Read more at: Bill McNamara is Glen Ellen’s ‘Indiana Jones’ of rare plants | The Press Democrat

Filed under Habitats, Land Use

Fight looms over location of medical marijuana farms in Sonoma County

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County is putting out a welcome mat for the medical marijuana industry, but it may not be as big as the industry would like as it emerges from the legal shadows.

Under California’s new medical marijuana law, cities and counties are allowed to regulate the location of pot-growing sites and other cannabis-related businesses, which may not obtain a state license until they have secured a local land use permit.

“We’re all here this morning because we believe there’s a bright future for cannabis in our community,” county Supervisor Efren Carrillo told a crowd of about 300 cannabis industry members at a conference Friday at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek in Santa Rosa.

The county’s first draft of its Medical Cannabis Land Use Ordinance, scheduled for public review next week, would focus cultivation and other pot businesses into the county’s agricultural and commercial/industrial areas, Carrillo said.

But Tawnie Logan, executive director of the Sonoma County Growers Alliance, said the proposal was too narrow. Rural residential lands and the county’s Resources and Rural Development District, which covers 30 percent of the county, should be considered for cultivation, she said.

“I think it’s an appropriate place,” she said in an interview, referring to the vast RRD district that covers mostly hilly, sparsely populated parts of the county.

Carrillo said he has heard conflicting messages from rural residents: They don’t want marijuana grown near them, but there already are numerous gardens in the county’s unincorporated area.

“That is going to be one of the areas where we are challenged the most,” said Carrillo, who sits on the county’s ad hoc medical cannabis committee with Supervisor Susan Gorin.

Read more at: Fight looms over location of medical marijuana farms in Sonoma County | The Press Democrat

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Land Use

Congress tries to speed up contentious post-fire logging 

New legislation comes despite science showing timber salvage harms essential wildlife habitat

Jodi Peterson, HIGH COUNTRY NEWS

The third-largest wildfire in California history, 2013’s Rim Fire, burned more than 400 square miles, including parts of Yosemite National Park and the Stanislaus National Forest. A year later, the Forest Service proposed cutting down the dead and damaged trees across about 50 square miles, but environmental groups sued to stop the salvage logging, saying it would harm wildlife and impede forest regeneration.

Their appeal was denied and logging began, but the groups’ concerns are increasingly borne out by science: Recently-released studies point to the crucial importance of burned-over habitat for many species, including the Pacific fisher and black-backed woodpecker. Despite this, Congressional Republicans are pushing two bills, supported by the timber industry, that would speed up logging in national forests after wildfires and reduce environmental review.

Read more at: Congress tries to speed up contentious post-fire logging — High Country News

Filed under Forests, Wildlife

State’s plan to close Sonoma Developmental Center blasted

Derek Moore & Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The draft closure plan did earn wide praise, however, for its recommendation that Sonoma Developmental property not be sold off as surplus, as has happened in similar situations.

The state’s draft plan for closing the Sonoma Developmental Center by 2018 is drawing sharp condemnation from family members and advocates for the disabled over the plan’s perceived failure to adequately address the long-term needs of 400 center residents, who would be moved into community-based settings.

During a highly charged hearing in Sonoma on Monday, dozens of people railed against the closure plan, saying it will result in developmental center residents receiving a substandard level of care that poses risks to their health and possibly their survival.

“This is a cookie-cutter plan that does nothing but fast-track the closure of the Sonoma Developmental Center,” said Brien Farrell of Santa Rosa, whose sister has lived at the facility since 1958.

The state for months has signaled its intent to shutter the Sonoma Developmental Center for budgetary reasons and because institutionalized care for the severely disabled continues to fall out of public favor. But many advocates for the facility have pushed for the state to maintain some level of services at the Eldridge site, including a crisis center and specialized offerings such as dental care.

Read more at: State’s plan to close Sonoma Developmental Center blasted | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use, Wildlife

167-home Santa Rosa townhome project in tiger salmander habitat to start construction

Cynthia Sweeney, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

After a decade and a half of delays procedural and economic, a 167-townhome development in west Santa Rosa is set to come out of the ground in coming months, in quite a different market than when initially conceived and with cutting-edge rooms-as-modules construction.

Groundbreaking for three model dwellings in the Paseo Vista Homes project, located off Hearn and Dutton avenues, is set for May 15. Santa Rosa-based HybridCore Homes expects to complete them by Aug. 1.

The remainder of the units would start to come out of the ground in early July. The entire project is expected to be completed in about two years.The 12-acre project includes 122 single-family homes and 45 low-income rental units, built as 15 triplexes. Prices for the homes are anticipated to be in the low-$300,000 range.

Started by a homebuilder and an architect in 2009, HybridCore Homes has designed room units, called “cores,” outfitted with appliances, cabinetry, electrical wiring and plumbing that can be trucked from the factory to the job site. One or more cores are moved into place on the foundation, and the rest of the structure is completed around them.

“This new construction technology helps to keep costs low and cuts construction time in half,” said Otis Orsburn, partner and vice president of construction.

The company has a “ton” of projects on the horizon, he said.

Read more at: 167-home Santa Rosa townhome project to start construction | North Bay Business Journal

Filed under Land Use, Wildlife

Lox and stocks: The future is not bright for California salmon

Tom Gogola, NORTH BAY BOHEMIAN

The California salmon fishing season that ended last week was OK this year, says John McManus, executive director of the Golden Gate Salmon Association, “but not as good as last year.”

In February, the National Marine Fisheries Service said an estimated 650,000 Chinook salmon would leave the Sacramento River for the Pacific Ocean this season—an estimate offered as a portent of good things to come, despite the drought.

But salmon fishing in California, McManus fears, is going to get worse before it gets better—and that’s if it ever does improve. This year, he says, salmon anglers working the colder waters to the north tended to fare better. “Southern Oregon was quite good,” he says, “the Eureka area, the sport fishery was quite good. Sonoma was OK.”

The Marin County coast, he says, “got OK in late September and remained surprisingly strong in October.”

The problem for the salmon, however, is the ceaseless drought with its various fallouts. Looking ahead, says McManus, the prospects for a healthy and sustainable salmon fishery are decidedly grim.

McManus describes a “desperate situation for spawning fall run king salmon in the Sacramento Valley this year,” because of high water temperature in the Sacramento River and surrounding tributaries.

via Lox and Stocks | News | North Bay Bohemian.

Filed under Water, Wildlife