Posted on Categories Forests, Land UseTags , ,

224-acre logging plan above Russian River near Guerneville awaiting approval

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A plan to log 224 acres of steep land above the Russian River, on the outskirts of Guerneville and Monte Rio, is expected to win approval in the coming days despite heavy opposition from residents and activists alarmed by the project’s proximity to rural communities and the natural landscape that draws tourists there.

Representatives for the Roger Burch family, which owns the property and the Redwood Empire Sawmill in Cloverdale — where logs from the Silver Estates timber harvest would be milled — said the forest is overstocked and badly in need of thinning to promote the growth of larger trees and reduce excess fuels.

But opponents say they remain unsatisfied by the planning process and have myriad outstanding concerns — everything from effects on wildlife habitat to soil stability, wildfire risks and visual impacts.

They say the plan is governed by “outdated” forest practice rules that fail to account for climate change and heightened wildfire risks where wildland abuts or mixes with settled areas.

“I still feel like we’re living with the legacy of Stumptown, and we still have to make amends,” said John Dunlap, a leader of the local Guerneville Forest Coalition. Stumptown was the nickname acquired by the community during the logging boom at the turn of the 20th century, when timber from the area helped rebuild San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake and fires. “It’s sort of like we’re not really listening to what the environment is telling us.”

Read more at: https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/224-acre-logging-plan-above-russian-river-near-guerneville-awaiting-approva/?sba=AAS

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, TransportationTags , , ,

This California city banned the construction of any new gas stations

Kristin Toussaint, FAST COMPANY

Petaluma has decided it has enough gas stations to last until we transition to electric vehicles.

In the California city of Petaluma, which covers less than 15 square miles, there are currently 16 gas stations. But there will never be another one, even if one of the existing stations goes out of business. The ones that are left also can’t ever expand the number of fuel pumps, either, though they can add electric charging stations and hydrocarbon pumps. City officials recently approved a permanent ban on new gas stations in a move that climate activists say is national first, and a crucial step towards curbing our reliance on fossil fuels.

“It’s a really important sign of things to come where, because we haven’t seen sufficient action at a state or federal level, cities have an opportunity to do the right thing and make sure we are planning a transition from a carbon economy to a clean energy economy,” says Matt Krogh, an oil and gas campaign manager with the environmental nonprofit Stand.earth. “There’s no need to build new fossil fuel infrastructure of any sort. We have all the tools we need for a clean energy economy, and these wasted investments are things that are going to become polluting liabilities, and communities get left holding the bag.”

Across the country the number of gas stations has been steadily declining, as big businesses like Costo, Sam’s Club, and Safeway have been adding gas stations to their existing stores. This can run smaller gas stations out of business—but also creates large environmental repercussions. “If they go out of business, there’s no one to pay for the cleanup or to offer new services like transitioning to electric charging or hydrogen,” Krogh says.

Gas stations have underground storage tanks which can crack and leak, polluting the soil and groundwater. That land has to be completely remediated before the ocation can be used for anything else, a process which often costs millions of dollars. In the U.S., there are currently 450,000 “brownfield” sites—previously developed land that currently isn’t in use and may be contaminated—and the EPA estimates half of those sites are contaminated by petroleum from underground tanks at abandoned gas stations.
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Posted on Categories TransportationTags , , , ,

The growing importance of bike infrastructure

Bridgette DeShields, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE

There is also a growing movement in the U.S. called “Complete Streets” – streets designed to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists, enhance walkability, and increase transit efficiency. Already proven successful in London, Amsterdam, Stockholm, and Copenhagen with encouraging bike commuting and actually revitalizing downtown areas by bringing more people to these safe spaces, features include: protected bike lanes, dedicated bus lanes, accessible public transportation stops, safe crosswalks, and ADA compliant walkways, curbs, signals and more.

Last month, I wrote about the benefits of bike riding, and how attitudes about cycling differ between the U.S. and Europe (and other places). Now I want to examine why that might be and how that could change. One big difference is the investment in safe, convenient bike infrastructure. Bike infrastructure often appears to have a high price tag, but in comparison to the costs to build and maintain roadways for vehicles, the cost is relatively low. A study was conducted in the Portland, Oregon area (a mecca for cycling and bike commuting) in 2013 and found that the city’s entire bicycle network (over 300 miles of bikeways) “would cost $60 million to replace (in 2008 dollars), whereas the same investment would yield just one mile of a four-lane urban freeway.”

So where are we at in Sonoma County? We have really a very small and fragmented network of dedicated bike infrastructure with the main trails (e.g., Joe Rodota, creek trail, SMART path) making up maybe 50 miles at most. It is pretty tough to commute or even take the kids out for much of a spin without having to face less safe road conditions just to get from one trail segment to the other or utilize roadways with bike lanes. In comparison, there are over 600 miles of bike trails in the Denver Metro area. However, even places like the Denver area continue to have challenges. Denver is looking to the future with a plan to institute “Vision Zero,” a transportation planning philosophy about making streets safe for all users, “no matter their choice to walk, bike, drive or take transit.” Several California cities have adopted Vision Zero plans. Los Angeles has committed to end traffic deaths by 2025 in their ambitious Vision Zero Plan.
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Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, TransportationTags , , , ,

Petaluma City Council moves to ban new gas stations

Kathryn Palmer, PETALUMA ARGUS-COURIER

The Petaluma City Council this week moved to ban new gas stations, cementing a nearly two-year moratorium as leaders accelerate ambitious climate action goals.

The prohibition, approved unanimously late Monday, caps a years-long effort by city leaders and climate activists who have pushed an ambitious, zero-emission-by-2030 timeline. The council must approve the ban during a second reading before it takes effect.

It also streamlines processes for existing gas stations seeking to add electric vehicle charging stations and potential hydrogen fuel cell stations, with city staff underlining an urgency to support alternative fueling in order to meet state zero-emission infrastructure targets.

“The goal here is to move away from fossil fuels, and to make it as easy as possible to do that,” Councilor D’Lynda Fischer said. “Right now, we have existing fossil fuel stations, and what we want them to do is add (electric vehicle) chargers and create another source of fueling people can use.”

The city of roughly 60,000 people is host to 16 operational gas stations, and city staff concluded there are multiple stations located within a 5-minute drive of every planned or existing residence within city limits.

A contentious Safeway gas station at McDowell Boulevard and Maria Drive, which drew the ire of residents for its proximity to a school and residential neighborhoods, will see no impacts from the ban.

The controversial project has been locked in a legal battle with resident group Save Petaluma since 2019. The group is suing Safeway and the city in an attempt to compel the company to complete an additional environmental study of the project, with the hope that the study will help block the fueling station first proposed in 2013.
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Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Habitats, Land Use, WildlifeTags , , , , , ,

“Apocalypse Cow:” Point Reyes National Seashore launches a propaganda war targeting independent journalism

Erik Molvar, COUNTERPUNCH

Grab your popcorn: The battle over livestock destruction of natural ecosystems at Point Reyes National Seashore is heating up. For years, conservationists have pointed out the ecologically catastrophic toll that beef and dairy ranching has been having on native coastal prairies, the wildlife that depend on these places, and public health and safety. As the news media has caught on, the tide of public opinion has turned against the livestock producers, in favor of protecting the very rare tule elk population and shifting management of the National Seashore away from livestock production toward public recreation and enjoyment. Now, a National Park Service unit is launching a propaganda war in a desperate effort to control the media narrative, and to cover up decades of laissez-faire mismanagement of livestock operations leasing Park Service lands on the National Seashore.

The flap centers around an investigative journalism piece titled “Apocalypse Cow: The Future of Life at Point Reyes National Park,” which ran in The Bohemian and the Pacific Sun, two local weekly newspapers that serve the counties surrounding Point Reyes National Seashore, and subsequently in Counterpunch. The article characterizes the Park Service analysis of environmental effects of cattle ranching on Point Reyes as “deeply flawed scientifically, culturally and ethically” and “politicized.” It’s a long and in-depth article, covering the politics of Point Reyes, and highlighting the ecologically harmful confinement of elk behind a massive fence on sometimes-waterless Tomales Point, the negative impact that cattle operations are having on climate change, commercial ranching’s destructive influence on rare and protected species of fish and wildlife, water contamination by livestock manure, and the contrast between coastal Miwok stewardship of Point Reyes’ native ecosystems and today’s destruction of those ecosystems at the hands of commercial ranching. Based on responses to the article, the locals seem to appreciate the insightful reporting.

The Park Service is doing its utmost to discredit the piece. On its webpage, “Frequently Asked Questions about the General Management Plan,” the Park Service has a section called “Corrections regarding misinformation published in the press.” The Park Service alleges errors; The Bohemian checked the verity of the article and stands behind it as factual reporting.

Read more at: https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/02/22/apocalypse-cow-point-reyes-national-seashore-launches-a-propaganda-war-targeting-independent-journalism/

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Forests, Land UseTags , ,

County beginning hazard mitigation plan update

Zoe Strickland, THE HEALDSBURG TRIBUNE

Feb. 25 will mark the first in a series of public meetings being held to update Sonoma County’s hazard mitigation plan. The five-year update of the 2016 Sonoma County Local Hazard Mitigation Plan will have a more multi-jurisdictional approach.

According to Permit Sonoma’s website, the update will include Sonoma County; the cities of Santa Rosa, Cotati, Sonoma, Sebastopol, the town of Windsor; the Sonoma County Ag + Open Space District; the Timber Cove, North Sonoma Coast, Cloverdale, Sonoma County and Rancho Adobe fire districts; and both the Gold Ridge and Sonoma Resource Conservation Districts.

Hazard mitigation plans provide a profile of the community, a catalog of likely hazards — the county’s 2016 plan notes floods, fires, landslides and earthquakes — and outlines plans, goals and progress when it comes to mitigating possible hazards.

“The Hazard Mitigation Plan assesses hazard vulnerabilities and identifies mitigation actions the county will pursue in order to reduce the level of injury, property damage and community disruption that might otherwise result from such events,” according to Permit Sonoma. “In addition, adoption of the plan helps the county remain eligible for various types of pre and post disaster community assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the state government.”

The plan update is being headed by a steering committee made up of community members who have emergency management knowledge. The public, however, is also encouraged to attend.
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Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, ForestsTags , ,

Sonoma County Conservation Action group aims to create oak tree clearing moratorium

Katherine Minkiewicz, THE WINDSOR TIMES

A group of conservationists from Sonoma County Conservation Action is urging the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to consider implementing a moratorium on county permitted tree cutting in an effort to save and preserve Sonoma County’s iconic oak woodlands.

“For decades, Sonoma County’s iconic oak forests have been excessively cleared in the name of development and vineyards. Much of this county-permitted cutting is being done without rigorous regard for the ecological importance of native oak and forest lands,” said Aja Henry, an assistant field manager with Sonoma County Conservation Action. “A moratorium on tree cutting is imperative for our native habitats as well as our ecological footprint as a county. If we are to really become carbon neutral by 2050, we need a moratorium on cutting until we have a clearer picture of the situation and have developed a realistic climate-oriented tree ordinance to regulate cutting in the future.”

On Sept. 17, 2019, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors declared a Climate Change Emergency and pledged to support a countywide framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and to pursue local actions that support to protect and enhance the value of working lands and increasing carbon sequestration.

Henry feels that protecting native woodlands would be one way the county could increase carbon sequestration since mature forests store significantly more carbon than younger or newly planted trees.

“Oak forests sequester carbon in the form of biomass, deadwood, litter and in forest soils. The sink of carbon sequestered in forests helps to offset other sources of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, such as deforestation, forest fires and fossil fuel emissions. We have a powerful tool to fight climate change right in our backyard, and we are chopping it down without a careful study of the repercussions,” Henry wrote in a recent Sonoma County Conservation Action newsletter.
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Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Habitats, Land Use, Water, WildlifeTags , , , ,

Park Service pushes back on ‘Apocalypse Cow’

Staff, THE NORTH BAY BOHEMIAN

The Point Reyes National Seashore (PRNS) responded last week to an investigative report published in the North Bay Bohemian and Pacific Sun in early December.

On Tuesday, Feb. 9, PRNS staff sent out an email newsletter titled “Corrections to Media Coverage on the General Management Plan Amendment” to an unknown number of recipients. The agency posted the same text to a Frequently Asked Questions page of its website under the subtitle “Corrections regarding misinformation published in the press.”

The newsletter presents itself as an effort to correct alleged “factual inaccuracies” in “Apocalypse Cow: The Future of Life at Point Reyes National Park,” an investigative article by Peter Byrne published in the Bohemian and Pacific Sun on Dec. 9, 2020. However, PRNS management’s statements about the facts presented in the article are demonstrably inaccurate.

Two month’s prior to the seashore park’s posting of these public facing messages, on Dec.15, PRNS’s Melanie Gunn emailed the Pacific Sun’s editors contesting the accuracy of several facts as reported in “Apocalypse Cow.”

The editors reviewed Gunn’s allegations and decided that the article was accurate. In a Dec. 21 email, news editor Will Carruthers informed Gunn that the article was factually correct and offered to participate in an electronic meeting with Gunn and Byrne to discuss the documentation of the facts.

Read more at: https://bohemian.com/park-service-pushes-back-on-apocalypse-cow/

Posted on Categories WildlifeTags , ,

County residents asked to take down bird feeders, bird baths

Laura Hagar Rush, WINDSOR TIMES

While humans struggle with COVID-19, a migratory bird faces a different epidemic

On Feb. 8, California Fish & Game took the unusual step of asking residents of Sonoma County and several other counties to take down their bird feeders and bring in their bird baths because of an outbreak of salmonellosis among an innocuous little brown bird called the pine siskin.

Veronica Bowers of Native Songbird Care & Conservation in Sebastopol said the outbreak actually began in fall, but that it — like another outbreak we could name — has grown over the winter.

Bowers said that Sonoma County has its own very small population of pine siskins, but that the ones that are getting ill are pine siskins that have migrated south in the thousands from the boreal forests of Canada.

They’re coming in larger numbers than usual this year, a phenomenon called an irruption, and that’s often accompanied, she said, by a salmonellosis outbreak.

The pine siskins aren’t bringing the disease. Rather they’re picking it up from local birds when they congregate at bird feeders or when they use improperly-cleaned bird baths.

“There are a lot of wild birds who are carriers of it, and they just remain asymptomatic, but they’re shedding it by pooping at bird feeders and bird baths,” Bowers said. “There’s probably some immunity among our population of songbirds that are frequenting bird feeders here in California, but for whatever reason that population of pine siskins that come down from further north are just highly susceptible to the salmonella bacteria.”

Typical signs of the illness are lethargy, puffy or fluffed up appearance, and occasionally swollen or irritated eyes. The disease is usually fatal. The last serious outbreak happened in 2014-2015, Bowers said.

Read more at: https://www.sonomawest.com/the_windsor_times/news/county-residents-asked-to-take-down-bird-feeders-bird-baths/

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , ,

How your water heater can be a secret weapon in the climate change fight

Todd Woody, BLOOMBERG NEWS

California wants to replace millions of gas water heaters with high-tech electric ones to serve as “thermal batteries” for storing solar and wind energy.

Nearly every home has a water heater, but people tend not to think about it until the shock of a cold shower signals its failure. To regulators, though, the ubiquitous household appliance is increasingly top of mind for the role it could play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and weaning the power grid from fossil fuels

High-tech electric water heaters can double as thermal batteries, storing excess production from wind and solar generators. In California, officials aim to install them in place of millions of gas water heaters throughout the state. That would reduce the need to fire up polluting fossil fuel power plants to supply electricity for water heating after the sun sets.

“Water heaters have significant potential,” says Commissioner Clifford Rechtschaffen of the California Public Utilities Commission. “We know we’ll need a tremendous amount of storage to get to our decarbonization goals. We’re challenged now in evenings when renewable energy production declines and demand peaks.”

The focus is on heat pump water heaters, which transfer warmth from the atmosphere to a tank. They’re up to four times as efficient as conventional gas or electric water heaters. Nationwide, about half of water heaters are powered by natural gas. In California, water heating is one of the biggest consumers of fossil fuels and gas water heaters account for 90% of the market. Swapping them for heat pump versions could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from water heating in the state by as much as 77%, according to a paper published in January by the nonprofit New Buildings Institute.

Here’s how using heat pump water heaters for energy storage works: When renewable energy production peaks in the afternoon, a signal is sent that activates heat pump water heaters. After heating water, the devices shut down and store the hot water for use in the evening when demand spikes. That puts to use excess renewable energy generated during the day that would otherwise be wasted. Grid operators could also charge these thermal batteries as needed to balance supply and demand or before a planned power outage due to wildfire threats or in anticipation of extreme weather that could trigger blackouts. It’s estimated that heat pump water heaters could store hot water for 12 hours or more, depending on the size of the tank.
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