Frank Robertson, SONOMA WEST
Sonoma County Supervisors agreed to hire an environmental attorney last week to help defend the county against charges that local vineyard development is illegally destroying critical habitat of the California Tiger Salamander.
Sonoma County “routinely issues permits for vineyard development” that has destroyed salamander habitat in the Santa Rosa plain between Windsor and Petaluma, according to a lawsuit filed in January by California River Watch, the Sebastopol non-profit watchdog group that specializes in suing government entities for alleged non-compliance with environmental protection laws.
The California tiger salamander (CTS) was listed nearly 10 years ago as in danger of becoming locally extinct because of development in the Santa Rosa plain. Since then, pro-development advocates and environmental groups have clashed over the appropriate protections needed to keep the salamander from becoming extinct.
The suit filed by River Watch attorneys Jack Silver and Jerry Bernhaut accuses the county of permitting vineyard development that has resulted in violations of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) that prohibits any “take” or harming of a listed species.