Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Land UseTags ,

County’s cannabis update may be headed for a detour

Rollie Atkinson, SONOMA WEST TIMES & NEWS

Narrow planning commissioners vote calls for a more comprehensive environmental impact study

Plans of the Sonoma County’s Board of Supervisors to streamline the permitting process for commercial cannabis cultivation may be headed for a detour following a close Sonoma County Planning Commission vote held last week that is recommending a “more comprehensive update” in conjunction with a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR.) If approved by the supervisors, the EIR process could take more than a year to complete, several attendees of the April 15 commission session predicted.

New cannabis permits can still be filed under current rules included in the older 2018 ordinance while the supervisors consider their next steps, but there is already a large backlog of pending applications.

Last week’s planning commission action follows two years of county staff work and monitoring by a supervisor’s cannabis ad hoc committee (led by Supervisors James Gore and Lynda Hopkins) seeking to replace lengthy public review and planning commission hearings with a “ministerial” process led by the county’s agricultural commissioner’s office.

That goal was also stymied when the planning commission voted 3-2 to not classify cannabis operations as “agriculture” and “agricultural use” and to vacate earlier recommendations to include a broader General Plan update. Defining cannabis as a crop would better support the streamlined permitting process sought by the ad hoc committee and others.

A public hearing in front of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on the updated ordinance is tentatively scheduled for May 18. The April 15 commission resolution was introduced by commissioner Cam Mauritson and supported by Lawrence Reed and Gina Belforte. It was opposed by chair Greg Carr and member Pam Davis. Reed said he favored the motion to “try to get relief to small growers” while a new EIR process proceeds. Davis said she was “not totally comfortable” with the proposals and favored designating cannabis as an “ag activity.”

Read more at https://www.sonomawest.com/sonoma_west_times_and_news/news/county-s-cannabis-update-may-be-headed-for-a-detour/

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Land Use, WaterTags , , ,

Point Reyes dairies targeted over water quality concerns

Tyler Silvy, PETALUMA ARGUS-COURIER

A regional water quality board has launched an investigation into the management practices of three Point Reyes dairies after testing sponsored by environmental advocates uncovered polluted waterways near the more than century-old operations.

The Kehoe Dairy, McClure Dairy and M&J McClelland Dairy have been targeted for on-site inspections by the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, officials confirmed this week, a move that could lead to greater monitoring.

The dairies, located in the northern half of the 70,000-acre Point Reyes National Seashore, each drain to the Pacific Ocean, either via Kehoe Beach to the north or Abbotts Lagoon – popular destinations for hikers and beachgoers.

Water samples collected in late January at multiple locations near the dairies showed elevated levels of bacteria, including coliform bacteria, a key indicator for the presence of fecal matter, according to a civil engineer’s report that was later reviewed by the water quality agency.

Read more at: https://www.petaluma360.com/article/news/point-reyes-dairies-targeted-over-water-quality-concerns/?sba=AAS

Posted on Categories Forests, Land UseTags , , ,

Op-Ed: It’s about time California put the brakes on new housing developments in high-fire risk areas

Editorial Board, LOS ANGELES TIMES

One of the best ways to prevent wildfire destruction and death is to stop building houses in the likely path of the flames. Yet cities and counties across the state keep doing exactly that — approving sprawling new housing developments next to wildlands and marching property and people deeper into high-fire risk areas.

We know this development pattern is dangerous. Half of the buildings destroyed by wildfire in California over the last 30 years have been in developments on the urban fringe, next to wildlands (a type of geography that planners call the “wildland-urban interface”). For years, state leaders have wrung their hands over this contradiction, but demurred from taking action because local governments have control over land-use decisions.

Now, finally, someone in power has gotten off the sidelines. Among his final acts as state attorney general before becoming secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra has gone to court to try to block housing developments approved in high-fire risk areas.

In February, Becerra joined a lawsuit challenging the Guenoc Valley Project, which would put 1,400 houses, hotels, restaurants and shops on Lake County hills that have been burned by wildfires a dozen times, most recently last year. Before the project was approved, Becerra’s office had sent letters to Lake County officials warning that the project’s design would exacerbate wildfire risk and hinder evacuations during a fire.
Continue reading “Op-Ed: It’s about time California put the brakes on new housing developments in high-fire risk areas”

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Land UseTags , , ,

Sonoma County commission to take up long-delayed rules for commercial cannabis farms

Julie Johnson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Information about the changes Sonoma County planning commissioners will consider for cannabis in the county can be found here.

Sonoma County is reconsidering its rules for cannabis cultivation with the goal of streamlining the approval process for growers and aligning the industry more closely with traditional agriculture.

A central element of the county’s plan is to shift oversight for cannabis farming outside city limits from the planning and building department, known as Permit Sonoma, to the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office — a move that would give cannabis farms a clearer path to approval and eliminate the public appeals that are currently a part of that process.

Supervisors approved the change in oversight about 15 months ago to address the county’s struggle to legalize commercial cannabis cultivation, but the disputed revisions have still not been finalized.

Read more at: https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/sonoma-county-commission-to-take-up-long-delayed-rules-for-commercial-canna/

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 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.

Read more at: https://www.sonomawest.com/the_healdsburg_tribune/news/county-beginning-hazard-mitigation-plan-update/article_f4b3ab02-733a-11eb-9cf5-8b9c205f2d90.html#utm_source=sonomawest.com&utm_campaign=%2Fnewsletters%2Fheadlines%2F%3F-dc%3D1614013221&utm_medium=email&utm_content=headline

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 Land UseTags , ,

Santa Rosa approves $38 million in loans for affordable housing

Will Schmitt, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Santa Rosa Housing Authority has approved the use of about $38 million in federal disaster relief funds to build hundreds of new affordable homes in the next few years.

A short-handed Housing Authority on Monday afternoon voted to loan $38,353,107 to the developers of five projects in Santa Rosa that initially offer the promise of 377 units combined, almost all restricted to low-income residents.

The largest single award, notable for both its circumstances and its size, went to the first phase of the 3575 Mendocino Avenue project, which when fully built envisions 532 homes on the site of the former Journey’s End mobile home park. Linda Adrian, a former park resident and vocal supporter of the redevelopment effort, praised the $11.9 million award to the project, which would create 370 market-rate apartments as well as 162 units in an affordable development to replace the 160 Journey’s End homes, most of which were destroyed in the 2017 Tubbs fire.

“At the moment, I’m still living in a temporary apartment which is only 320 square feet, and I’ve been waiting for this — for Journey’s End to be rebuilt so I can move back in,” said Adrian, who lived at the park for 25 years.

The funds represent a bittersweet windfall for a city in desperate need for additional affordable places to live. While the money offers a rare chance to boost several large projects simultaneously, Santa Rosa wouldn’t have had access to the funds if it hadn’t suffered through the enormous disaster of the Tubbs fire.
Continue reading “Santa Rosa approves $38 million in loans for affordable housing”

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Habitats, Land Use, WildlifeTags , , ,

Point Reyes Seashore is one step closer to national dairy farm

Joe Sweeney, THE CALIFORNIA AGGIE

The Park Service’s proposed management plan of the Point Reyes Seashore prioritizes agriculture over wildlife in a national park

In Marin County, ranching is more than just a nine to five for many residents, but a way of life. Roughly half the land in Marin County is designated for farming or ranchland. Ranching has existed in the Marin for years, going back to the first settlers’ arrival in the area. Nestled within this agricultural landscape are a few conservation gems like Mt. Tamalpais, Muir Woods and most of all the iconic Point Reyes National Seashore. Keeping this lengthy history in mind, agriculture has outstayed its welcome in the Seashore. The Point Reyes peninsula was just narrowly saved from development and remains a slice of wilderness in the rapidly changing landscape of California. There are thousands of acres of farmland across the Golden State, but only one National Seashore on the entire West Coast.

Point Reyes is so unique in fact, it is designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as an international biosphere preserve—home to hundreds of species which are endangered and only found in the peninsula. Despite this status, roughly a third of the park’s land is designated for agricultural use. This prevents visitors from using a large portion of the park and contributes to growing concerns about the environmental impact of ranching on the Seashore’s ecosystems. To truly understand this complex issue, we have to understand its history.

The modern history of Point Reyes has been characterized by compromise. When the park was founded in the ‘60s, it was not without controversy. Initially both sides, parts of the federal government and the ranching community, were vehemently against the Seashore’s establishment, but the Ranchers’ tune quickly changed realizing that federal subsidies would help keep the industry afloat.

Additional concerns were raised by members of Congress about leasing the park land as a national park, which would be a first. When the park was established, there was no mention of permanently establishing ranching in the 1962 legislation. Although later amendments added the possibility of extending leases, the intention that ranches be phased out is present from the very beginning of the Seashore. The original agreement was that the ranchers were allowed to reserve a right to use the land for 25 years or the life of the original owner. As that period came to an end, ranches were still there and coming up with any reason to stay.

“I know the people who put [The Point Reyes Act] together. At the 40th anniversary I talked to Stewart Udall, the Secretary of Interior. He remembered the same thing I did, that ranching was never intended to be permanent,” said Ken Brower, an environmental writer and son of David Brower. “The founder’s idea had nothing to do with what you’re hearing now from ranchers, that they’d be here forever.”

You may often hear that the Seashore ranches are “historic” and must be preserved on that basis for future generations. This is blatant propaganda. If these ranches truly had historic value, this “historic” status would logically also be applied to the oyster farms, which had been in business for nearly a hundred years before being shut down by the park service due to a variety of reasons.
Continue reading “Point Reyes Seashore is one step closer to national dairy farm”