Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
In a first, Audubon Canyon Ranch biologists trapped a female mountain lion Wednesday night in Sonoma Valley and outfitted the sedated animal with a GPS collar before letting her back into the wild so they could track her movements.
The delicate operation is part of a groundbreaking effort to protect what remains of the Wine Country habitat where lions and other creatures live.
The study is being led by Quinton Martins, a South African biologist whose experience includes tracking leopards in remote corners of the world.
Martins and a team that included two veterinarians were alerted Wednesday at about 8 p.m. that a mountain lion they’d previously spotted on a wildlife camera had entered a cage filled with road-kill deer.
The trap was set on the grounds of Glen Oaks Ranch, a 234-acre Sonoma Land Trust property that borders ACR’s Bouverie Preserve in Glen Ellen.
The research team reached the trapped lion in less than 10 minutes and sedated the big cat using a blow pipe, according to Wendy Coy, a spokeswoman for ACR.
The biologists fitted the lion with the GPS collar and also collected blood, tissue and other biological samples. The cat, named P1 for “Puma 1,” is estimated at between 8 and 10 years old. She weighed about 86 pounds and was over 6 feet long from her nose to the tip of her tail.
Read more at: Researchers collar Sonoma Valley mountain lion for tracking purposes | The Press Democrat
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
Judith Lewis Mernit, CAPITAL & MAIN
A study on water demand from marijuana growing shows that 25% to 100% of the water in the study watersheds may be diverted during low-flow periods.
Another study estimates that indoor marijuana cultivation uses 3% of California’s total electricity.
In his sunny office on the edge of town in Arcata, California, Scott Greacen pulls up a slideshow on his large high-resolution monitor. As wildflowers sway in the wind outside a window, a woodsy guitar solo starts to play along with the pictures. Greacen mutes it; he wants to focus on destruction. Aerial images of clear-cut plots within the coastal forest, bounded by dusty roads and dotted with trucks, show the intrusion of industrial marijuana cultivation into redwood groves and hillsides. Some plots are small, barely detectable. Others cover hundreds of acres with row upon row of oblong structures covered with white tarps, blighting the landscape like giant predatory maggots.
“Look,” Greacen says, pointing to the screen. “Eleven greenhouses on the top of a ridge. Where does the water come from?”
Greacen, who has the genial appearance of a scholarly mountain man — neatly trimmed beard, wire-rimmed glasses, long hair parted in the middle and tied back — is the executive director of Friends of the Eel River, a nonprofit founded in 1994 to promote the restoration of California’s third-largest watershed. The 200-mile long Eel runs south to north from Mendocino County to the Pacific Ocean below the central Humboldt County city of Eureka. It has been hammered by industry for more than a century, dammed and drained to serve municipal water demand in Mendocino and Sonoma counties. Timber companies, too, have done their share of damage, stripping slide-prone land of stabilizing vegetation and causing sediment to clog the river’s already diminished flows.
“Our coast range has a seismic uplift equivalent to the Himalayas,” Greacen says. “If it weren’t for erosion, we’d have a Mount Everest.”
Mountains lifted out of the ancient seabed typically shed a certain amount of fine sediment into the Eel, but at a rate the river’s flow can handle. The accelerated spalling caused by roads, traffic and grading, sifts in much more. Anadromous salmon travel hundreds of miles from the ocean inland to spawn in the river bed’s oxygenated gravel. If that gravel is clogged with sediment, the eggs will suffocate before they hatch.
The Eel, its forks and many smaller tributaries had only recently begun to recover from timber’s assaults when, in the 1990s, a relatively benign, back-to-the-land cannabis movement exploded in Humboldt’s mountains. The Compassionate Use Act of 1996, passed by voters as Proposition 215, legalized marijuana for medical use, opening a whole new market for weed. Growing operations multiplied on public and private land in California, particularly in the forested reaches of Mendocino, Trinity and Humboldt counties, a region so full of cannabis crops it’s known as the “Emerald Triangle.”
Read more at: High Times: Marijuana Growing and the Environment – Capital & Main
Tim Fish, WINE SPECTATOR.COM
Winemaker Paul Hobbs has purchased the 42-acre Goldrock Ridge Vineyard in the isolated hills of the Sonoma Coast. The sale price was not disclosed, but vineyards in the region sell for as much as $200,000 an acre.
Located near the village of Annapolis, the vineyard is about five miles from the Pacific Ocean and is set on a rolling hilltop at an elevation of 550 feet. Planted to 38 acres of Pinot Noir and 4 acres of Chardonnay, the vineyard previously sold grapes to Patz & Hall and MacRostie wineries, as well as Hobbs.
“Finding a vineyard like Goldrock Ridge is like finding a rare diamond,” Hobbs said in a statement, calling the purchase, “a pillar for our future.”
Considered part of the “true Sonoma Coast,” to distinguish it from the larger appellation with that name, the remote region in northwest Sonoma County is highly regarded by Pinot Noir producers. However, new vineyard development is scarce because of the rugged terrain, lack of water and environmental restrictions, making already-planted land appealing. (Hobbs himself has wrestled with vineyard development disputes in Sonoma).
The previous owner of Goldrock Ridge, CalPERS, the powerful state workers pension fund, sparked controversy in the region in 2012 with a plan to convert nearly 2,000 acres of timberland to vineyards. Since that deal fell through in 2013, CalPERS has been divesting itself from land holdings in recent years.
Hobbs owns numerous vineyards including Edward James, Ellen Lane, Katherine Lindsay and Ross Station in the Russian River Valley and Nathan Coombs in Napa Valley’s Coombsville area. In addition to his California brands Paul Hobbs and CrossBarn, the winemaker is an active consultant in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, France, Canada and Armenia
Read more at: Winemaker Paul Hobbs Buys a Prized Piece of Sonoma Coast | News | News & Features | Wine Spectator
Eloísa Ruano González, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A busy stretch of road that runs along San Pablo Bay just south of Sonoma Raceway is considered a hot spot for roadkill.
Highway 37, which connects Novato to Vallejo, slices right through major habitat for jackrabbits, deer, coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions. The high speed limit and heavy congestion makes the four-lane highway an extreme peril for animals wanting to cross.
“For animals, it’s bad news,” said Fraser Shilling, co-director of the UC Davis Road Ecology Center.
With wetland restoration going on at Sears Point, he said, more animals will be drawn to cross the highway to get to the newly restored marshes to the south for food and habitat. They currently don’t have much of an option except bolting across the road, where an average of 37,000 vehicles travel a day, Caltrans said.
“A road like that with that much traffic makes it difficult for animals to move,” said Julian Meisler, baylands program manager with the Sonoma Land Trust.
The Land Trust is working on creating a safer wildlife passage under the highway. It has teamed up with groups such as the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge and Point Blue Conservation Science’s Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed program, known as STRAW, to restore the creek that flows through a decades-old cattle underpass. They’re planting willows, oaks, coyote brush and other plants to make the culvert more attractive for wildlife to use.
Animals avoided the underpass, about three-quarters of a mile west of the intersection of Highways 37 and 121, because of the lack of trees and shrubs to serve as cover, said Don Brubaker, manager of the wildlife refuge, which owns and manages the land to the south of the highway.
“We need to advertise this as a way to go (across) that wildlife understand,” Brubaker said, adding the best way to do so is by creating desirable habitat for animals.
Read more at: Highway 37 crossing for wildlife in the works | The Press Democrat
Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The site is at the heart of the Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor, linking more than 9,000 acres of protected land running west to east from Sonoma Mountain to the Mayacamas mountains. The property also is a bridge between Jack London State Historic Park and Sonoma Valley Regional Park.
Deer, mountain lion, coyote, bobcat and rare species that include steelhead trout, northern spotted owl and California red-legged frog live on or frequent the site. Sonoma Creek, which runs through the center’s property for about three-quarters of a mile, is one of the county’s most significant streams for steelhead.
A coalition led by the Sonoma Land Trust has launched an intensive review of potential uses for nearly 1,000 acres of prime real estate and the buildings that make up the Sonoma Developmental Center should the state close the facility.
Dubbed the “Transform SDC Project,” the 18-month review includes a series of public meetings for people to weigh in on the center’s future. The first meeting is scheduled for May 2 in Sonoma.
“We’re hoping anyone that cares about SDC will see this as the place to bring their ideas,” said John McCaull, the Sonoma Valley land acquisitions project manager for the Land Trust.
The center near Glen Ellen is battling declining admissions, licensing problems and calls to shut down to save taxpayers money. But what to do with the campus, which includes 145 buildings, and pristine grounds surrounding it is the source of an intensifying political and land-use battle.
About 400 or so developmentally disabled people still reside at the center and receive around-the-clock care there. With about 1,300 employees, the center also is Sonoma Valley’s largest employer.
One model being touted for the center’s future use is for a government entity to maintain ownership of the buildings and lease space to generate revenue. The surrounding property under this vision would be maintained as open space or become additions to nearby county or state parks.
Read more via: Charting path for developmental center’s site | The Press Democrat
Ellen Knickmeyer, ASSOCIATED PRESS
TOP 5 DEADLIEST ROADKILL HOTSPOTS
1. Interstate 5, the state’s major north-south corridor: Particularly deadly for owls and other birds of prey, for black bears living near Mount Shasta in Northern California, and for all wildlife on the Tejon Pass linking Central and Southern California.
2. State Route 17 between San Jose and Santa Cruz: Deadly for puma, bobcats, deer and other animals.
3. Interstate 280 in the San Francisco Bay Area: Bad for deer.
4. State Route 50 in the Sierra Nevada Mountain area: Lethal for several species.
5: State Route 101 through Northern California redwoods: Lethal to all forms of wildlife.
Worst highway carving up animal habitat: Interstate 80 across the Sierra Nevada.
Busy freeways running alongside park land and marshes make San Francisco Bay Area roads a “ring of death” for wildlife, according to a new statewide roadkill report that tracks the deadliest traffic spots for wildlife.
Fraser Shilling, co-director of the Road Ecology Center at the University of California-Davis, used 29,000 volunteer reports of wildlife roadkill over five years to map the most lethal areas for the state’s 680 native species of bobcats, barn owls, frogs and other vertebrates.
The idea is to identify stretches that need immediate action to try to protect wildlife — and to make clear the overall toll that California’s car culture is taking on native species, Shilling said.
“Just having all the roads and traffic we have is resulting in really big changes in the ecosystem,” Shilling said. “It’s getting worse as you see more traffic and more roads.”
Roadways — which kill not only by collisions with cars but by carving up habitat — are the third-biggest cause of wildlife death, and the biggest cause for some state species, like pumas, he said.
Besides Interstate 80 and California 101 in the Bay Area, where large numbers of wading birds and water birds die, top roadkill spots include San Diego County’s California Route 94, which runs through wildlife habitat, and Interstates 80 and 5 in the Sacramento area under the Pacific Flyway migratory bird route.
One way to lessen deaths is to avoid planting roadsides with berries, blooms or other plants that attract wildlife. Highway crossings for wildlife – land bridges are best, but tunnels are more common — help some species, he said.
California’s move toward such wildlife crossings is “really far too slow,” Shilling said. “We need a 10-year program of 10- to 20 structures a year.”
Read more via 5-year roadkill effort tracks California’s deadliest roads | The Press Democrat.