Posted on Categories Habitats, WildlifeTags , , ,

Sonoma Valley zoologist seeks creative ways to save mountain lions — and the planet

Austin Murphy, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The day after a young male mountain lion made national news by paying a visit to the Santa Rosa Plaza in April, Quinton Martins ventured a guess as to why the feline ended up at the mall.

“Maybe he was going to the Apple Store to upgrade his Sierra,” deadpanned Martins, a big cat expert with a doctorate in zoology, a robust sense of humor and some unconventional ideas about how best to save the planet.

He followed that one-liner with a slew of scientific analysis. But the quip was vintage Martins, whose public relations instincts are as sharp as his tranquilizer darts. He is the South African-born founder of Glen Ellen’s Living With Lions, a project he leads for Audubon Canyon Ranch. One of his missions is to educate landowners, to show them that it’s better to coexist with apex predators than it is to shoot them.

With the help of volunteers and veterinarians on his team, Martins traps the big cats and collars them, allowing the public to monitor their movements and, in a way, get to know them. Not everyone is on board with this marketing-based approach.

“He’s told us many times he wants his animals to be media stars,” said Greg Martinelli, lands program manager for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “There’s a difference between science and advocacy.” With Martins, he thinks, “those lines are a little blurred.”

Martins, for his part, makes no apologies for his unorthodox approach.

“Obviously we need to keep doing science,” he said. “But we have enough scientific information to know that the environment is in a desperate state, and something drastic needs to be done.”

The man who seeks nothing less than to overhaul and defibrillate the conservation movement grew up in Welkom, South Africa, which he describes as “a crappy gold-mining town” 90 miles northeast of Bloemfontein. His happiest hours were spent outdoors, camping and fishing with his father.

“We used to go to some pretty cool, wild places, to go fishing,” Martins said. “I remember the connection to nature, just sitting quietly, enjoying that peace.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9652183-181/sonoma-valley-zoologist-seeks-creative

Posted on Categories Sustainable Living, TransportationTags , , , , ,

Santa Rosa planning commission approves ambitious bike pedestrian plan

Will Schmitt, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A Highway 101 overcrossing connecting Coddingtown Mall to Santa Rosa Junior College and a contentious railroad crossing with an uncertain future are among the bicycle and pedestrian projects proposed in an aspirational city plan that would more than double the number of bikeways in the city.

“It is an ambitious list,” said Nancy Adams, a city transportation planner. “Once you get the road map, now we have to start talking and having the hard conversations on how do you start and get something accomplished.”

The updated bicycle and pedestrian master plan, which contains dozens of projects meant to make it easier to travel around Santa Rosa without a car, won unanimous approval from the Planning Commission on Thursday. It is set to go before the City Council in March.

The plan is inherently optimistic about the city’s ability to pay for future expansions of its walking and biking network. But cash-strapped Santa Rosa’s leaders have devoted recent budget discussions to cutting spending and replenishing reserves depleted by the October 2017 wildfires to pay down pension liabilities.

The city doesn’t have funding for all of the plan’s projects at this time, Adams acknowledged. The proposed Highway 101 crossing connecting the mall and college campus in north Santa Rosa has funding for its design, but the city hasn’t identified how to pay for its construction, she said.

In all, the city has proposed adding 129 miles of bikeways throughout Santa Rosa, increasing its network of bike paths to 242 miles. Alongside the expansive list of potential projects comes data showing that bikes and feet are far from the most popular ways to get to work in Santa Rosa.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9289467-181/santa-rosa-bike-path-plan

Posted on Categories Land Use, TransportationTags , , , ,

Proposed 867-unit Chanate Road housing project gets critical reception at Santa Rosa neighborhood meeting

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Hundreds of people crowded into a Santa Rosa community center Monday to weigh in on a proposed housing project at the site of Sonoma County’s old hospital complex in the city’s northeastern hills.

Most reflected strong resistance to the size of the planned development and the impact they fear it would have on traffic, local schools and the character of their neighborhoods, among other concerns.

The project as currently envisioned would include nearly 870 housing units at the 82-acre county-owned site off Chanate Road. It was presented for feedback at a neighborhood meeting at the Finley Community Center, a step required by the city before the developer applies for planning permits.

The crowd of more than 300 community members often erupted into cheers and applause — or even some booing, when appropriate — to reflect the severity of its displeasure with plans that one commenter described as a “monstrosity.”

Of particular concern to those in attendance was the impact to traffic on Chanate Road, which is predominantly two lanes and serves as a main thoroughfare in the area. Critics are deeply concerned that placing hundreds of new residents right off an already congested route would make getting around even more difficult, particularly during commute times, and potentially exacerbate difficult evacuations during a disaster like last year’s wildfires.

“Every route that you had there was cut off,” said Frank Schulze, who lives near the project site, describing roads in the area during the October firestorm. “The only way to get the hell out of the way of this fire was to come out Chanate Road and go down onto (Mendocino Avenue). That was it.”

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8471490-181/proposed-867-unit-chanate-road-housing

Posted on Categories TransportationTags , , ,

Santa Rosa bicycle commuter beaten while riding through homeless camp on Joe Rodota Trail

Martin Espinoza, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A bicycle commuter riding Tuesday along the Joe Rodota Trail was assaulted as he passed through a homeless camp on the popular bike and pedestrian path connecting Santa Rosa to Sebastopol.

Bill Petty, 42, was pedaling home when he said a group of eight to 10 people blocked his path. As he tried to walk his bike through the crowd, he said someone pulled on his shirt, an argument broke out and then a man punched him.

Petty said he suffered fractures just above his left eye and on his nose, which he had treated at the hospital.

“I didn’t even see the punch coming,” said Petty, a Roseland resident who for more than a year had been riding his bike every day to and from work on Auto Row on Corby Avenue.

He said he called out to the group as he approached on his bike but no one moved.

“They’re telling me that I should go around, I said, ‘I can’t go around because there’s tents on both sides of the trail,’” Petty said.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8337445-181/santa-rosa-bicycle-commuter-beaten

Posted on Categories TransportationTags , ,

Bicyclists ride to promote safety through Santa Rosa streets

Bill Swindell, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Cycling activists also want more money put toward dedicated pedestrian and bicycling paths in Sonoma County to make them safer, whether for commuters to work or athletes breaking a sweat.

After another dangerous year on local roads, a group of bicyclists pedaled through central Santa Rosa on Wednesday night to raise awareness for greater safety along public streets and roadways.

A small group bicycled a 2-mile route around downtown and the Cherry Street Historic District to commemorate those killed or injured while cycling on public roadways. The silent and somber ride was sponsored by the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition and was part of national event conducted annually in other cities across the country on the third Wednesday of May.

“Every year, we lose a few people,” said Eris Weaver, the coalition’s outreach and events coordinator. “It’s part of our mission. How do we make Sonoma County a safe place to bike?”

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8334357-181/bicyclists-ride-to-promote-safety

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , , , ,

New Sonoma County government office will focus on wildfire recovery, resiliency

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County supervisors Tuesday created a new government office to help the region bounce back from this year’s devastating wildfires and assist with charting a formal vision for the long-term recovery of the local housing supply, the economy and other key areas.
The new Office of Recovery and Resiliency will have its own budget and seven staff members, three of whom will come from the ranks of current county employees. Housed within the County Administrator’s Office, the body will for at least the next five years support the production and implementation of a plan to guide the community’s recovery and improve its ability to withstand future disasters.
Staffing costs this fiscal year will total an estimated $400,000. While the county hopes to get federal reimbursement, local officials must find their own way to pay for it — at least for now — so the Board of Supervisors is expected to consider funding options early next month.
“We have to be bold,” said Supervisor James Gore of the recovery office. “I look forward to this being the start of a really kind of good, deep discussion as we go into next year.”
The plan will focus on five broad areas where the post-fire recovery will play out: the housing market, the economy, the environment, safety net services and local infrastructure. Similar collaborations among county departments have been in place since the fires’ immediate aftermath.
“In the wake of the disaster, our communities must have the right tools to make smart, fast and agile transitions so that we can emerge from this tragedy economically, environmentally and socially stronger than ever,” County Administrator Sheryl Bratton wrote in a document this month outlining her reasoning behind the recovery office proposal. “It can be done but doing it requires a shared vision for the building of a more resilient future — a return to the status quo is not sufficient.”
Read more at: New Sonoma County government office will focus on wildfire recovery, resiliency