Posted on Categories Habitats, Land Use, WildlifeTags , , , , ,

U.S. Fish & Wildlife finally produces recovery plan for the California tiger salamander in Sonoma County

A federal plan for preserving the endangered California tiger salamander and three wildflower species calls for the purchase of 15,000 acres of land in the Santa Rosa Plain for an estimated $385 million over the next 50 years.
The 144-page plan from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is not legally binding on any public or private landowners, but serves as a road map for recovery of the black-and-yellow amphibian that has frustrated Sonoma County builders and piled millions of dollars onto the cost of major developments, like the expansion of runways at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport.
But biologists are committed to saving the seldom-seen salamanders that have lost more than 80 percent of their habitat, primarily because of urban growth that has intensified over the past 20 years, according to the federal blueprint.
“With a recovery plan we can fight threats like habitat destruction that have pushed these salamanders to the brink of extinction,” said Jenny Loda, a biologist and attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, the conservation group whose lawsuit in 2012 prompted work on the plan released Monday by the federal wildlife agency.
The federal document aims to bolster three endangered flowering plants — Sonoma sunshine, Burke’s goldfields and Sebastopol meadowfoam — that grow only in seasonal wetlands.
The size of the salamander population is difficult to estimate, given the animal’s reclusive habits, but its historic range in Sonoma County of about 100,000 acres has been pared to about 20,000 acres of “fragmented habitat,” the plan said.
Tiger salamanders inhabit the Santa Rosa Plain, a narrow band of land from Cotati to Windsor, with a concentration of the amphibians between southwest Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park.
“They are in trouble,” said Josh Hull, a recovery division chief for Fish and Wildlife. The species’ endangered classification means they are “likely to become extinct in the foreseeable future.”
Read more at: Feds say $385 million needed to save California tiger salamander, endangered plants on Santa Rosa Plain | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Habitats, WildlifeTags , ,

Appreciating the magic of Sonoma County’s vernal pools 

A rare and showy plant is blooming right now. Its name is “Sonoma Sunshine” (Blennosperma bakeri), and it is aptly labeled, as it beams a brilliant shade of yellow. What makes this plant so special is that the world’s entire population is right here in Sonoma County, and it occupies a unique and often overlooked habitat in our region: vernal pools.
Vernal pools are places on the landscape that hold water in spring but dry up completely in summer. If you think about it, that’s a hard place to be a plant, so vernal pools are home to plants with innovative strategies for survival. Most of them are annuals, meaning they go through their entire life cycle in one season and survive the hot, dry summer season as seeds.
Sonoma Sunshine is one of these.
In the early spring the seeds germinate in the shallow saturated waters of the vernal pool and send roots down and leaves upward. The plant grows quickly in full knowledge that its time is limited. It reaches up toward the sky and develops its showy daisy-like flower. And then it waits.
Read more at: Appreciating the magic of Sonoma County’s vernal pools | The Press Democrat