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Photo by Tom Grey

Conservation Corner November/December 2017

By Shani Kleinhaus and Mackenzie Mossing

 

Cannabis Cultivation: What Does it Mean for our Waterways?

California’s legalization of cannabis has brought unforeseen implications that may threaten natural resources throughout the state. The state is now developing rules for cannabis cultivation and the current draft policy allows marijuana growers to develop roads and other infrastructure without environmental review, and to bypass the Clean Water Act on federal and state levels. We are greatly concerned with encroachment into waterways and their sensitive ecosystems without CEQA review and without biological opinions by government agencies that examine impacts to endangered species. We outlined our concerns in a letter to the State Water Resources Control Board hoping that the state will make changes for a better final policy. Santa Clara County supervisors adopted a moratorium that temporarily bans commercial cannabis cultivation in unincorporated areas of our county, but this may change in the near future, so we will remain vigilant.

 

A Win for Wildlife in Los Altos Hills

A long-term engagement with the community of Los Altos Hills focused on the proposed nine-home Stirling subdivision on nineteen acres at the headwater of Matadero Creek. We were concerned with fencing that could block wildlife movement and with the loss of habitat and mature oak trees. Advocacy can be effective! The developer is now looking to preserve oaks and habitat, and to minimize fencing to allow permeability and enhance habitat.

 

Preservation or Parking Lot?

McClellan Ranch Preserve has been SCVAS’s home for over twenty years. We have fought hard in the past to preserve its natural beauty and ecological integrity from proposals that threatened to pave and build along Stevens Creek. Considering our history with Cupertino, we were dismayed to learn recently that there is a proposal to pave the west side of Steven’s Creek to serve as overflow parking for the preserve. The plans showed an abysmal setback from the creek (less than twenty feet!) and did not include any restorative efforts. We wrote a letter to the City urging them to evaluate other solutions for parking, implement a fifty-ft setback from the creek and restore habitat along the riparian corridor.

 

Private Home Pushing the Limits

This summer, Audubon members in the Cupertino community alerted us to a proposal for a 9,000-square-foot home in the hillsides on Lindy Lane. While we do not always take issue with private home development, we sprang into action when we learned the project proposed to destroy nineteen trees, including many native oaks. We were also concerned that approval of this project would set a precedent for more urban sprawl into the hillsides. Through letters and conversations with staff and planning commissioners, we urged the City to reduce the project’s footprint and the number of trees that would be removed. The City also heard overwhelming opposition from the community. The Planning Commission has since asked the developer to return with a significantly smaller design.

 

The Fight to Save Coyote Valley Continues

In Coyote Valley and Santa Teresa Hills, we continue to dedicate efforts to review, comment and oppose inappropriate development and to promote the preservation of Coyote Valley and the Santa Teresa Hills nearby. We are currently following development proposals for a home and access road, mobile home resort, and warehouses, as efforts continue to develop the valley floor and the hills that surround it.

 

Fun and Learning in Overfelt Gardens, East San Jose

Our nature exploration of Overfelt Gardens on September 23rd was a huge success! Nearly fifty people (including local community members, families, and San Jose State students) divided into groups and explored the park’s history and biodiversity. We used the iNaturalist and eBird applications on our smart phones to document every life form that we found. In total, 900 observations recorded 193 species, including 23 species of birds, 38 insects, 12 galls, 15 lichens and mosses, 1 reptile, 4 mammals, and 100 species of trees and plants (see https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/overfelt-park-bioblitz). Bird highlights included a Willow Flycatcher, Wilson’s Snipe, Belted Kingfisher and Black-throated Gray Warbler! We thank San Jose Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco and her staff, San Jose Parks, Recreation & Neighborhood Services, San Jose Parks Advocates, and San Jose State University for their collaboration and participation in this event. We are also grateful for the volunteers who lent their time and expertise to help us create a fun, educational experience for everyone.