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Conservation Corner July/August 2019

Audubon Advocacy Day

Audubon Advocay Day in Sacramento


By Shani Kleinhaus

On May 7th, Shani, Lauren, and Dash travelled to Sacramento to join Audubon Advocacy Day and meet with California Senators and Assemblymembers to advocate for several state legislative efforts. The champion of the event was Assemblymember Ash Kalra, who was our ally on creeks and birds when he was a San Jose City Council Member, and continues to support birds and open space as a California legislator. Ash introduced two Bills: AB454 and AB948
AB454 - (Migratory Birds: California Migratory Bird Protection Act) focuses on recovery of the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act in California. The Trump administration has limited the interpretation of this law to intentional killing of migratory birds, and
took away the protection to all nesting birds that can be impacted by various projects - from tree removal to buildings and even oil field development. AB454 allows the state to regulate migratory bird and nesting bird protections independently of federal law.
Closer to home, Assemblymember Kalra offered AB948 - Coyote Valley Conservation Program. AB 948 would establish the Coyote Valley Conservation Program (CVCP) to further the state’s efforts to protect Coyote Valley in recognition of the Valley’s unique natural resource benefits that are of statewide significance. The Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority would develop and administer the program to conserve and restore this vital natural resource.
SCVAS recognizes Coyote Valley as a unique treasure in Santa Clara County. Over 200 species of local and migratory birds have been observed here as they seek sustenance and protection in agricultural fields, oak savannas, creek corridors and wetlands. Coyote Valley’s natural resources provide climate and natural infrastructure benefits, including flood attenuation, groundwater recharge, and carbon sequestration from natural and working lands.
Coyote Valley has long been under the threat of development that contradicts the state’s policies and goals to reduce vehicle miles traveled, greenhouse gas emissions, protect wildlife habitat and connectivity, employ natural infrastructure to provide resilience to climate change, and sustain agriculture. We thank Assemblymember Ash Kalra for his strong support of our values and mission, and for helping us elevate the importance of birds and nature in Sacramento.

The City of San Jose strengthens Bird Safe Design Standards and Guidelines for the Downtown area

It seems that every day, a new tower pops up in downtown San Jose. Development along the Guadalupe River and Los Gatos Creek is expected to intensify as Google comes to the Diridon area. Growth is accelerating and the hazards to migratory birds are increasing. In May, after months of negotiations, San Jose City Council unanimously approved Mandatory Bird Safe Design Standards and additional voluntary Guidelines as part of the Downtown San Jose Design Guidelines. The standards and guidelines are strongest within 300 feet of the creeks, but some protections apply to all new buildings in the downtown areas. So now, the areas where most development occurs - North San Jose and the Downtown creek corridors - are protected with bird safe design requirements! We are especially thankful to Planning Commissioners John Leyba and Michelle Yesney and to Councilmember Raul Peralez and Mayor Sam Liccardo for their encouragement and stewardship of this achievement.

Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors added language protecting streams and riparian corridors to its Environmental Stewardship Goals.

SCVAS joined other environmental organizations asking the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors to adopt language protecting riparian corridors. On May 21st, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors amended the County’s goals for Environmental Stewardship, adding language to “develop educational programs and volunteer service opportunities that promote local stewardship of streams and riparian corridors.” The Supervisors also added language to “develop programs of ecologically compatible receational use of streams and riparian corridors.” The County will seek out potential partnerships and meet the appropriate requirements towards these ends, including staffing and mandating changes within the parks and recreation department. We thank Supervisor Susan Ellenberg for her initiative on this important issue..

SCVAS commented on the Coyote Canyon Natural Resources Management Plan & Interim Access Plan Draft Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration (IS/MND), asking for a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

Several years ago, SCVAS advocated against Coyote Highlands - a cluster housing development of twenty homes on the hillside east of Morgan Hill. The property was never developed and was later sold to Santa Clara County Parks for 25 million dollars. Now, County Parks looks to develop trails and to open the property (now named Coyote Canyon) to the public. On May 20, SCVAS and the Sierra Club submitted comments on environmental documents (IS/MND) in which we identified many key areas where the documents did not properly identify potential environmental impacts on Coyote Canyon. Current plans involve cattle grazing and fence construction that would impede wildlife movement and degrade the quality of waterways and wetland habitat. Given that the existing document is insufficient, we asked for a full Environmental Impact Report to properly analyze the impacts of the proposed plan.
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Previous Conservation Corner (March/April 2019)