Conservation Corner September/October 2019
In its priority setting session for the next two years, the City of Mountain View voted to prepare to “Consolidate and update existing plans into a comprehensive wildlife and habitat management plan” as part of its goal to “Promote Environmental Sustainability and the Quality of Life for the Enjoyment of Current and Future Generations with a focus on Measurable Outcomes.” A wildlife management plan should help capture best practices that are successful in promoting and protecting avian species that nest at Shoreline Park, including the Black Skimmers, Forster’s Terns and Black-necked Stilts on the island, White-tailed Kites, Burrowing Owls, Western Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, Cliff Swallows and many other species!
Tree Swallows using Mountain View nest box
Our advocacy efforts continue to focus on Coyote Valley. Recently, the City of San Jose updated the scope of the General Plan 4-Year Review to include a robust discussion on the long-term future of North Coyote Valley and the Mid-Coyote Urban Reserve in achieving key city objectives, including not only economic goals, but also the preservation of open space and wildlife habitat, flood and groundwater protection, agriculture, climate change resilience, and passive recreation.
Also in June, the Los Gatos Town Council unanimously approved a wildlife-friendly fence ordinance. The new ordinance will require all new perimeter fences on hillside lots larger than one acre in the Town of Los Gatos to be wildlife-friendly. Our previous effort regarding fencing in Los Gatos resulted in the prohibition of transparent glass or plastic fencing. Together, these rules make creeks and roadsides safer for birds and wildlife, and allow better permeability and animal movement linkages. We thank Dashiel Leeds, our volunteer who worked so diligently to secure this outcome, and we thank council members Marico Sayoc, Barbara Spector, Marcia Jensen, Rob Rennie and Mayor Steve Leonardis for approving this ordinance.
The County Planning Commission recommended that prior to approving the Stanford General Use Permit (GUP), staff should consider including bird safe design, protections for native oak trees older than 100 years, and strong protections for open space in the foothills, including the possibility of permanent easements. The Stanford GUP and its associated approval documents go to the Board ofSupervisors next, and SCVAS will be following closely. We thank the County Planning Commissioners for their hard work, and Commissioner Vicki Moore for making the motion.
We continue to await the Environmental Impact Report for a Sand Quarry in Sargent Ranch, south of Gilroy. Over a 30-year operational period, the proposed quarry would mine 320 acres of land. The project includes a 14-acre processing plant, three 200-foot deep open pit quarry sites, a 1.6-mile long conveyor belt, and a 30-foot wide access road. An estimated 40 million tons of sand and gravel aggregate would be produced for use in local road building and general construction. Annual water consumption is estimated at 17,260,000 gallons. This is of concern since conservation banks generally fail to fully mitigate for the loss of individuals of endangered species and their habitat, so this project has the potential to impact endangered species at Sargent Ranch as well as elsewhere in California. SCVAS is opposed to the quarry, and expect to engage when the environmental review documents are released.
In San Jose, we submitted scoping comments on the environmental impact assessment for the Almaden Office Project. We focused on impacts to the Guadalupe River and its riparian corridor. In Campbell, we submitted comments on the Dell Avenue Office Project near Los Gatos Creek. Both projects have the potential to impact birds in the Guadalupe River watershed.
State Legislation Updates
On July 1st, California became the first state to ban the use of lead bullets for all hunting activities. This is important because lead bullets present an environmental risk to wildlife, especially the endangered California Condor. Studies conducted before the law’s passage suggested that the bird population was being poisoned after ingesting lead fragments left behind by hunters in the entrails of game animals. The law, which we supported and originally passed in 2013 applies to all hunters shooting any type of game with a firearm on public or private land. Hunters using lead ammunition will be subject to fines: first-time offenders risk losing hunting privileges and can be fined up to $500. Subsequent violations bring a minimum $1,000 fine.
Several 2019-2020 bills that we support have passed most of the legislative process, and we continue to follow them as they make their way to the Governor’s desk. This includes:
• AB-1788 Pesticides: use of anticoagulants; looking to protect raptors and other carnivore species from secondary poisoning
• AB-454 Migratory Birds: California Migratory Bird Protection Act. Sponsored by Assemblymember Ash Kalra, this bill looks to reinstate protections to migratory birds that were removed by the federal administration.
• SB-767 Off-highway Vehicular Recreation: Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area: Alameda-Tesla Expansion Area. This bill aims to stop the expansion of off-road vehicle recreation to an ecologically sensitive area in the East Bay.
• AB-948 Coyote Valley Conservation Program: (Introduced by Assemblymember Kalra with Coauthors: Assemblymembers Kansen Chu, Robert Rivas, and Mark Stone; and Senators Jim Beall and Bill Monning) to authorize the Open Space Authority to establish and administer the Coyote Valley Conservation Program to address resource and recreational goals of the Coyote Valley
• SB-1 California Environmental, Public Health, and Workers Defense Act of 2019: aims (among other goals) to reinstate protections to clean air and water, and protections to endangered species to respond to the removal of these protections by the federal administration.