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On April 11, the California Coastal Commission approved the development of a large hotel and condominium complex sited on beach and dune habitat on Monterey Bay in Sand City. The developer calls the 360-unit complex, with parking for almost 1,000 cars, the "Monterey Shores Eco-resort." Environmental groups have opposed the project for years. At risk is a population of Western Snowy Plovers, a federally threatened species who nest and raise their broods in the footprint of the proposed resort.
Instead of requiring Monterey Shores Eco-resort developer Ed Ghandour to work collaboratively with biologists from USFWS to draft a binding Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and apply for an "Incidental Take Permit," pursuant to the Endangered Species Act, the Coastal Commission ruled that a revised "Habitat Protection Plan" (HPP) was enough to safeguard three federally listed species located on the property. In addition to the plover, the Smiths Blue Butterfly and several native plant species will be impacted by the project. "Ghandour's claim that Snowy Plovers will thrive on the hotel property just doesn't make biological sense. With only about 28 coastal nesting locations remaining along the Pacific, the population cannot afford another loss," explained Jones.
"The California Coastal Commission failed the public today," said Audubon California Coastal Program Director Andrea Jones. "The process of approving this project, which has been going on for 15 years, went against the very intent of the Coastal Act by ruling in favor of the destruction of Snowy Plover and coastal dune habitat."
Read More | See Also: Sierra Club Submits Letter Opposing Monterey Bay Shores Resort to CA Coastal Commission
In March, Turtle Island Restoration Network ‘s Salmon Protection And Watershed Network (SPAWN) won a legal battle with the County of Marin to protect the last population of wild California coho coastal salmon. A California appeals court affirmed SPAWN's position that the Marin county-wide plan was unlawful because the county failed to analyze cumulative impacts and provided spurious mitigation for destruction of salmon habitat.
The California Court of Appeals found that the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) completed by the County as mandated by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) failed to do sound environmental analysis and failed to properly mitigate the impacts of future development. It directed the lower court to ensure that the County complete a proper and legal environmental analysis, including a cumulative impact analysis, in order to enact its 2007 Countywide General Plan. The case will now move back to the lower court with a clear mandate from the CA Appeals Court to adequately protect California’s endangered coho salmon.
“It's a damn shame that the Marin Supervisors have wasted hundreds of thousands of tax-payer dollars and years of inaction defending an indefensible and environmentally harmful position instead of working with SPAWN to take common-sense actions to save these endangered fish for the public good,” said Todd Steiner, wildlife biologist and executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network’s SPAWN program.
Read More | Turtle Island Restoration Network | See Also: Marin County’s Golden Opportunity to Protect Region’s Endangered Coho Salmon
| Salmon Protection Advocates File Lawsuit Against Flawed Marin County Streamside Ordinance
Community members in San Benito are hoping they will be the first "frontline" county in California to ban fracking and other methods of extreme oil and gas extraction. Since late March, volunteers across the county have begun collecting signatures for a fracking ban initiative they hope to have on the ballot in November. Progress is moving quickly; after two weeks of collecting signatures, the organization San Benito Rising announced they were nearly halfway through their drive.
Members of San Benito Rising filed the notice of intent to circulate the petition with the county clerk in late February. That notice states that they have begun the process in hopes of "protecting the county’s groundwater supplies and preserving its rural heritage." They believe the county is at a "tipping point" and hope the fracking ban will prevent the possibility of what they call a "proliferation of proposals" to conduct hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and other high-intensity petroleum operations in the county’s unincorporated areas. The initiative to ban fracking, if passed by voters, will prohibit the use of any land within the county’s unincorporated area for fracking and other high-intensity petroleum operations. The initiative will also prohibit the use of land for any petroleum operations within the county’s unincorporated residential areas.
Residents consider San Benito to be a "frontline" community because they currently have oil and gas drilling in their county, which sits on top of the Monterey Shale formation. In the county there are many dry or abandoned oil wells near San Juan Bautista, and near Hollister there are active wells, in addition to many that are dry or abandoned. In 2013, environmentalists began fighting a proposal to bring oil operations in endangered Condor habitat near Pinnacles National Park. San Benito Rising is concerned that the oil and gas industry could re-stimulate the abandoned, old wells in their area using new extreme drilling techniques such as cyclic steam injection, acid fracking, and acid matrix stimulation.
Read More with Photos | Update (4/22): San Benito Residents Reach Fracking Ban Signature Goal | San Benito Rising
Previous Related Indybay Feature: Lawsuit Targets San Benito County's Approval of 15 Oil Wells in Endangered Condor Habitat
On April 6, University of California Berkeley cut down the support foliage, including oaks, at the redwood grove behind Soda Hall. Larger redwoods have been severely pruned as well, and smaller redwoods have been removed entirely. Paul Jacobs of Qualcomm wants the lot for a $20,000,000 privatized tech design institute, named after himself. The UC and Paul Jacobs have been ignoring public demand to save the trees. By cutting down a protected species, the design institute goes against its own founding principals, expressed by Paul Jacobs, that that project minimize any negative impact to the environment.
Members of the UC and residents have been attempting to preserve the trees through legal channels, an email campaign, and civil disobedience. The UC police are claiming that tree-sitter protesters were going to damage the trees by living in them, but the UC damaged the trees by cutting them purposefully. Furthermore, the UC intends to cut down all the trees in the grove. The UC police cordoned off the the grove and the volleyball court behind Soda Hall with police tape, and have subsequently placed a metal fence around the area. Nobody is allowed into the public space behind Soda Hall.
The public groundbreaking ceremony for the Paul Jacobs Design Institute was held on Cal Day, April 12, behind Soda Hall. Save the Ridge Redwoods has called for a "wave of action" protest to defend the trees at Ridge Road and Le Roy Avenue in Berkeley.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
’s latest report on March 31 highlights the increasing threat from rising global meat and dairy consumption to limiting global warming, especially as the world population continues to grow. The study says that beef and lamb account for the largest agricultural emissions, relative to the energy they provide. By 2050, estimates indicate, beef and lamb will account for half of all agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, while only contributing 3 percent of human calorie intake. Cheese and other dairy products will account for about one quarter of total agricultural climate pollution.
“We can’t ignore the devastating impact of meat consumption on our climate and our planet anymore,” said Stephanie Feldstein, population and sustainability director at the Center for Biological Diversity, which just launched a campaign to reduce meat consumption. “The IPCC report shows that our appetite for meat is not only harming the environment, but is a threat to a livable climate for people and wildlife around the globe. We need to drastically reduce the amount of meat in our diets if we hope to fight climate change and the extinction crisis.”
Read More |
Steve Pleich writes:
There has been much discussion over the last several months concerning the wisdom of having a fully functional Needle Exchange Program in our community. Many have expressed doubts about the public health benefits of such a program, but a clear-eyed and dispassionate analysis of those benefits has been subsumed by an overriding public safety concern.
In my opinion, a well run and efficient NE would not only serve the interest of public health, it would also effectively reduce the number of used syringes that are present in public spaces. And although it may seem counter intuitive at first blush, I submit that the best way to reduce needle litter is to prevent it at the source. Needle Exchange is not the cause of needle litter. It is the solution.
Syringe Exchange Programs, or as they are more commonly known, Syringe Services Programs (SSPs), operate with the primary goal of providing injection drug users (IDUs) with new, sterile injection equipment as a means of reducing the spread of blood-borne viruses and or injection-related infections. But perhaps just as importantly, SSPs have increasingly placed emphasis on simultaneously removing used injection equipment from circulation through a process of exchanging old syringes for new ones.
Previous Related Indybay Features: Santa Cruz County's "Revised" Needle Exchange
| Are Public Safety "Activists" Planning to Shame Drug Addicts and Needle Users?
| Mayor's Public Safety Task Force Member Is "Fine with Junkies Dying"
Hundreds of indigenous people from California and across the country gathered with a crowd of over 4,000 activists at the capitol building in Sacramento on March 15th. They demanded that Governor Brown ban fracking, the environmentally destructive oil extraction practice that pollutes groundwater, rivers and oceans.
Fracking, another name for hydrofacturing, is a method of oil and gas production that involves blasting millions of gallons of water, mixed with sand and toxic chemicals, under high pressure deep into the earth to extract oil and gas. At the same time it often pollutes local air and water, endangering the lives of people and wildlife.
The event, organized by Californians Against Fracking, featured diverse speakers including environmental justice advocates, farmers, student activists and other groups opposed to fracking. Hundreds of organizations, ranging from grassroots groups to large NGOs, helped to organized the rally. A march around the capitol building with signs raised high and much cheering followed the rally.
Read more with photos | More Photos: 1 | Video: 1
See Also: Fracking Opponents Should Oppose Peripheral Tunnels
|| Fracking Boom Would Increase California's Earthquake Dangers
In a victory for ocean wildlife, federal fishery managers in Sacramento on March 13 decided not to expand driftnet fishing into protected sea turtle habitat in the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary and along the California coast because it would significantly raise the risk of capture and drowning of endangered whales, sea turtles and dolphins.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council (the Council) called for immediate action to: 1) impose strong whale protections regulations on the driftnet fleet that expired in January 2014, and to 2) test lower bycatch fishing gears for catching swordfish. But the Council failed to take direct action to remove driftnets from the California coast, though the gear is banned in Oregon and Washington.
Not long ago, an estimated 16 endangered sperm whales died in the California driftnet fishery. Last season at least one gray whale and two short fin pilot whales perished in the driftnets, according to preliminary observer data.
This month's Bike Party theme in Santa Cruz was pie and pajamas. A colorful group gathered for pie at the Bike Church and then rode off into the sunset together on March 14 for Pi Day (3.14). Unlike the world-famous critical-mass bicycle rides, which are more political in focus and sometimes confrontational, Bike Party aims for a festive and friendly ride. The Santa Cruz Bike Party is gaining popularity and part of a larger movement, with the San José Bike Party being the most famous.
The Center for Biological Diversity reached a settlement agreement on March 11 with the California Department of Parks and Recreation that will substantially increase protections in the Santa Cruz Mountains for the marbled murrelet, an endangered seabird that nests in old-growth forests. The settlement requires the agency to reduce dangers posed by visitor trash, which harms murrelets by unnaturally increasing the abundance of predators that eat eggs and chicks.
In June 2013 the Center filed suit challenging the state’s inadequate protections for marbled murrelets under its new management plan for Big Basin Redwoods State Park, a heavily visited park that supports the largest remaining old-growth nesting habitat in the central coast region. Visitor garbage in campgrounds and picnic areas in Big Basin and two other redwood state parks has led to unnaturally high densities of ravens and Steller’s jays that eat murrelet eggs and chicks. Scientists have found that high nest predation is a primary factor driving the declines of murrelets in the region.
The new agreement requires comprehensive measures to protect marbled murrelets in Big Basin Redwoods, Portola and Butano state parks, including: Comprehensive trash management requiring animal-proof food-storage lockers at all campsites, installation of indoor dishwashing stations, and increased trash pickup to prevent dumpster overflow; extensive public outreach that makes the murrelet a focal point of the parks; and annual monitoring of marbled murrelet status and predator numbers and a comprehensive assessment every three years requiring further action if murrelet status does not improve.
Read More | Center for Biological Diversity
Previous Coverage: Lawsuit Filed to Protect Endangered Marbled Murrelet in Santa Cruz Mountains
On March 1, urban farmers demonstrated at Sprouts grocery chain locations in Petaluma, Fremont, Sunnyvale, and Mountain View. The farmers held banners, distributed flyers, and mic-checked messages urging customers to shop elsewhere until the chain agrees not to pave over the historic Gill Tract farm in Albany.
These actions come in the wake of similar actions throughout the week. Farmers oppose plans to develop the Gill Tract, a prime piece of agricultural land administered by UC Berkeley, which has subdivided and developed the original 104 acre plot so that only 20 acres remain. For more than fifteen years community members have been working to preserve the land for urban farming and participatory agricultural research. Sprouts “Farmers Market” is now poised to pave over that precious community resource to build another grocery store. The group organizing the action, Boycott Sprouts, is asking shoppers to patronize other stores until Sprouts backs away from the development deal.
On March 5th, the Albany City Council approved paving six acres of the Gill Tract. In response to the council's vote, Occupy the Farm has called for a rally on March 12
Read More |
Occupy the Farm rally in response to City Council decision March 12 |
State Senators Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) and Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) have introduced legislation that would impose a moratorium on fracking and acidization in order to protect California’s air and water from pollution caused by this form of oil and gas extraction. The bill was introduced as California reels from a record drought and Governor Jerry Brown continues to support the expansion of fracking in California and the construction of the peripheral tunnels under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).
Senators Mitchell and Leno's bill, SB 1132, faces an uphill struggle. All but one fracking bill, including fracking moratorium legislation, failed to pass through the Legislature last year due to intense lobbying by the Western States Petroleum Association and oil companies. The only fracking bill to pass through the legislature and be signed by the Governor in 2013 was Senator Fran Pavley's Senate Bill 4, legislation that gives the green light to fracking in California. SB 1132 calls for a moratorium on all forms of "extreme well stimulation," including hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” and acidization until a comprehensive, independent and multi-agency review exploring the economic, environmental and public health impacts is complete.
“A moratorium on fracking is especially critical as California faces a severe drought with water resources at an all-time low,” said Senator Mark Leno. “We are currently allowing fracking operations to expand despite the potential consequences on our water supply, including availability and price of water, the potential for drinking water contamination and the generation of billions of barrels of polluted water.
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