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San Francisco Mayor Gives Death Sentence to Endangered Frogs
by Kerry Kriger ( kerry [at] savethefrogs.com )
Wednesday Dec 21st, 2011 2:45 PM
Mayor Ed Lee vetoes legislation that would have protected the Sharp Park Wetlands, putting endangered California Red-Legged frogs in jeopardy.
San Francisco, CA - 20-December-2011. A coalition of California environmental groups are outraged that San Francisco’s Mayor Ed Lee has vetoed legislation designed to protect the city’s Sharp Park Wetlands and the endangered California Red-Legged Frogs and San Francisco Garter Snakes that live there. The city currently operates a golf course on the property. The course was built on top of the wetlands, which the city pumps out to sea to improve playing conditions – at the expense of the multitude of wildlife species that depend on the site’s rare wetland habitat. Over 95% of California’s coastal wetlands have been destroyed or damaged.

The legislation would have paved the way for the closure of the Sharp Park Golf Course and the turning over of the management of the land to the National Park Service. “Golf is a game; it is not crucial to life on this planet, and there are over 10,000 golf courses in the USA. Wetlands however, are not a game; they are a matter of life or death for a large number of endangered species” said Dr. Kerry Kriger, founder of Save The Frogs, an amphibian conservation organization based in Santa Cruz, California.

Mayor Lee, a golfer, refused to meet with any representatives of the Save The Frogs, the Wild Equity Institute, the Sierra Club or the National Parks Conservancy Association prior to issuing the veto. “By vetoing the legislation without ever meeting with environmental groups the Mayor has labeled himself as ‘anti-environment’, he has damaged San Francisco's reputation as a progressive leader and he has extended the death sentence that endangered frogs face every time the City uses taxpayer money to pump the Sharp Park Wetlands out to sea” said Dr. Kriger. “The Mayor blew a brilliant opportunity and should redeem himself by rescinding the veto immediately”.

Save The Frogs supporters sent the Mayor’s office over 4,000 letters asking him to protect the wetlands. Mayor Lee expressed no remorse about the veto, and stated "I remember the clubhouse very well, a lot of my friends went to the clubhouse to have some great dinners there.”

The federally endangered California Red-Legged Frogs that live at Sharp Park are killed when their egg masses get stranded on land during the City’s pumping operations and when tadpoles get sucked through the pumps and out to sea. The Red-Legged Frogs were nearly eaten to extinction in the 1890’s by the California gold miners. Now they are threatened by habitat destruction, roadkill and non-native species such as American Bullfrogs, which are voracious predators that are being imported into California by the millions each year to satisfy San Francisco’s burgeoning frog meat trade. “Humans have been persecuting the California Red-Legged Frogs for over a century. I think it’s time we gave them a little assistance”, says Dr. Kriger. Save The Frogs is calling on the Mayor to rescind his veto.

The City of San Francisco is currently being sued for illegally killing endangered wildlife at the golf course, which loses over $100,000 per year. Social justice groups say closing the golf course would allow San Francisco to direct more money to youth programs in the City. The Fish & Wildlife Service last week denied the City’s attempt to classify golf course activities as “recovery actions” and put them on notice not to kill endangered species without proper permits.

More info:

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Richmondman
Wednesday Dec 21st, 2011 4:21 PM
This veto ensures that the population increaes for the Frogs and Snakes at Sharp Park continue. Yes - continue, because the frogs and snakes are thriving there. However, there is no guarantee that the "restoration" proposed by the CBD would do anything but damage the wild and endangered populations that live there. The "restoration" would included bulldozing and excavating 200 acres of sensitive habitat, and remove 13,000 trees on 400 acres. Sharp park is a man-made environment that the frogs and snakes and other animals have adapted to nicely, thank you. Replacing that environment with another man-made environment is rolling the dice on these populations.
The reality is that this issue is more about "Environmentalists" vs. "Environmentalists". There is a real and substantial difference in opinion between environmental scientists on both sides of this issue. Golfers fortunately can claim one group of environmentalists as allies or the issue would already be decided. This is, after all, San Francisco. If it really was a question of environmentalists vs. golfers, it would be no contest.

The competing environmental science claims had a hearing in a federal court a few weeks ago when the Tuscon based Center for Biological Diversity ( and their local franchise the WEI) tried to secure a preliminary injunction against any maintenance on the course. If granted this would have effectively closed the course now. After hearing the arguments, this is what the judge found in her ruling denying the preliminary injunction:

"Experts for both sides agree that the overall Frog population has increased over the last 20 years.Plaintiffs argue, however, that the increase is due to habitat improvements in adjacent Mori Park, while defendants contend that it is due, at least in part, to the management of Sharp Park. Neither side disputes that the number of egg masses found last winter in Sharp Park was the highest ever recorded... Plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden of showing irreparable harm to the California Red Legged Frog or the San Francisco Garter Snake absent the issuance of a preliminary injunction on defendants' activities at Sharp Park. Accordingly, the motion for a preliminary injunction is DENIED."

This is completely consistent with the testimony of Karen Swaim to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on this same question. Karen Swaim is a field biologist who has worked for over 20 years with the frog and snake habitat at Sharp and Mori Point. In fact she was a principal in designing, monitoring and managing the new frog ponds at Mori Point referenced in the judges ruling. She was acknowledged as an expert by the CBD until she testified to the heretical view that the course was not harming the two endangered species ans is now being slandered by the CBD/WEI supporters. She is regarded as a local expert by all state, local, and federal agencies with an interest in survival of the species. Here is what she said:

"Golf is not what is responsible for the decline of the San Francisco garter snake."

"...the frogs are prolific west of highway one, they are not in any trouble at all west of highway one."

"You need to protect the sea wall. You need to have a fresh water managed habitat currently for this species to recover it, and that is all there is to it."

For anyone interested in more detail, you can google Karen Swaim to see the video of her testimony (or see excerpts linked here).

You can also google "Center for Biological Diversity" paired with "Deep Ecology" "Chilton Ranch" and/or "EAJA reimbursement" to gain a much deeper appreciation of the kind of "environmentalists" the people of San Francisco and Pacifica are up against on this issue.

The 80-acre golf course was designed and built by Alister MacKenzie, the game's most important architect. The 417 -acre park itself was landscaped by John McLaren, the godfather of San Francisco parks. The park was a gift to the city in 1917 and represents a historic legacy entrusted to the people of San Francisco. The park and golf course are important historic landmarks by any standard.

This civic jewel of a park is a treasure that is our common San Francisco heritage and is a legacy for us to leave to future generations of San Franciscans. thanks to Mayor Lee, that legacy is safe for now.
by Jack
Thursday Dec 22nd, 2011 7:30 AM
What the dissenting commenters never mention is that the legislation doesn't state how to restore the land it only initiates the process of turning the money losing subsidized course over to the national park service. They also don't mention that biologist swain is paid by the golf course for her findings. The judge said frogs are increasing...ok, from a baseline of near extinction! The frogs are in no way abundant and will never be so long as san Francisco pumps their wetland out to sea. Save sharp park wetlands!