[fosc] Oakland Endangered Species

Ralph Kanz rkanz at earthlink.net
Thu May 18 14:10:12 PDT 2006


Below is the press release sent out today by the Center for Biological 
Diversity concerning the continuing failure by the City of Oakland to 
protect special status species.

Ralph Kanz

*City of Oakland Warned Over Illegal Destruction of Rare and Protected 
Plant Species*

 


        *FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 18, 2006*

* *

Contact:  Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 499-9185

 

Oakland, Calif. -- The Center for Biological Diversity (Center) sent a 
warning letter to the City of Oakland (City) this week regarding 
violations of the federal and California Endangered Species Acts and 
illegal harm to protected plant species while carrying out vegetation 
management and development projects in the Oakland Hills.

 

Careless vegetation removal, improperly managed goat grazing, herbicide 
use, and inadequate environmental review of development projects 
continue to destroy rare and protected plants and their habitats in 
Oakland.  These activities are harming important populations of 
protected plants such as pallid manzanita (federally listed as 
threatened and state listed as endangered), Presidio clarkia (federal 
and state endangered), most beautiful jewelflower (California Native 
Plant Society list 1B; imperiled in California), and San Francisco 
popcorn flower (state endangered).

 

"All known occurrences of these rare plants have been surveyed and 
mapped and therefore can be avoided during development and fire 
management activities.  Effective vegetation management and fire hazard 
reduction does not require the destruction of unique and at-risk local 
wildflowers," said Jeff Miller, spokesperson for the Center.  "The City 
of Oakland should be proud to host four unique plant species and ought 
to be the champion for their conservation.  Regardless, it must comply 
with environmental laws that mandate their protection, and we intend to 
hold the City accountable."

 

Pallid manzanita (/Arctostaphylos pallida)/ has a very limited 
distribution in chaparral habitat in the East Bay Hills; it occurs 
nowhere else. The species needs fire to reproduce, requiring sterilized 
soil and scarification of seeds to germinate.  There are only 13 known 
occurrences of pallid manzanita in the East Bay.  Of these, ten are 
within or adjacent to the upper Sausal Creek watershed in Oakland.  The 
plants are found near Skyline Boulevard in or adjacent to Huckleberry, 
Sibley, Redwood and Joaquin Miller parks.  Recent surveys of pallid 
manzanita show that the population numbers only 25 percent of the 
estimates reported in a 2002 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Recovery 
Plan for the species.

 

The Oakland Hills' population of pallid manzanita has been reduced by 
almost half during the past two decades, largely due to the destruction 
of plants by City operations and lack of proper management.  Since the 
1991 Oakland Hills fire, the City has carried out vegetation and fire 
management activities, including grazing, herbicide spraying and 
contracted manual vegetation removal, that have caused substantial 
losses.  For instance, recent goat grazing contributed to the loss of 
the entire population of 19 plants at Manzanita Flat in Joaquin Miller 
Park.  The City's failure to provide legally required habitat protection 
measures for the Chabot Space and Science Center destroyed 10 of the 
original 21 plants at the site.  Many pallid manzanita plants in the 
Oakland Hills have been bulldozed for development.  A population was 
destroyed after the City sold a property that supported pallid manzanita 
for development.  Introduced landscape and weedy plant species compete 
with the remnant population, and herbicide use has reduced regeneration 
of pallid manzanita along Skyline Boulevard.

 

Presidio clarkia (/Clarkia franciscana/) is a beautiful lavender-pink 
native flower that grows only on serpentine soils in the Presidio of San 
Francisco and the Oakland Hills.  Only six remaining fragmented 
populations of Presidio clarkia have been documented in the Oakland 
Hills in and around Redwood Regional Park.  Premature vegetation 
management at three sites in the Oakland Hills in 2005 resulted in 
destruction of clarkia prior to seed set and dispersal, posing a 
significant threat to the continued survival of Presidio clarkia in Oakland

 

The most beautiful jewelflower (/Streptanthus albidus /ssp./ 
peramoenus/) was listed as a federal species of concern by the U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service in 1990.  There are only two known populations of 
most beautiful jewelflower in Oakland.  San Francisco popcorn flower 
(/Plagiobothrys diffusus/) is only found in six locations, with Alameda 
County's lone population residing in Oakland.  Vegetation and fire 
management operations threaten Oakland's extremely limited popcorn 
flower habitat as well.

 

The City has illegally allowed housing development and subdivisions in 
the Crestmont Drive area near Redwood Road to proceed without adequate 
environmental review of the impacts on special-status plant species 
occurring there, including Presidio clarkia and most beautiful 
jewelflower.  The City has proposed approval of housing developments in 
this area without obtaining a permit to destroy the plants under the 
California Endangered Species Act (CESA) or reviewing the impacts under 
the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and has ignored 
recommendations of the Open Space, Conservation and Recreation element 
of the City's General Plan.  The City allowed subdivision in 2000 using 
an erroneous determination of no impacts on special status species at 
the site.  The City is required to prepare an Environmental Impact 
Report under CEQA when a project has the potential to reduce the number 
or restrict the range of an endangered, rare or threatened species.  The 
City is also prohibited from causing the destruction of any California 
listed species unless it has a permit under CESA to do so.  The City has 
allowed development to occur in the Oakland Hills that destroyed listed 
plants or their habitat without either CESA permitting or CEQA review of 
impacts, with the inappropriate use of a Mitigated Negative Declaration 
or Categorical Exemption, and without performing floristic surveys 
during the period of identification for special status plants.

 

The City's vegetation management actions that destroy listed plants have 
been conducted without securing legal permits or exemptions and are in 
violation of CESA and the federal Endangered Species Act.  The Center 
has expressed concern that the City's vegetation management activities 
may also illegally harm the Alameda whipsnake (/Masticophis lateralis 
euryxanthus//),/ a federally listed threatened species that inhabits 
portions of the Oakland Hills.

 

The Center is demanding that the City immediately consult with the U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), California Department of Fish and 
Game (CDFG), East Bay Regional Park District and local watershed groups 
regarding the locations of imperiled species; discontinue its practices 
that illegally destroy them; and take steps to protect and recover the 
plants and their habitats.  The City is also legally obligated to 
prepare an Environmental Impact Report for any project likely to affect 
these species.  Additionally, the Center is requesting that the City 
mitigate for its extensive past destruction and illegal take of listed 
plant species by implementing the recommendations of the USFWS 2002 
/Draft Recovery Plan for Chaparral and Scrub Community Species East of 
San Francisco Bay, California/, the USFWS 1998 /Recovery Plan for 
Serpentine Soils of the San Francisco Bay Area/, and the CDFG 1987 
/Alameda Manzanita Recovery Plan/.

 

(end)

 

 

<http://www.biologicaldiversity.org>
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