The Manzanita and the Hare
Photo Credit: Chris Guy via Flickr
Hare scrambles: motorcycle races across rugged terrain. Provided they occur in appropriate places, these challenging events, proponents claim, can provide fun family entertainment and stimulate local economies.
Ione manzanita (Arctostaphylos myrtifolia) and Irish Hill buckwheat (Eriogonum apricum var. prostratum) are federally and state listed threatened and endangered plants whose growth and persistence are restricted to unusual soil conditions of the Ione geologic formation in Amador and Calaveras Counties.
Hare scrambles and endangered plants are two things that are best kept separate. However earlier this month, CNPS staff were alerted that the Amador County Planning Commission considered approving a permit to allow an applicant, Cross Country Promotions, LLC, to conduct "hare scramble" motorcycle races on lands currently zoned for agricultural and single-family residential uses. The land is also habitat for both Ione manzanita and Irish Hill buckwheat.
Ione manzanita is the lower green/yellow colored manzanita pictured here. Credit: Ian Signer.
According to the proponent's event plan, approximately 400 motorcycles would race the 6.5-mile route during each of two weekend events per year. Their route would go around and directly through stands of Ione manzanita, and racers would speed within a few feet of much of the world's only known occurrences of Irish Hill buckwheat. The County's staff report recommended approval of both a Mitigated Negative Declaration (CEQA) document and the use permit for the project. The proposed plant mitigation in this case, developed for the applicant by a botanical consultant, was to "protect" endangered species from impacts by separating motorcycles from listed plant occurrences using red flagging attached to wood lath spaced at 10 foot intervals. Additionally, all racers and race attendees would be provided a flyer describing the nature of these rare plants, and the importance of avoiding them.
Ione manzanita populations are dying from a lethal soil-born pathogen called Phytophthera cinnamomi, a fungal relative to the "sudden oak death" fungus (Phytophthera ramorum). P. cinnamomi, or the "sudden manzanita death" (SMD) fungus can spread when infected soils are carried into uninfected areas. This is particularly a problem when soils are wet. Though SMD can be carried by other manzanita taxa, it is currently known to be lethal only to Ione manzanita. It is not known whether the population of Ione manzanita on the proposed project site is currently infected with SMD as the population occurs on private land and has not been surveyed for the disease. This potentially lethal impact, which one expert on the relationship between Ione manzanita and SMD described in written comments as, "one of the worst possible impacts to Ione manzanita habitat," was not addressed in either the applicant's environmental analysis or the County staff's report.
Neighboring ranchers and local residents were overwhelmingly against the proposed events. They turned out in numbers to testify at the County's public hearing earlier this month, and contacted CNPS to ask for help. CNPS Conservation Director Greg Suba provided written comments and oral testimony on behalf of CNPS at the public hearing, outlining the immanent threats and unavoidable impacts the proposed activities posed to the State and Federally listed plant species, the inadequacies of the applicant's CEQA document to address these threats - particularly the potential spread of "sudden manzanita death" fungus, and the legally indefensible position the county would place themselves in should they approve the permit based on the applicant's CEQA document.
To the relief of those opposing the project, the County denied the applicant's permit request, against staff recommendations, on a 5-0 vote. During their pre-vote discussion, Commissioners publicly declared the inadequacy of the environmental document, and stated the project did not fall within an "allowable use" based on the County's General Plan zoning ordinance for these parcels.
While CNPS is very pleased with the outcome of this decision, the applicant has the right to appeal the Planning Commissioners' decision to the County Board of Supervisors. However the same issues and resistance will remain should they decide to do so. A better, long-term solution would be the systematic conservation of the plant communities endemic to the Ione soils that occur across both public and private lands. This would require the cooperative efforts of private landowners, public agencies, and local government officials. Given the attention these plants will continue to receive as future development projects come before Amador County planners, perhaps enough leverage exists to begin discussing such an effort.
The Timber Tax and Forest Ecological Standards
What are the thresholds for acceptable levels of disturbance from timber harvests? Establishing ecological standards for our State's forests will help answer this question. Photo credit: CNPS Vegetation Program.
For the greater part of the past year, CNPS Legislative Consultant Vern Goehring and CNPS Conservation Program Director Greg Suba have been working with state legislators, the Governor's office, industry representatives, and partner conservation groups to establish a stable funding source capable of reinstating timber harvest plan (THP) review staff at several state agencies. (See the October-December 2012 issue of the CNPS Bulletin for more details).
Assembly Bill 1492, the Timber Tax bill, provided the legislative vehicle for this effort and was the final bill passed during the 2012 session. Thanks to an important measure that CNPS succeeded in including in the bill, AB 1492 provides an immediate $1.5 million infusion into the California Department of Fish and Game's 2012 THP review staff budget. In subsequent years, estimates of an additional $30 million annually will be generated from timber sales in California to fund forestry-related staff at all state agencies involved in timber harvest review. How this money will be collected and disbursed to fund State resource agencies' timber harvest and forest management-related activities is defined in AB 1492, where the bulk of funding is directed to ensure agencies have the appropriate staff to conduct THP reviews.
The controversial bill includes two other provisions that limit the amount of monetary damages levied on responsible parties for forest fire damages, and extend the term of THPs to 5 years with a possible one-time 2 year extension.
Additional language in the bill identifies a need to establish standards that assess forest health and ecological performance in the face of timber harvest activities. CNPS continues to work with our conservation partners, legislators, timber industry representatives, and other stakeholders to establish a process for developing ecological standards for California's forests. Reestablishing sufficient resource agency THP staff is an important success. Providing plan reviewers, timber harvesters, conservation organizations, and the public with ecological standards for forests is a critical next step. Forestry standards will provide a yardstick with which stakeholders can track and measure acceptable level of impacts from timber harvesting, and prevent deleterious cumulative impacts over time.
New CNPS Online Inventory (8th Edition) Updates and Tips
. Photo by Lara Hartley.
The featured change to the CNPS Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants (the Inventory) is Plummer’s mariposa lily (Calochortus plummerae). Plummer’s mariposa lily is a perennial, bulbiferous herb in the lily family (Liliaceae) that occurs in granitic and rocky areas of many habitats throughout the South Coast and Peninsular Ranges of southern California.
Continue reading here.
Did you know that you can search for plants based on blooming time in the new Online Inventory, 8th Edition? Not many plants in California are known to bloom in fall and winter months, especially in comparison to spring; however, you may be surprised to find out how many plants, particularly rare plants, actually do. Moreover, knowing the frequent blooming periods of rare plants is essential in performing adequately timed and effective surveys.
Continue reading here.
Conservation Updates from the East Bay Chapter
This fall, the East Bay Chapter has been hard at work on several priority conservation projects. For more information about the projects below and other EBCNPS conservation projects, please visit our conservation blog site at: http://ebcnps.wordpress.com/ .
Opposition to Alameda County Measure A1
Since August, the East Bay Chapter has been working to educate the public in Alameda County about an imminent threat to Knowland Park. Knowland Park is Oakland’s largest wildland park, and is part of our chapter’s “Foothills of South Oakland” Botanical Priority Protection Area due to its rare plant communities and high quality native habitat. The future of Knowland is now threatened by Measure A1, a misleading ballot measure on the Alameda County Ballot. A1 is a proposed parcel tax that would be paid directly to the Oakland Zoo for the next 25 years. The tax is estimated to generate over $120 million for the Zoo during its lifetime. This parcel tax is being presented by the Oakland Zoo as a humane animal care measure, but we fear that its stealth purpose is to fund a massive Zoo expansion into ecologically rich wildlife and native plant habitat in Knowland Park. The fine print in the measure’s wording would allow funds from Measure A1 to be used for the Zoo’s proposed $72 million expansion development into public park land in Knowland Park. A1 funds could also be used to pay for any future expansions into the park that the Zoo may chose to undertake - expansions that the zoo has refused to rule out.
The oak-grassland interface at Knowland Park. This area will be fenced off and developed upon as part of the Oakland Zoo’s proposed expansion development. Now the Zoo is trying to pass a parcel tax that will allow it to use taxpayer funds for this environmental destruction. Photo: Mack Casterman
The Zoo’s current expansion plans call for a 34,000 square foot restaurant, gift shop, visitor center and office complex that will impact a rare chaparral plant community used by many species of native wildlife, including mountain lions and the threatened Alameda whipsnake. The proposed expansion development would also result in the destruction of acres of high quality native grassland. Zoo executives refuse to consider environmentally superior locations.
In order to maintain the Chapter’s non-profit status, we formed a political action committee with our ally organization, The Friends of Knowland Park. We have been careful to fully comply with state Fair Political Practices while working to educate voters, including writing the “opposition” argument for the measure in the County’s Voter guide.
As November approaches, EBCNPS’s work to oppose Alameda County Measure A1 (The Oakland Zoo Parcel Tax) is peaking. We have been attending meetings with voter groups, working on media outreach and posting regular updates on the saveknowland.org website. This political battle has been hard and the outcome is far from certain, but our grassroots effort has made great strides given our limited resources. At a recent League of Women Voters Forum, Oakland Zoo CEO Joel Parrott admitted that the Zoo is spending $1 million on its campaign to pass this measure, casting doubt on the Zoo’s claims that it needs parcel tax funds because it is cash strapped. We are pleased that this ballot measure has given us the opportunity to get the word out about Knowland Park and its valuable natural resources to tens of thousands of individuals who otherwise would not have heard of it. We are hopeful that Alameda County voters will get our message and vote to help save Knowland Park this November.
Measure A1 is Opposed by:
East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, Friends of Knowland Park, Alameda Creek Alliance, California Native Grasslands Association, Resource Renewal Institute, Ohlone Audubon Society, Oakland Rising, The East Bay Express, and many other individuals and organizations that care about protecting our precious parklands.
For more information about our campaign, visit www.saveknowland.org
On October 3, 2012, EBCNPS submitted comments for the Recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Report for the proposed Roddy Ranch Project in Antioch.
This project involves development of 540 acres of land for residential homes in the southern area of Antioch. The development area is part of our “Four Valleys” Botanical Priority Protection Area and is thus of major concern to our chapter. This area is recognized by CNPS for priority protection because it represents a transition zone between the eastern flanks of the northern Diablo Range, the San Joaquin Valley, and the Los Medanos Hills. The area contains both sandy and alkaline soils which support a wide variety of rare and unusual plant species that are worthy of protection. The Recirculated DEIR predicts significant environmental impacts (including impacts to rare plants and unique native plant communities) due to this project, even after proposed mitigation efforts are completed. Because of these glaring issues in the plan, we are hopeful that the DEIR will be re-evaluated and amended by the project applicants.
A copy of our comment letter and its attachments can be found at: http://ebcnps.wordpress.com/ by searching “Roddy Ranch.”
It seems that attacking the 41 year old California Environmental Quality Act is an annual sport in Sacramento. First, a giant football stadium was given immunity from CEQA enforcement. Then in 2011, a second football stadium got a similar deal- bypassing the trial court to go straight to the Appellate Court- and this was accompanied by a bill that allows the Governor to extend similar provisions to some of the largest projects statewide.
State Capitol, Sacramento, CA. photo credit: Stacey Flowerdew
Numerous CEQA bills were introduced in 2012 and the difficult ones were all stopped or changed, but in the closing days of the legislative session a new threat emerged - a proposal to substitute the policies and requirements of hundreds of state and federal laws for the comprehensive public assessment of environmental impacts under CEQA. The proposal was so sweeping in its potential effect that legislative leaders in the state Senate announced the proposal would not be considered this year.
Instead, a selected working group of stakeholders would be convened to examine CEQA and possible "reforms" that may be considered in 2013. This group has only three meetings planned and initial reports suggest that parties are far apart. CNPS is monitoring the groups work and coordinating with other conservation organizations to ensure CEQA remains a valuable tool to protect communities and the environmental resources that make them desirable places to live.
We can be assured that CEQA will remain a target, many bills will be introduced next year to change numerous provisions, and it is likely that a major bill weakening CEQA will once again surface during the last month of the 2013 legislative year.
We need to tell decision makers repeatedly how for the past 40 years, thousands of projects, both complex and simple, have been carried out across our state under the provisions and requirements of CEQA. During this period, California has grown and changed in major positive ways, and while ups and downs in the national economy have affected the pace of projects at times, CEQA has not.
CNPS 2012 Conservation Campaign
CNPS is in the midst of a year-long effort to raise money to sustain the CNPS Conservation Program. Thanks to donations from hundreds of dedicated CNPS members, the campaign has been very successful and we are close to meeting the goal. Please consider making a special gift this year to support this indispensable program.
Gifts to the Conservation Campaign can be made online two ways:
Donations made by check may also be sent to: CNPS Conservation Campaign, 2707 K Street, Suite 1, Sacramento, CA 95816.
Thanks to all who have given and continue to spread the word about our campaign. California's plants appreciate it!
Northern California Botanists to Present a Symposium
On January 14 - 15, 2013, the Northern California Botanists will be presenting a two-day symposium titled: From the Redwoods to the Sagebrush: Botany Ranging Far and Wide, to be held at California State University, Chico. The symposium will include an exciting line-up of topics ranging from redwood/northcoast ecology to Northern California botanical discoveries, and a third day of workshops/field trips to choose from. The symposium will also include an evening reception and banquet with keynote speaker Barbara Ertter, of the University of California Berkeley, addressing “People, Plants, and Politics”. The symposium is open to anyone: botanical enthusiasts, professionals, and students. For a detailed program and registration information, see: www.norcalbotanists.org.
Upcoming Nature Journaling Workshop
Nature Journaling with John Muir Laws
Nov. 8-9,Coyote Hills Regional Park, Fremont
Learn to improve observation skills, ask relevant scientific questions, and explore the natural world through nature journaling. Two days of sketching, art instruction and nature study could jump start you into keeping your own nature/travel journal or re-inspire you to pick up your sketchbook again. We will examine different ways of keeping journals and develop habits to keep you actively sketching. Learn how to paint a five minute mini-landscape and an animal on the move using graphite, colored pencil, and watercolor, all of which are well suited for easy sketching outdoors. Bring your favorite sketching supplies. Coyote Hills is a wonderful place for observing birds and plants, even in November.
Participants can expect to learn:
• Tricks for drawing plants
• How to draw birds in situ
• To master the mini 5 minute landscape
• How to incorporate sketching into your daily life
Cost: CNPS Members $295; Non-members $320. To register or to read the full workshop announcement, click here.
Mount Lassen Chapter
Harvest Festival Farm City Celebration
Saturday, November 3, 10 AM - 2 PM
The Mount Lassen chapter of CNPS will have a booth at this free family event at Bidwell Mansion Historic State Park in Chico, CA. For more information, see this flyer.
South Coast Chapter
Program Meeting: Living off the land; Then and now through the eyes of the Tongva
Monday, November 5, 7:30 PM
Craig Torres, Tongva cultural educator and consultant, will give a talk regarding how his ancestors survived in the Los Angeles basin off of what nature provided, how his ancestors survived colonization and continue to thrive through cultural revitalization. South Coast Botanic Garden, 26300 Crenshaw Boulevard, Palos Verdes Peninsula, CA 90274.
San Gabriel Mountains Chapter
Fall Native Plant Sale
Saturday, November 10, 9 AM- 2 PM
A good variety of reasonably priced California native plants and wildflower seeds appropriate for gardens in the Los Angeles basin will be available. Knowledgeable Chapter members will be on hand to answer questions. 10% member discount on all plants. See the chapter's plant sale page for details: http://cnps-sgm.org/plant_sources.php
Native Plant Gardening Workshop
Sunday, November 18, 3PM - 5 PM
This will be a demonstration of how to plant natives, where attendees will gain hands-on experience. The workshop is free, and will be at Eaton Canyon Nature Center, in the Becky Rothenberg Memorial Garden, 3 p.m to 5 p.m.. Bring work gloves and appropriate shoes, and wear comfortable clothes. Tools will be provided. Eaton Canyon Nature Center, 1750 Altadena Drive, Pasadena, CA.
Riverside/San Bernardino Chapter
Native Plant Sale
Saturday, November 10, 9 AM - 3 PM
Popular and hard-to-find native plants, seed, bulbs~Native plant books, posters, and note cards. Experts will provide answers to you gardening questions. Disounts and prizes for new/renew CNPS members! Cash, check, & credit cards accepted. See this link for more information. Western Municipal Water District- Landscapes Southern CA Style Demonstration Garden, 450 Alessandro Blvd., Riverside, CA 92508,
Marin County Chapter
Third Thursday Weeders
Thursday, November 15
Join the Third Thursday Weeders, a collaboration of the Marin chapter and the Environmental Action Committee of Wset Marin to spend a day at beautiful Point Reyes and help tackle invasive weeds that threaten important plant habitat in the Point Reyes National Seashore. The Weeders meet regularly on the third Thursday of every month, either in the Seashore or at other locations in West Marin. To sign up and receive notification of the meeting place for the next work party, please send an email to Ellen Hamingson at Ellen_Hamingson@nps.gov. Be sure to let Ellen know if you plan to attend so we’ll know to wait for everyone before heading to the work area.
Orange County Chapter
Fall Color Trip, Trabuco Canyon to Falls Canyon
Sunday, November 18, 8 AM
We will hope for clear fall skies and brisk fall temperatures as we celebrate the colors of the season right here in Orange County. The drive up the gravel road of Trabuco Canyon is an adventure in itself, but we won’t go all the way to the end (unless a few brave souls insist). We will stop just inside the National Forest boundary where the Big Leaf Maples and Western Sycamore usually glow at this time of the year. Meet 8 AM at the intersection of Trabuco Canyon Road and the large and obvious gravel wash of Trabuco Creek (at the unsigned Trabuco Creek Road). This is just 150 yards SE of Rose Canyon Road (which is signed). Free and open to all. Bring trail shoes, hat, sunscreen, water. No restrooms or water. A USFS Adventure Pass is required for parking at the trailhead. Leader: Ron Vanderhoff, assisted by Mike and Cathie Field. Physical Difficulty: Moderate to moderately strenuous. Please read description at http://www.occnps.org/explore/field-trips/164-2012-field-trips.html for specific information.
Contributors and Photo Credits
- Greg Suba
- Aaron Sims
- Vern Goehring
- Mack Casterman
- Josie Crawford
- Stacey Flowerdew
- Mark Naftzger
- Daniel Gluesenkamp
- Chris Guy, via Flickr
- CNPS Vegetation Program- Abies concolor and Pinus lambertiana at Calaveras Big Trees
- Lara Hartley- Calochortus plummerae (2011 RPTH Photo Contest winner)
- Mack Casterman- The oak-grassland interface at Knowland Park. This area will be fenced off and developed upon as part of the Oakland Zoo’s proposed expansion development.
- Stacey Flowerdew - Capitol Dome
- John Muir Laws - Workshop participants