Govts. Dickering Over Expanding El Dorado County Plant Preserve in the Sierra Nevadas; Battle over protections for Sierra endangered species continues
"Officials mull preserve expansion"
Some seek to run a road through the preserve
(Sacramento Bee El Dorado section, 9/12/08) By Cathy Locke
El Dorado County officials say they are interested in adding a key piece of land to a rare-plant preserve but will not authorize its purchase until they reach an agreement with state and federal agencies.
The Board of Supervisors also said the 20-acre Carriage Hill property, north of Highway 50 and east of Cameron Park Drive in Cameron Park, is overpriced at $3.32 million.
Supervisor Ron Briggs asked the board to authorize the American River Conservancy to purchase the property using funds collected from developers to offset the loss of rare plants due to development. The four 5-acre parcels would be added to the Pine Hill Ecological Preserve.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has identified the Carriage Hill property as a priority for acquisition because it contains five of eight rare-plant species that grow in the area's gabbro soils.
In addition to the rare plants, the acreage is important because it would connect two other properties within the preserve, making the lands easier to manage, said Rosemary Carey, a representative of the California Native Plant Society. But some area residents said it would be a mistake to preclude development of land along the Highway 50 corridor. They noted that the general plan, the county's blueprint for growth, designates the Carriage Hill parcels for multifamily housing and the property is needed to help the county meet its regional housing allocations.
Bill Pimental said he owns property that is bordered on three sides by the Carriage Hill parcels, and his access road would go through the middle of the preserve, making it difficult to further develop his land.
Four of the rare-plant species have been found on his property, "so maybe we should talk about selling it to you," Pimental told the supervisors.
Art Marinaccio, a Shingle Springs resident and member of the Taxpayers Association of El Dorado County, said the board should not authorize purchase of any more lands for the Pine Hill preserve until it has an agreement with the Fish and Wildlife Service and the state Department of Fish and Game defining their responsibilities and the county's regarding administration, use and maintenance of preserve lands and associated costs.
He also said the county should have an agreement with the federal Bureau of Land Management allowing construction of a roadway through the preserve lands to connect Wild Chaparral and Palmer drives. The link would help divert local traffic from Highway 50.
Supervisor Briggs said he would like the board to pursue the acquisition, but he requested additional appraisals.
"The price seems to be high, but I don't want (the property) to get away from us," he said.
Supervisor Jack Sweeney argued that the county should not approve the purchase of any additional property until it has an agreement with state and federal agencies.
Until then, he said, the county doesn't know where it stands with regard to preserve lands.
"We have to wait 'til we have (an agreement)," he said. "Then I would be happy to jump in and buy it, but not at this price."
The supervisors agreed to postpone action on the purchase request until an agreement is reached with the Fish and Wildlife Service and Department of Fish and Game. They also directed staff members to obtain preliminary appraisals for the Carriage Hill property.-------------------------
RELATED: "Pine Hill Preserve" (BLM-California, Folsom Field Office)
Located in western El Dorado County, Pine Hill Preserve is home to a collection of eight rare plant species. Three of the plant species that grow in the Pine Hill Preserve are endemic, which means they grow nowhere else in the world. Two more species are nearly endemic, with only a few plants found elsewhere. This assemblage of rare plants is part of a unique community confined to soils known as the Rescue soils, named after the nearby community of Rescue, CA. The Pine Hill Preserve is operated under a cooperative management agreement with several agencies and organizations.
Agency Protects 1.8 Million Acres of California Frog Habitat
Thanks to a December lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, this Tuesday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to grant Mark Twain's favorite amphibian no less than 1.8 million acres of federally protected habitat spanning 28 California counties. The California red-legged frog, made famous in Twain's "The Celebrated Frog of Calaveras County," has lost 90 percent of its historic population due to urban development, wetland draining, pesticides, and myriad other threats. Still, in 2006, the Service gave in to development-industry pressure and cited a bunk economic analysis to severely slash the habitat protections the frog needs to survive. The new proposal for habitat protections isn't nearly as good as a 2001 agency proposal -- which would have protected a hefty 4.1 million acres, thanks to a Center suit -- but it is almost quadruple the agency's last designation. That dramatic cut was retracted after federal investigators learned the decision was politically tainted by former Interior Department official Julie MacDonald. Read more here: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/center/articles/2008/bellingham-herald-09-16-2008.html
Feds Sued for Removing Safety Net for Sierra Nevada Species
Last week, the Center for Biological Diversity and allies took the Bush administration to court for dramatically weakening management plans for 10 Sierra Nevada national forests. Before December 2007, the U.S. Forest Service was required to closely monitor the well-being of indicator species -- plants and animals that help show an ecosystem's overall health -- and ensure that those species wouldn't be harmed before approving projects like logging and road building. The original management requirements helped keep populations of Sierra Nevada plants and animals -- including the northern goshawk, California condor, and Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep -- well-distributed and healthy. But new provisions passed in December compel the Forest Service to monitor only 13 of the original 60 management indicator species, allowing the agency to stay totally out of the loop on the vast majority of the Sierra's bellwether inhabitants.
Represented by Earthjustice, we filed our suit with Sierra Forest Legacy, the Sierra Club, and Defenders of Wildlife on September 9 to show that the latest weakening of protections violates the law. Read more here: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/center/articles/2008/san-francisco-chronicle-09-10-2008.html