|(Wild) Life on the Edge
What’s the buzz word on everyone’s tongue these days? Ahnold? Lo-carbs? Garment malfunction? No, those are all passé; if you’re really with it, the buzz of the day is Animal Evolution: whether our wild animals are getting too smart for us.
You hear it reported everywhere: mountain lions making the move on bikers, bears making the garbage-truck-day rounds, monkeys taking over the Parliament in India, and most improbably, a lion ambling down Market Street in Santa Cruz. On Feb. 18 the mountain lion study in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park even made Dan Rather’s newscast.
What does this have to do with Bonny Doon and the RBDA? Up here we live comfortably with the native animals and most of us treasure them, even when the deer are a little too bold in our gardens or when the feral pigs deliver us a free roto-tilling.
Late last year some of you may have heard David Baron review his book, "The Beast in the Garden" in Capitola. It tells us that communities sited in natural surroundings often find that the animals they displace initially shrink from contact with humans, but rapidly evolve to figure out ways to exploit the community that displaced them.
This started us wondering if Bonny Doon might be already experiencing the effect that occurred in suburban Boulder, Colorado, as described in that book. So when our faithful member Frans Lanting suggested that we might have a meeting program based on interactions with the wild animals of Bonny Doon, we decided to pursue that topic.
Turns out that Prof. Walter Boyce of UC Davis, the director of the Southern
California Puma Project, the study of mountain lions obliquely referred
to above, is also reasonably well acquainted with areas such as ours, which
he calls the urban-wildland interface. He has kindly consented to come
give us a talk about his findings. He says (in a UC Davis press release):
"Mountain lions inspire a range of emotions including fear, awe, anger
and wonder. This study is designed to provide objective information so
that people can
"Ultimately it’s up to the people who live, work and play in mountain lion habitat to decide if they want to share the environment with an animal that can kill them. Attacks are rare, but there is no guarantee of safety. Studies like ours show that there are many things each of us can do to avoid conflicts between mountain lions and people and domestic animals. Information and education are key to balancing the needs of wildlife and people."
Prof. Boyce indicates that not only would he give us the status of the Puma Project and its pertinence to Bonny Doon, but that he would like to have an interactive discussion with our members about their experiences with wild animals in Bonny Doon, with anything from lions to raccoons. So crank up all your reliable stories concerning interesting interactions with our local critters and come to the March 10 General Meeting both to inform and be informed.
Waldorf School Expansion Approved
The Waldorf School application to expand its operations to 245 students, subject to all traffic safety mitigations being done on Empire Grade, was approved by the County Planning Commission at a hearing on Feb. 25.
Based on information the RBDA has received from Waldorf directly at our General Meetings over the past several years, as well as through presentations to the RBDA Board from both Waldorf and neighborhood groups, the RBDA Board made a definitive stand on the expansion plans of the school at this hearing.
Chairman Don Coyne made a statement on behalf of the RBDA Board to ensure that the main RBDA concerns were addressed. The complete text of the statement will be available at the next General Meeting on March 10, and will be posted on the RBDA website.
The main RBDA concerns expressed in Don’s statement were as follows:
1) We’ve received many promises from Waldorf that each expansion would be the last, and those promises were not honored. We want the County to guarantee that this one is the last. Thus, parts of the agreement between Waldorf and its neighbors that permit expansion if the road traffic increases, or if the housing density increases, should not appear in the actual permit.
2) We don’t want to take the chance that Waldorf will build their new buildings and increase their number of students, and then run out of money to do the road and environmental mitigations which they have promised. So we asked the County to sequence the mitigations before the other construction and expansion of student population.
The permit as approved by the Planning Commission recognizes the Neighborhood Agreement, but does not incorporate all details of that agreement and in some cases is not as restrictive. Of note is that the Planning Commission went on record as saying the permit does not allow automatic expansion of the student number should the road traffic or housing density increase substantially. The commission did put a 3-year statute of limitations on the time Waldorf has to actually carry out the mitigations:
All grading, visual landscaping, drainage, and road work on the Empire Grade corridor must be fully completed by August 1, 2007, with a penalty that the school enrollment starting September 2007 will be reduced to 160 students (which is the number previously permitted) until the traffic safety mitigations are completed. The school may apply for an extension on this deadline, ³but based only on a demonstration of good cause and of documented diligence in meeting the deadline² (quoting from the amended staff report on conditions of approval).
In a conversation after the hearing between RBDA board chair Don Coyne and Waldorf chief administrator Chris Turzo, Chris expressed optimism that the clarity of the permit and the sequence of events it requires would bring an increased focus to Waldorf fund-raising to complete all mitigations in a timely way.
Court Cuts Down County Timber Zoning Law
In a disappointing decision, the State’s 6th District Court of Appeals
recently decided that County ordinances regarding where logging can take
place are illegal. This is the exact opposite of a standing decision rendered
in 1995 by the 1st District Court of Appeals.
On Tuesday the Supervisors met in closed session with their attorneys to hear the pros and cons of appealing the decision to the State Supreme Court. Earlier, lower courts had ruled in the County’s favor, saying that counties have the right to decide ³where² but not ³how² logging is conducted. The latter is reserved to the State.
We expect that this decision will bring in a flood of new timber harvest plans. All reviewing agencies are strapped for funding and staff time for such review. An increase in logging in residential neighborhoods could lead to renewed conflict.
Many people have worked very hard since 1995 to reach a compromise solution to protect the public health, safety and welfare of mountain residents as well as protect our sediment-impaired streams and endangered fish, while allowing for continued logging, where appropriate, in the Santa Cruz Mountains. This decision negates all that good effort.
RMC Loses Appeal on EIR
Last month the Court of Appeals ruled that RMC Pacific Materials must complete an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on its entire mining operation before its application to expand mining operations on its Bonny doon limestone quarry into an additional 17.85 acres is considered. This ruling upheld the 2002 Trial Court decision, which upheld previous decisions made by the County Planning Commission and County Board of Supervisors.
Of concern is the impact of the expansion and general mining operations on the water quality of Liddell Springs, which runs through the RMC quarry. Liddell Springs is a major source of clear, reliable water for the City of Santa Cruz, particularly during the winter months when rain increases the turbidity of the San Lorenzo River and other water sources.
The court decision to require an EIR on full mining operations is based on RMC’s agreement in 1997 to a Certificate of Compliance which stipulated that all mining operations would be conducted in conformance with a 1996 EIR and 1996 Reclamation Plan containing conditions designed to mitigate the quarry’s potentially significant impacts on Liddell Springs. The effect of making the 1997 agreement was to relinquish any prior rights granted in the original 1969 quarry use permit.
RMC began taking steps to complete the EIR even while appealing the Trial Court decision. The recent drilling activities reported by nearby residents are a result of EIR requirements. The County is requiring RMC to drill six monitoring wells to determine if quarry activities are affecting water quality.
Ecological Reserve Road Violation Update
The County District Attorney’s office recently met with representatives of RMC Pacific Materials, the State Dept. of Fish and Game and the County Planning Dept. to continue discussions regarding mitigations, erosion issues, and road mapping issues related to RMC’s road grading violations on the Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve. A site visit by representatives of the various parties and their legal counsels is planned for early March.
Additional information that has come to light during the investigation is that RMC retains mineral rights to approximately one third of the land under the Ecological Reserve. The implications of this are not fully understood, but it appears that RMC could exercise its right to mine the reserve.
Citizens interested in hiking on RMC’s land adjacent to the reserve may apply for a permit from RMC.
North Coast Farm Visitor’s Center to Open May 1
Save Our Agricultural Land (SOAL), in conjunction with Swanton Berry Farm (SWB), the Davenport Resource Service Center (DRSC), the California Alliance of Family Farmers (CAFF) and other local organizations, is developing a North Coast Farm Visitor’s Center slated to open to the public in April at Swanton Berry Farm along Hwy. 1 just north of Davenport.
The first phase of the educational program will include a photographic exhibit at the SWB farm stand featuring historical photos of farming and other North Coast activities, photos of current farmers and their farming operations, images of plant and animal species found along the North Coast, as well as a tribute to the Indians who called the North Coast home. Explanatory text will accompany the photographs.
A self-guided tour of the farm, featuring sand dunes and dune-adapted species, wild and cultivated strawberry plants, other indigenous and exotic plant species and farm equipment will also be included. A series of neatly painted signs will guide visitors from site to site according to a simple map.
A Grand Opening, complete with strawberries and strawberry shortcake, is scheduled for May 1. Look for further announcements. Everyone is invited to attend.
New Board Members
At the January General Meeting, two new members were elected to the RBDA Board, Jane Cavanaugh and Yana Jacobs, and Don Coyne and Ben Harmon were re-elected. Jane and Yana replace Marty Demare and Miriam Beames, two long-time board members.
Marty and Miriam devoted many hours of excellent service to the Board, and they will be missed greatly. We have confidence that Jane and Yana will prove to also be valuable members, and we trust that you will give them your support.
In addition, Helen Larkin, who had served on the board during 2003, resigned at the January Executive Board meeting. Robert Thornton was appointed by the Board to serve out the duration of her 2-year term.
The Board also selected its officers for the year: Don continues as chairman, Jodi Frediani stays vice-chair, Alec Webster continues as Treasurer and Ben as Membership Coordinator, Jane is the new Highlander Editor, Yana the new Corresponding Secretary, and Robert the new Recording Secretary.
RBDA Board Actions
At the Jan. 21 Executive Board meeting, the following actions were taken:
1. Approved the minutes of the Oct. and Dec. 2003 Board meetings.
2. Accepted the resignation of Helen Larkin and appointed Robert Thornton to complete her term.
3. Chose the offices each board member would fill for the coming year.
Looking For A Few Good Astronomers
The RBDA Board is considering the possibility of a program on ³Astronomers of Bonny Doon² for the late summer General Meeting. The program would inform us about the many astronomers, both famous and obscure, who live and ³practice² in Bonny Doon, as well as teach us about that most subtle of pollution problems, the loss of dark sky.
We’ll likely find the famous ones on our own, but if you are, or know of, some amateur stargazer up here, let us know if you (or they) would like to participate. We hope to have some scopes set up for viewing after a truncated meeting. Please call our Chairman, Don Coyne, at 429-5755 if you are interested.
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