Wednesday, July 28, 2004

It's here....

West Nile virus, that is.  A dead crow in East San Jose has been diagnosed with the disease.  This exotic disease may force some unfortunate changes in wetlands management.  Environmental groups will have to watch government agencies to make sure they do not cross the line separating reasonable caution in conducting mosquito abatement, from paranoia that causes environmental destruction.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Tiger Salamanders finally get protection

The Fish and Wildlife Service has apparently decided to finally grant protection under the Endangered Species Act to California Tiger Salamanders throughout their range. While the government missed its promised May 15 deadline, it at least decided to go ahead with the listing, contrary to the wishes of developers. The timing is also fortuitous for CGF, coinciding with the headline article for the latest Green Footnotes article.

Something that is a little unusual about this listing is that ranching activities that harm salamanders will be allowed, without the usual provision that a permit must first be issued. Usually species listed as "threatened" get the same protection as species as ones listed as "endangered", but this time an exception was made. If the salamanders had been listed as endangered, no exceptions for the permit requirement would have been possible.

We can now expect the usual rhythm in conservation - before a species is listed, developers claim to find it everywhere, so no listing is needed. After it's listed, developers claim the species is nowhere to be found (at least on their own property), so there is no need to restrict their development. To be fair, conservation groups often make the exact opposite conclusions.

The other thing to watch for would be Stanford University's submission of an application for a permit that would allow it to harm tiger salamanders.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Sprawl comes home to roost in Gilroy

For years, the City of Gilroy has had an unfortunate obsession with promoting "big-box" retailing, placing massive discount outlets near the outskirts of town in order to attract retail customers from around the Bay Area. Besides using up open space and destroying farmland in the last stronghold for agriculture in Santa Clara County, this policy maximizes commuter miles as people travel to the southernmost point of the Bay Area, and increases pressures to widen highways.

The Gilroy Dispatch is now writing about the decay of Gilroy's downtown business area. Big-box retail, used to grab tax dollars from other jurisdictions, is hurting Gilroy's own small businesses. Maybe city politicians will learn from this lesson.