Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Guest post on Coyote Valley and wildlife corridor issues

(CGF Volunteer Shari Pomerantz wrote the guest blog post below, and we're looking forward to more from her. -Brian)

Coyote Valley is one of the few remaining wildlife corridors in Santa Clara County, linking habitats in the Santa Cruz Mountains with the northern Diablo Range. Gavilan College’s proposal – the addition of a new 10,000 student campus in Coyote Valley - will have significant impacts on the cougars, badgers, raptors, and other species that migrate through Coyote Valley to access seasonal food and water supplies.

A recent SF Gate article discusses the ecological value of Coyote Valley, and highlights disagreements regarding the extent to which the new campus will reduce Coyote Valley’s functioning as a wildlife corridor.

Students at De Anza College have identified nearly 200 species of birds and mammals using the corridor, including 12 species with special statuses. The students seek to protect them through the establishment of a Coyote Valley Raptor Reserve, and do not believe Gavilan’s expansion plans to be compatible with their goals. The Committee for Green Foothills is also working to protect Coyote Valley, and agrees with the students’ assessment of its value.

Gavilan College spokeswoman Jan Bernstein acknowledges the presence of wildlife in Coyote Valley, but believes the impacts of development in Coyote Valley and Gilroy will be comparable. There are several distinctions between the areas surrounding these two campuses, which have not been adequately addressed.

The Gilroy campus borders thousands of acres of pristine wild habitat. The proposed Coyote Valley site does not. Coyote Valley is one of the few remaining wildlife corridors in the region, and the corridor is already impaired by traffic and the fact that farmland isn't quite as compatible with wildlife movement as natural habitat. While animals do stray into the Gilroy campus from adjacent habitat, we cannot realistically assume a similar ‘coexistence’ to occur with an increased human presence in Coyote Valley.

The Coyote Valley site for Gavilan College currently consists of unoccupied farmland. The College’s plan includes specific elements that will greatly increase its impact on wildlife and migration. The new campus will include a firing range, police academy, and athletic fields. Clearly, the noise and fence construction associated with these activities can harm animal migration. Furthermore, the arrival of 10,000 students to a presently unpopulated area will greatly increase traffic, and encourage additional business and residential development.

In summary: Gavilan College’s expansion plans are not compatible with the need to protect Coyote Valley’s rare value as a wildlife migration corridor.

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