Tuesday, October 28, 2008

San Bernardino Valley Audubon wins appeal!

A California state appeals court on Monday, October 26, 2008 upheld a lower court's ruling that San Bernardino County disregarded part of its general plan when it approved a Lake Arrowhead housing development without first requiring completion of an evacuation route. The California Fourth District Court of Appeal also went further than a lower court, ruling that a water supply was not properly identified for the proposed 57-home development south of Cumberland and Blue Ridge drives and that the environmental impact on the Southern Rubber Boa, a threatened species of snake found on the project site, was not properly evaluated.

The original suit was filed in San Bernardino Superior Court in December 2005 by the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society, the Save Our Forest Association, Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity, against Hawarden Development and the county.

"We're very happy with the decision," said the local Audubon Society chapter President Drew Feldmann. "We went after this particular case because it was one of the first (development projects) after the big fire of 2003."The subdivision project, known as Blue Ridge Estates, was planned for a steep slope near Cedar Glen; an area hit hard by 2003's Old Fire.

Three California chapters win TOYOTA Innovation grants!

Golden Gate Audubon, Mendocino Coast Audubon and Napa/Solano Audubon will receive over $93,000 for projects on wetlands, shorebirds, and vineyards in Toyota Innovation grants announced October 21, 2008. The grants are part of a four or five year partnership between Audubon and Toyota called Together Green that will distribute $20 million to Audubon chapters, centers, and sanctuaries to engage non-Audubon partners and diverse audiences in volunteer and conservation efforts.
Golden Gate Audubon's project WETLANDS AND WILDLANDS will focus on the Bay Area, Mendocino Coast's program SAVE OUR SHOREBIRDS will focus on Snowy Plover and other shorebirds on the Northern California coast, and Napa/Solano will partner with local vineyards to restore and create new habitat for birds on their agricultural lands.
The next round of Toyota grants including Fellows grants, Volunteer Days grants, and Innovation grants will be announced in January by Audubon. For a description of recent volunteer and grant projects throughout the U.S. go here

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Santa Barbara County approves wind farm with protections for birds

From Santa Barbara Audubon Conservation Chair Steve Ferry:

"On September 30 the Santa Barbara Planning Commission approved the Lompoc Wind Energy Project (LWEP).  The project includes 65 wind turbine generators (WTGs) producing about 1.5 MW each on 3000 acres of private grazing land about 5 miles south of Lompoc.                  

This milestone is the culmination of approximately two years of effort by Santa Barbara’s Environmental Defense Center (EDC), Santa Barbara Audubon Society (SBAS), La Purisima Audubon Society (LPAS), and Los Angeles Audubon Society (LAAS).  EDC and the three Audubon chapters made extensive comments on the Draft and Final Environmental Impact Reports and had numerous meetings with the County, the applicant, and their consultants.  As a result of those efforts, the Biological Resources section of the DEIR was completely re-written and significant protections to the environment were added. 

Just in the last week the County staff, at the urging of EDC and the Audubon chapters, inserted a requirement that parts of the project could be shut down if there were excessive bird mortalities.  This provision was a major goal of the environmental groups.  During the Planning Commission meeting EDC and Audubon advocated for strengthening of the shutdown provision, a longer period of bird mortality monitoring, offsite land easements, and additional protection for burrowing owls.  Our positions were supported by the Sierra Club, the Santa Barbara Community Action Network, and in part by the Community Environmental Council.  In the end, the Commission voted to extend the mortality monitoring and strengthen the shutdown provision. 

The approval of LWEP is a significant environmental achievement.  The project will produce enough clean energy to power about 50,000 homes.  The reduction of greenhouse gasses as a result of this project, if replicated across the country, will reduce global warming - a major threat to the survival of birds.  And the protections added to the project as a result of the efforts of EDC, SBAS, LPAS, and LAAS ensure that the environmental impacts of LWEP will be minimized. 

Special thanks for a long, sustained, and effective effort to those who worked on this project: Karen Kraus and Brian Trautwein of EDC, Steve Ferry of SBAS, Tam Taaffe and Paul Keller of LPAS, Garry George of LAAS, and Mark Holmgren.  Thanks also to Kris Burnell, former SBAS Science Chair, for her contributions."