A 430-acre parcel called the Richmond Hills Scenic Area, north of Wildcat Canyon and off of San Pablo Dam Road, will soon feature in an initiative from the Friends of the Richmond Hills political action committee. They request amending the Richmond General Plan in favor of conserving the land, including restrictions such as minimum 20-acre parcel size, zoning for agricultural preserve and open space areas, and consideration for special status plant and animal species. Part of the parcel overlaps with our Sobrante Ridge Botanical Priority Potection Area (BPPA), so even though surveys are a bit out of date from several past development proposals in the early 2000s, we are confident that this habitat supports maritime chaparral at the minimum. Our board voted this month to support the initiative, and we will be shown as a supporter on literature and signature petition booths within the next three months.

On April 22 the quarterly Environmental Round Table, consisting of Parks District staff and local environmental organization representatives, convened at the Parks District headquarters. We heard updates on the progress of publishing the Pallid Manzanita Management Plan and discussed the Fuels Management Plan, which would greatly affect areas of Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve. Many surveys of local Phytophthora occurrences will begin soon. 

The Friends of Tesla Park (FOTP) picnic took place on April 17 on Connolly Ranch near Tesla and Carnegie. It was a good opportunity for networkin and for Tesla viewing from a distance. We hiked Bald Mountain, heard a brief history lesson on the Irish sheep herders in the area, ate, and contemplated the future of Tesla. FOTP expects future litigation upon approval of the Environmental Report (EIR). We expect that the Off-highway Vehicle (OHV)Commission will release the final EIR sometime this summer. 

There were two field trips exploring our eastern Botanical Priority Protection Areas (BPPAs).
area visited included the Byron Airport mitigation land alkali scalds areas, the Springtown alkali scalds, and the Sand Creek Focus Area in Antioch. Planned trips include a driving tour of several spots in eastern Contra Costa County. Allied organizations such as Save Mount Diablo have presented alternative proposals for development of the Sand Creek Focus Area that include generous open space allocations. I am writing a letter to the planning commission and will attend their next meeting. 

On April 11, the East Bay Environmental NGOs monthly meetings reconvened at Save Mount Diablo (SMD). I met with SMD, Greenbelt Alliance, and the Brentwood Agricultural Land Trust to discuss current issues including the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) proposal, the Concord Naval Weapons Station, Richmond Hills, urban limit lines Tassajara/Doolan Canyon, and the Dublin initiative. This group is proving to  be helpful for resourcing assistance, evaluating ideas, and as a sounding board on local issues. They have already increased my education and awareness of topics EBCNPS may get involved in. 

I met with the our Chapter president and vegetation chairs, to review understanding of enforcement of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) with regards to plant communities and rare plants, as well as the roles of current databases (the Vegetation Cassification and Mapping Program (VegCAMP), the California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB) and codes (Manual of California Vegetation). 

On April 5 the state CNPS office held their monthly conservation conference call. Topics discussed included Calfire vegetation treatment program, forestry related legislative bills AB2162 and AB1958 (both addressing oak woodlands), and CNPS herbicide policy.

Concord Naval Weapons Station: our organization has been paying attention to the progress of this open space preservation and development in Concord. The land is still federally owned as these plans are being developed. The City Council chose Lennar this month as developer for phase one of housing construction. The East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) plans incorporate ample open space for public use. Our chapter will continue monitoring the planned landscape uses. None of these plans can be finalized until the property is transferred from federal ownership to the City of Concord and the East Bay Regional Parks District. This is common practice to minimize liability, and it is helpful to keep it in mind for all federally owned land, like the former military bases Alameda Point and Hunter’s Point. We expect the transfer and initial development to advance no sooner than 2017. Our chapter looks forward to continuing collaboration with the Park District and with other local environmental organizations in monitoring these open space plans.

Karen Whitestone

Conservation Analyst