Friday, January 07, 2005

Local environmental groups silent on salamander habitat preservation

Below is a recent email Two Santa Rosas is glad to pass along. It's from Marilee Montgomery, Public Information Liaison for Stop the Casino 101 Coalition. See above for an updated background story, first posted last June at The Other Santa Rosa.

(Please forward this email to anyone you think would be interested in saving the Sonoma County Tiger Salamander population)

Dear Friend:

As you are probably aware, the Santa Rosa Plain Conservation Strategy Team has high-jacked the whole process for protecting the California Tiger Salamander and preserving its habitat here in Sonoma County.

After a conversation I had yesterday with Vincent Griego of U.S. Fish and Wildlife, it is obvious to me that Fish and Wildlife has made the decision to consider this "local building industry-supported group" (North Bay Business Journal , March, 2004) as representative of the community as a whole. They have also apparently decided to ignore the recommendations of a team of environmentalists, and go forward with a plan that would not only reduce the amount of land required for mitigation, but would also chop up CTS habitat, which must be continuous to be effective. Both these measures would ensure the eradication of the Sonoma County CTS and its unique genetic strain.

Fish and Wildlife has sought no meaningful input from either the environmental community, the community at large, or the elected officials from other area cities. Despite that, they are apparently ready to proceed with creating a "conservation" plan as early as next month, going forward based on the assumption that the "team" , which is not even a bona fide organization, has the authority to negotiate this issue for the whole county!

I had a long conversation with Kassie Siegel, attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, which has brought suit against Fish and Wildlife to protect the status of Sonoma County's CTS as "endangered". She suggested that I attempt to engage Sonoma County's environmentalists and those sympathetic to the preservation of the vernal wetlands habitat as well as the preservation of Sonoma county's CTS population.

I know that many of you have been involved in this from the beginning, and I'd like to hear from anyone who has information regarding this situation. Because I am limited by my health problems and must spend most of my available energy on casino issues, I simply cannot function as the point person on this particular issue. But we definitely need to coordinate our efforts by forming a Vernal Wetlands task force as quickly as possible. I'm hoping someone out there will commit to this task.

In the meantime, I am asking each of you to email Vincent Griego at Fish & Wildlife at and let him know that the Santa Rosa Plain Conservation Strategy Team does not speak for this community with regard to Sonoma County CTS habitat. I'm also begging our local environmental community to become more engaged in this process. Winning a war always takes time, but with a real show of force now, combined with the Center Biological Diversity's lawsuit, we could conceivably win this particular battle.

Thank you so much for your interest in this issue.

Marilee Montgomery


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