Thursday, September 25, 2008

What Goes Around Comes Around for San Francisco

That environmentalism, in its most extreme and virulent forms, is a mental illness, or at the very least a syndrome of some sort, worthy of mention in psychology text books, can no longer be denied, in my view. Political correctness, and the fear of a backlash, seem to be the only things preventing professionals in the field from making a formal diagnosis.

I'm not a professional. But I know insanity when I see it. And I see it in the following press release from the Center for Biological Diversity, one of many groups whose professional staff and financial supporters suffer from this as-yet unnamed affliction. It must be the first mania in history that can be turned into a career.

One delicious irony in the situation, however, is that the target of the Center's latest suit is Wacko Central, San Francisco, where this probably won't even be recognized as lunacy. But one still harbors the hope, probably vain, that radicals can be reformed if directly confronted with their imbalanced behaviors. As with any 12-step program, the first step toward recovery begins with the recognition that you have a problem.

The press release speaks for itself:

City of San Francisco Warned of Lawsuit over Killing Endangered Species at Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica

Conservation Groups Urge Restoration of Coastal Wetlands at Park to Protect San Francisco Garter Snake, California Red-Legged Frog

SAN FRANCISCO— The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the City and County of San Francisco for illegally killing and harming two endangered species at Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica, in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act. Activities at the golf course have been killing federally protected California red-legged frogs, and recent studies show that ongoing course operations may be threatening endangered San Francisco garter snakes.

“The time is right to restore Sharp Park to its natural condition,” said Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “ San Francisco has a golden opportunity to save taxpayers’ money, preserve our endangered species, and improve recreational access to our coast.”

The Center is calling on San Francisco to cease harming endangered species, restore Sharp Park to its natural state as a coastal wetland, and provide more diverse recreational opportunities for the public at the site. The Center opposes a flawed plan released recently by San Francisco's Recreation and Park Department that calls for privatizing the mismanaged and financially failing golf course and illegally reconstructing flooded portions of the course at the expense of endangered species.

The operation and mismanagement of the golf course is undermining habitat-restoration work within the nearby Golden Gate National Recreation Area for the garter snake and the frog at adjacent Mori Point. In 2005, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service notified the Recreation and Park Department that golf course operations were illegally “taking” threatened California red-legged frogs (Rana aurora draytonii) by draining and pumping the frog’s aquatic habitats, which strands and desiccates frog eggs and kills tadpoles. New evidence has surfaced that extremely rare San Francisco garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia) have been killed by groundskeepers mowing grass in areas that the snake uses for basking.

Sharp Park Golf Course is owned by the City and County of San Francisco but is located to the south of the city on the coast, in Pacifica. Its ongoing environmental problems are largely due to poor design and unfortunate placement. To create the course in the early 1930s, the Recreation and Park Department dredged and filled areas around a lagoon known as Laguna Salada for 14 months. Not surprisingly, Sharp Park has had problems with flooding and drainage ever since. The course’s ceremonial opening day was delayed twice due to wet playing conditions, major coastal floods have on two occasions destroyed several holes, and normal winter rains flood the course nearly every year.

“Sharp Park is built over lagoon wetlands and will always lack proper natural drainage and require extravagant effort to maintain,” said Peter Baye, a coastal ecologist who prepared lagoon-wetland restoration plans for California State Parks and the National Recreation Area.

“Maintaining a drowning golf course as sea levels rise is a futile investment. Restoring flood outlets and expanding marsh areas would improve endangered species habitat and increase flood-control options for adjacent landowners.”

San Francisco is reviewing all of its municipally owned golf courses to map out their future use. The Center for Biological Diversity has proposed restoring Sharp Park to a natural state and providing access to hiking trails, picnicking spots, camping facilities and educational opportunities – all of which are sorely needed in San Mateo County.

The Recreation and Park Department, on the other hand, in August released a fatally flawed consultant’s report that advocates privatizing San Francisco’s public golf courses and reconstructing Sharp Park as an "elite" golf course with all 18 holes west of Highway 1. The plan’s recommendations would destroy and fragment much of the snake and frog habitat on the site. It would make flood problems significantly worse, create legal liability to San Francisco for flood damage to adjacent properties, and involve time-consuming permit processes for development that will never be allowed by state and federal regulatory agencies.

“This habitat destruction plan is a non-starter, and if pursued further by the Recreation and Park Department will result in a costly lawsuit for San Francisco,” Miller said. “It is untenable on economic, flood management, and ecological grounds and imposes huge financial and legal risks to the City and County of San Francisco and its taxpayers.”

"Sharp Park is a critical link in the chain of endangered species habitats on the central coast,” said Peter Brastow, director of Nature in the City, a local conservation group. “A restored Sharp Park ecosystem would seamlessly integrate into the surrounding National Park landscape and could be showcased as a natural area where children and adults can connect with wild nature in their own backyard."

The Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club San Francisco Bay and Loma Prieta chapters, San Francisco League of Conservation Voters, Nature In The City, and Golden Gate Audubon Society all have called on San Francisco to consider restoration of coastal wetlands and endangered species habitat at Sharp Park.

The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department’s Golf Course Task Force will meet at 6 p.m. next Monday, September 29th, at San Francisco City Hall, Room 278, to discuss the consultant’s report and the future of the Sharp Park Golf Course.

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