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The Crashing Golf Market and You: Why it doesn’t make sense to invest millions of your taxpayer money in San Francisco’s failing Sharp Park Golf Course


Annual flooding reduces golf activity at Sharp Park Golf Course

Sharp Park Golf Course has a lot going against it these days. Since 2005, the course has lost San Francisco nearly 1.4 million dollars (see table below). Take a look at player-written reviews of the course, and you’ll find that many consider golf at Sharp Park to be a less-than-pleasant experience, in regards to both the game and interactions with staff. To top it off, Sharp Park Golf Course drains wetlands and kills two endangered species when it operates, giving an environmental black-eye to the entire industry.

Fiscal Year RPD Sharp Park Golf Course Losses
04/05 - $110,299
05/06 - $338,025
06/07 - $64,685
07/08 - $119,758
08/09 $29,446
09/10 - $134,699
10/11 - $161,217
11/12 - $245,007
12/13 - $248,786
TOTALS - $1,389,253

At most, what people like about Sharp Park is its sentimental worth to those that have been playing there for years (granted, they also enjoy how inexpensive it is to play at, compared to your average course). Is that enough reason to justify the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department plan to gamble with $20 million of your taxpayer dollars on redeveloping this controversial golf course?

Not according to new statistics published in a Men’s Journal article, The Death of Golf, by Karl Taro Greenfield. According to Greenfield, golf courses in the United States are closing much faster than the new ones are opening- in 2014, there were approximately 16 course closures for every new course that had opened (and even though new courses are opening, there is no indication that they are faring well economically). Today, there are 19% fewer players now than there were in 2003, with players under age 34 losing the highest percentage of players when compared to other age groups. Even television viewership of golf is diminishing.

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#RestoreSharpPark for #WorldSnakeDay!

Happy World Snake Day!

At Wild Equity we love snakes of all shapes and sizes, but of course there’s one that’s out and away our favorite. The San Francisco Garter Snake is possibly the most imperiled vertebrate in the state, yet it is also one of the most alluring species on the continent.

So, in honor of all the world’s snakes – endangered or otherwise – here are some of our favorite photos of this charismatic serpent.

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Wild Equity Lawsuit Challenges Sharp Park Golf Course's Destruction of Coastal Wetlands

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 For Immediate Release: June 18, 2015

Contact: Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989

Wild Equity Lawsuit Challenges Sharp Park Golf Course’s Destruction of Coastal Wetlands 

 Redwood City, Calif. — The Wild Equity Institute has sued the Coastal Commission and the San Francisco Recreation & Park Department in San Mateo Superior Court over a project that will destroy and drain Sharp Park’s Laguna Salada wetland complex, arguably the most ecologically important portion of the Department's most biologically rich land.


Sharp Park Golf Course Drains Laguna Salada Wetlands, December 11, 2014.

“This senseless project will destroy critical wetlands, harm endangered species, and cost taxpayers over $1,000,000 to implement,” said Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute.  “The Coastal Act prohibits development in coastal wetlands with few exceptions, and none of the exceptions apply to this wasteful project.  But the Coastal Commission rubber-stamped the project without considering thousands of comments submitted by scientists and conservation groups. We expect the court to rectify this illegal act.”

San Francisco’s Recreation & Park Department is proposing to destroy aquatic vegetation in Sharp Park’s Laguna Salada wetland complex—arguably the most ecologically important part of the Department’s most biologically important land—so it can drain the wetland during winter rains. 

Among other things, the project will fill a portion of Laguna Salada’s wetlands with concrete to expand the foundation footprint for a shed that houses wetland draining pumps. This permanent loss of wetlands is illegal, because expanding a shed does not fit within any of the limited exceptions to the prohibition against destroying coastal wetlands. Nonetheless, the Coastal Commission deemed that expanding the shed qualified for the exception that applies to “expansion of roadbeds and bridges necessary to maintain existing traffic capacity,” and permitted the project under the Coastal Act.

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Wild Equity's Executive Director Brent Plater on Resistance Radio

‘One of the things I love about your work is that it bridges the gap between theory and work on the ground…
You seem to be manifesting that combination of theory and practice that I think is so important.’

- Derrick Jensen

Derrick Jensen is the author of numerous radical environmental volumes, including the highly critical Endgame, and is the co-founder of activist organization Deep Green Resistance. He has been called “the poet-philosopher of the ecological movement”* and now he’s taken an interest in the work we’re doing at Wild Equity.

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Wild Equity Sues EPA for Failing to Curb PG&E Pollution in Antioch

For Immediate Release, June 3, 2015

Contact:  Brent Plater, bplater@wildequity.org, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989

Wild Equity Institute Sues EPA for Failing to Curb PG&E Pollution in Antioch


From L to R: Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly, Contra Costa Wallflower, Antioch Dunes Evening Primrose


San Francisco, Calif.— Today the Wild Equity Institute filed an Endangered Species Act lawsuit in United States District Court against the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) for failing to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about the effects of PG&E’s power plant pollution on three endangered species found at the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge.

“EPA has its head in the Antioch Dunes’ sand when it comes to PG&E’s power plant pollution,” said Brent Plater, executive director at Wild Equity Institute. “Other power plants have already taken measures to protect local communities and imperiled plants and animals, and it’s time EPA ensures it, and the corporations it regulates, play by the same rules.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service has known for years that nitrogen pollution from power plants near the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge is “virtually certain” to cause Antioch Dunes’ endangered species to go extinct. Because of this, the agency formally requested that EPA comply with the Endangered Species Act by “consulting” over PG&E’s power plant pollution’s effects on endangered species at the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge. The EPA has repeatedly refused to do so, even though another nearby power plant recently agreed to mitigate its pollution in response to Endangered Species Act claims.

Today’s lawsuit demands that EPA comply with the Endangered Species Act by initiating the requested consultation process, and ultimately address the impacts power plant pollution has on the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge and the plants and animals that call the refuge home. Matt Kenna, Public Interest Environmental Law and of Counsel, Western Environmental Law Center, is co-counsel with Mr. Plater in the case.

Background on the Gateway Generating Station and the Antioch Dunes Endangered Species


PG&E’s Gateway Generating Station


Gateway Generating Station is a large, natural-gas-fired power plant in Antioch, California that pollutes nearby communities, worsens the global climate crisis, and threatens the survival of three endangered species: the Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly, the Antioch Dunes Evening Primrose, and the Contra Costa Wallflower.

For many years Wild Equity has informed the EPA and PG&E that they must work with the Fish and Wildlife Service to assess the impacts of Gateway’s nitrogen emissions on the butterfly, as required under the Endangered Species Act. However, to date the EPA and PG&E have not fulfilled this legal duty.

The Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly, Antioch Dunes Evening Primrose, and the Contra Costa Wallflower have been protected by the federal Endangered Species Act for almost 40 years. They are endemic to the Antioch Dunes in Contra Costa County, a relict desert landscape left behind as California’s prehistoric deserts retreated from the Bay Area 140,000 years ago. Because of the Antioch Dunes’ isolation, many species found in the dunes are unique and very rare.

Sand dunes like the Antioch Dunes are nitrogen deficient, and increased amounts of airborne nitrogen emitted from Gateway changes the chemical composition of the dunes, creating soil conditions that are only suitable for the growth of invasive weeds. Under these polluted conditions, these species’ habitats are invaded by invasive weeds that would otherwise be unable to grow on the endangered species’ native landscapes.

Gateway’s emissions also harm local communities by contributing more ozone pollution and soot to an area already disproportionately overwhelmed by power plant pollution.


The Wild Equity Institute is building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.

http://wildequity.org/

###

Action Alert: Hearing at the California Coastal Commission!

Dear Protectors of Sharp Park wetlands!

Your attendance is requested for a critical public meeting on Thursday April 16th in San Rafael (Marin County). That afternoon, the California Coastal Commission will be responding to the City of San Francisco’s request for a permit to dredge and continue draining Sharp Park wetlands. Your voice is needed to inform the Commission why the wetlands should not be dredged and why the City needs to end its ongoing degradation to the wetlands and the wildlife that depend on it. This will be the first and ONLY time an agency with a mission to protect wetlands will review the project!!

Will you join members of the Restore Sharp Park Coalition? Please contact jcrofton@wildequity.org for more information or to RSVP. We can answer questions and provide you with talking points, too. Details of the meeting below!

WHAT: Coastal Commission meeting where Sharp Park dredging and wetlands draining will be considered, and either denied or permitted.
WHEN: Thursday April 16th at 12:30pm. The Sharp Park agenda item is likely to come up right after lunch. Please arrive at 12:30pm and join fellow supporters for lunch at the cafeteria within the building.
WHERE: Marin County Board of Supervisor’s meeting room. Marin Civic Center. 3501 Civic Center Drive, Suite 329, San Rafael, CA 94903.
WHY: This is our best opportunity to stop this misguided project. Please lend your voice at this important meeting!

**** Talking Points ****

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Wild Equity Bands with Allies to Challenge Sharp Park Pumphouse Project

At 10:00am on Friday April 3rd, Wild Equity, Sequoia Audubon Society, and Save the Frogs will present oral arguments at San Francisco Superior Court over a project that will destroy and drain Sharp Park’s Laguna Salada wetland complex, arguably the most ecologically important portion of the Department’s most biologically rich land.

“This senseless project will destroy critical wetlands, harm endangered species, and waste taxpayer money,” said Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute. “Experts have demonstrated that a feasible alternative to this project exists that will not harm wetlands and will save taxpayers money. But San Francisco has refused to consider this alternative, so we will ask the court to bring common sense back to the Recreation & Park Department."

You can attend the hearing to show solidarity with our movement, but of course court proceedings do not permit public testimony. Contact jcrofton@wildequity.org for details if you’d like to attend the hearing: we’d love to have you there!

Wild Equity Secures Challenge to Lower Court Opinion

On March 11, 2015 Wild Equity appeared at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in our ongoing legal challenged to the money-losing, endangered species killing Sharp Park Golf Course. A few days later the court issued a short opinion that clears the way for Wild Equity to “vacate” a mistaken element of a district court decision issued in 2012.

Specifically, the Ninth Circuit agreed with Wild Equity that our challenge became “moot” due to intervening events. Wild Equity proposed that the court therefore must either (1) declare the case moot so that the lower court opinion could be vacated, or (2) wield an exception to the mootness doctrine and rule that the lower court opinion was wrong on the merits. The court chose the former option, and now Wild Equity can move forward with vacating the mistaken element of the lower court’s position.

This ruling upholds Wild Equity’s lower court victories finding the Golf Course illegally killed endangered species for years, harming their populations, and ordering the Golf Course to pay nearly $400,000 in court costs for its illegal actions. It also paves the way for new legal challenges against the Golf Course for its actions that harm taxpayers and the environment. Stay tuned for the latest updates in our campaign to Restore Sharp Park.

100 Parks for 100 Years!

Wild Equity has been calling for new National Parks for a long time — especially at the notorious Sharp Park in Pacifica — and as it turns out, we’re not the only ones! Numerous organizations and constituencies have banded together in different areas of the country to expand the U.S. National Parks system. One of these organizations, RESTORE, has recently put together a campaign called New National Parks that is dedicated to celebrating the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary in an extraorindary and creative way.

From their website:

In 2016, Americans will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. There could be no better time for a bold campaign to expand the National Park System for the next century. Why not 100 new parks — or more — to mark the centennial? Such a campaign can inspire conservationists, rally public support, and convince Congress and the president to take positive action. Future generations will thank us for having the foresight to save our unprotected natural and historic treasures as their priceless national park legacy.

This is the vision of the New National Parks (NNP) campaign.

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Wild Equity returns to Sunday Streets!

Wild Equity has participated in Sunday Streets regularly for years — and after a short break, this month we’ve made a comeback! It was a beautiful day out on the Embarcadero Route, and Wild Equity had lots of fun celebrating recreation, community, and physical activity in the streets of San Francisco. The live band by our table was particularly enlivening!

Visit our table at Sunday Streets events to learn about our work uniting the grassroots conservation and environmental justice movements in campaigns that redress inequity — both across our human communities and towards the lands in which we live. We’d love the chance to say, “Hi!”

We are scheduled to be present at all upcoming Sunday Streets events. You can come check us out on 4/12 at Bayview/Dogpatch, or on 5/10 in the Mission, or on 6/14 at the Sunset on the Great Highway… Take your pick!

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Photoset: Revitalizing the Antioch Dunes

Recently, Wild Equity was proud to get together with our longstanding partners at the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge to work on rejuvenating the precious imperiled ecosystem that is present there. We were privileged to plant young, hand-reared Antioch Dunes Evening Primrose and Contra Costa Wallflower throughout this protected habitat. If all goes well, these specimens will flourish, and we’ll be back to count them in the summer! Stay tuned!

Antioch Dunes Evening Primrose on the right, Contra Costa Wallflower on the left.

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Coming up: Wahleah Johns speaks at Wild Equity movie night!

Wild Equity is excited to announce that we will be joined by featured activist Wahleah Johns for our upcoming screening of Power Paths!

On Wednesday, March 18th at 7:00pm Wild Equity will screen the film Power Paths, a rousing documentary about the struggles faced by Native American communities at the hands of environmentally devastating energy production.

Featured in the film is noted noted activist Wahleah Johns. Wahleah Johns is featured in the film, and has agreed to answer audience questions at our event!

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Golfonomics: The Millennial Challenge

Golf needs millennials — but attracting them is proving to be difficult. The industry wants insight, and the Pro Golf Association (PGA) has created a task force aiming to redefine the golf experience. The sport’s popularity has been waning, and efforts to orient the game toward the values of young people have never been more important. The youth prioritize social and environmental consciousness, and in this regard golf has an unfortunate reputation. With black marks like Sharp Park Golf Course on record, the game too often presents itself as socially and environmentally reckless. The industry must repair this image if it is to meet the millennial challenge.

Since its peak around the year 2000, golf has lost nearly 5 million players across all age groups. Among young people these unfavorable rates have been even higher. Participation of players under 18 has dropped 40% since 2005, and among players aged 18-35 it has dropped 30% . It’s a problem that negatively affects projections regarding the future of the sport, and one study has found that golf participation could further drop a startling “40% to 60%” by mid-century. This tenuous long-term outlook needs improvement; it is crucial to reinvent the game in ways that engage young people.

Groups like the PGA’s task force need to understand what it is that turns millennials off about golf. One undeniably significant factor is social and environmental consciousness. Millennials have a strikingly different set of values from previous generations, and they prioritize wider ethical considerations even in their most personally significant choices. They’ll take a pay cut to work for companies that create positive social impacts, and they identify with brands that reflect their values and actively support social causes. They emphasize environmentalism, and will go to great lengths to demonstrate their ideological commitment to sustainability. At the recent People’s Climate March in NYC, over 50,000 young people filled up ten city blocks to protest human-made climate change. Even those who do not consider themselves environmentalists value sustainability.

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Join Wild Equity Today!

2014 has been a challenging year. On December 20, 2013, Rose Braz—Wild Equity’s Chairperson, my wife, and the person I call “the greatest human I’ve ever met” without reservation—had a seizure. That Christmas Eve she was diagnosed with an invasive and aggressive form of brain cancer called glioblastoma.

It was the scariest moment we’ve ever faced.


Too many days were spent like this in 2014.

Our lives have been transformed. Rose has since had two brain surgeries and endured radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Much of my time has been dedicated to Rose’s care, and searching the literature for treatments that may fight this disease.

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Anniversary Bash: Thanks to everyone who came out!

As you know, 2014 was Wild Equity’s fifth year of building equity around the Bay Area, and last month you, our supporters, came forth to join us in celebration. Happily, the party was a huge success! We enjoyed live music and prizes, there were all kinds of merry-making, and the crowd was rife with animated and insightful conversation.

It was truly poignant to witness so many people converging over the essential principle of equity. It’s the principle that ties each of us to both people and planet, and we believe it’s a cause worth reveling in. It’s affirming to know that you all believe so, too.

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Tonight's the Night: Wild Equity's Anniversary Celebration!

Tonight's the night: Wild Equity's five year anniversary celebration!  A limited number of tickets have been reserved for sale at the door for only $15, so come on by! 

Thursday November 6th, 6pm,

at the Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics 

Thank you from all of us at Wild Equity!



Wild Equity Party

These are not actors: it's an actual scene from Wild Equity's most recent bash!!

Buy Your Ticket Now!

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Elite Students Complete Wild Equity/FWS Conservation Internship

Wild Equity Institute Staff Attorney Laura Horton ended a year-long project with the Toyota TogetherGreen fellowship program on August 8, 2014. Laura received a grant from the TTG program in September, 2013, and created a project that brought together high school students and teachers, government land managers, and environmental advocates in an effort to save the highly endangered Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly. The project centered around the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge, and Laura facilitated a two-part restoration program with Antioch High School students.

During the spring, Laura brought sixty students from Antioch High School to the Refuge to engage in native plant restoration and invasive removal. During the summer, Three students, Daja Miller, Adeeb Nazam, and Emily Hendricks, were awarded a summer internship with the Fish and Wildlife Service. The summer program included intensive hands-on training in land and wildlife management as well as a behind the scenes look at the California Academy of Sciences.


From L to R: Liz Reynolds, Adeeb Nazam, Emily Hendricks, Daja Miller, Louis Terrazas, Laura Horton.

On Friday, August 8th, the summer participants gathered at the Fish and Wildlife field office in Petaluma with friends and family to celebrate the successful program. Also in attendance were Laura and Fish and Wildlife employees including biotech Liz Reynolds and Wildlife Refuge Specialist Louis Terrazas, who acted as Refuge supervisors to the students.

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Nov. 6, 6pm: Five Years Fighting, Wild Equity's Anniversary Celebration!

On November 6th, 6pm, at the Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics Wild Equity will be proudly celebrating our five year anniversary! That’s right, it’s already been Five Years Fighting, and we’ve decided to throw you, the people who’ve made Wild Equity possible, a party!

Please join us for food, drinks, games, goodies, and most importantly good company! We’ll have live music by singer/songwriter Kristin Plater, as well as an outdoor gear raffle and vintage endangered species artwork up for auction at this celebratory end-of-year fundraiser. We’ll also showcase what we’ve accomplished to date, and, of course, show how we intend to keep Wild Equity’s momentum growing!

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Wild Equity Institute Challenges Harmful Sharp Park Water Quality Decision

For Immediate Release, July 24, 2014

Contact:  Laura Horton, lhorton@wildequity.org, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 235-0492

Wild Equity Institute Challenges Harmful Sharp Park Water Quality Decision

San Francisco, Calif.—Wild Equity Institute is challenging the Bay Area Regional Water Quality Control Board’s approval of a controversial dredging project led by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department at Sharp Park’s Laguna Salada wetland complex. The decision to approve the project was made despite clear harm to water quality and local species including the California Red Legged Frog and the San Francisco Garter Snake. The challenge will go before the State Water Resources Control Board.

“Rec and Park’s Sharp Park dredging project will cause devastating impacts to the water quality and imperiled species that depend on the area for survival,” said Laura Horton, Staff Attorney at the Wild Equity Institute. “We gave fair warning of these impacts to the Regional Water Quality Control Board, but our concerns were ignored and now the State Board needs to step in.”

metalmark8-25-11_large_medium 2
California Red-Legged Frog, Photo © Brent Plater



Rec and Park is proposing to dredge and remove aquatic vegetation in Sharp Park’s Laguna Salada wetland complex—arguably the most ecologically important part of Rec and Park’s most biologically important land—so it can drain the wetland more rapidly during winter rains that cause flooding on the Sharp Park Golf Course. The project is called the Sharp Park Safety, Infrastructure Improvement and Habitat Enhancement Project and it has long been criticized by the environmental community. Rec and Park applied for a Clean Water Act Section 401 “Water Quality Certification” for the project, and in a shocking move, the Regional Board recently issued the certification even after acknowledging the potential harmful impacts of the dredging project to water quality and species at Sharp Park.

The dredging will cause the resuspension of sulfide in the water, which causes harm to wildlife, and Wild Equity requested that further testing be done on the site in comments to the Regional Board. Moreover, experts have explained that the aquatic vegetation to be removed can only grow in shallow water. If Rec and Park destroys the vegetation while draining the wetland to shallow levels, the vegetation will grow back, creating an ongoing, expensive, and harmful cycle of dredging and draining.

Despite the clear scientific evidence and likelihood of future harm, the Regional Board is allowing the project to move forward, citing poor data as a basis for its decision. Wild Equity is challenging the Regional Board’s decision at the State Board level in hopes that the decision will be overturned and further testing will be conducted to fully assess the potential impact of the dredging project.


The Wild Equity Institute is building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.

http://wildequity.org/

###

July 10, 7:30 pm: The Wilds of San Francisco & You Slideshow

Thursday, July 10, 7:30pm, at the Randall Museum: San Francisco has 32 pockets of undeveloped land set aside for the preservation of the natural world. These pockets hold the last remnants of wildness once found across the lands where we now live, but do we have room in our parks and our hearts for nature in this city?

The San Francisco Natural History Lecture Series hosted by the San Francisco Naturalist Society welcomes Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute, for a photographic exploration of the remaining wild areas in San Francisco. Brent went on a three day quest to see each of these natural areas for himself, understand what’s proposed for these lands, and identify a plan to save these areas from the City’s mismanagement. Join Brent for a slideshow of his quest, add your thoughts to the conversation, and discover how we can help these areas thrive.

Please RSVP here or on our Meetup group page.


Lakeview/Ashton Mini Park Natural Area.

Federal Judge Tells EPA: No More Delays on Wild Equity Institute's Antioch Dunes Petition

For Immediate Release, July 8, 2014

Contact:  Laura Horton, lhorton@wildequity.org, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 235-0492

Federal Judge Tells EPA: No More Delays on Wild Equity Institute’s Antioch Dunes Petition

San Francisco, Calif.—Yesterday a federal court judge ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) to respond to Wild Equity Institute’s concerns over the impacts of PG&E’s power plant pollution on community health and the Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly, one of North America’s most imperiled species.

“EPA has ignored PG&E’s pollution problem long enough,” said Laura Horton, Staff Attorney at Wild Equity Institute. “The agency’s delay has put the local community and the highly endangered Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly at risk, and the federal court agrees it is time for EPA to step up.”

metalmark8-25-11_large_medium 2
Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly, Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge, August 17, 2012.
Photo © Liam O’Brien, http://www.sfbutterfly.com.


Last year, Wild Equity filed a petition with EPA over a permit issued to PG&E’s Gateway facility under Title V of the Clean Air Act. Gateway’s proposed permit failed to include air pollution control requirements to protect endangered species and the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge, even though Title V permits must include “all applicable” requirements.

Wild Equity demonstrated this failure to both EPA and the local permitting agency, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, through a formal legal petition process established by the Clean Air Act. The petition process requires EPA to respond to the petition within 60 days. However, EPA failed to respond to this petition at all and the proposed permit became final. Wild Equity then filed a lawsuit against EPA in March of this year to compel the agency to respond to the petition.

Federal court judge James Donato in the Northern District of California questioned EPA’s long delay in responding to Wild Equity’s petition, and ordered the agency to take action on the petition and provide a substantive response to Wild Equity’s concerns by October 17, 2014.

There are only a few dozen Lange’s metalmark butterflies remaining in the world. The Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that nitrogen pollution from power plants near the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge is “virtually certain” to cause the species to go extinct, and earlier this year independently demanded that EPA and PG&E consult with experts and mitigate Gateway Generating Station’s pollution.

Background on the Gateway Generating Station and the Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly.

Gateway Generating Station is a large, natural-gas-fired power plant in Antioch, California that pollutes nearby communities, worsens the global climate crisis, and threatens the survival of the Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly.

Wild Equity has for years been informing EPA and PG&E that they must work with the Fish and Wildlife Service to assess the impacts of Gateway’s nitrogen emissions on the butterfly, as required under the Endangered Species Act. However, to date EPA and PG&E have not fulfilled this legal duty.

The Lange’s metalmark butterfly is a brightly colored, fragile and highly endangered butterfly that has been protected by the federal Endangered Species Act since 1976. The species is endemic to the Antioch Dunes in Contra Costa County, a relict desert landscape left behind as California’s prehistoric deserts retreated from the Bay Area 140,000 years ago. Because of the Antioch Dunes’ isolation, many species found in the dunes are unique and very rare.

Sand dunes like the Antioch Dunes are nitrogen deficient, and increased amounts of airborne nitrogen emitted from Gateway changes the chemical composition of the dunes, creating soil conditions that are only suitable for the growth of invasive weeds. Under these polluted conditions, the butterfly’s host plant is lost to the invasive weeds, resulting in a population decline for the butterfly. Gateway’s emissions also harm local communities by contributing more ozone pollution and soot to an area already disproportionately overwhelmed by power plant pollution.


The Wild Equity Institute is building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.

http://wildequity.org/

###

We're Hiring: Staff Attorney Position Now Open

Staff Attorney Position

Position Summary.

Wild Equity is hiring a Staff Attorney to manage and prosecute environmental cases in state and federal courts. This full-time position is based in Wild Equity’s San Francisco office, and offers an extraordinary opportunity to join a growing organization and shape its future.

To apply for this position, please submit a resume, two recent samples of your own writing, list of references, law school transcript, and a cover letter describing your interest in our work to info@wildequity.org. The position will start on August 1, 2014.

Major Responsibilities.

Under the direction of the Executive Director and in collaboration with outside counsel, the Staff Attorney will:

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Wild Equity's Laura Horton Kicks Off Summer Program with Antioch Students to Protect Endangered Butterfly

Wild Equity Staff Attorney Laura Horton kicked off the summer component of her Toyota TogetherGreen project last week at the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge. The project, funded by a Toyota and National Audubon Society grant, was created to engage high school students in the protection of local endangered species at the Refuge through education and restoration in collaboration with Louis Terrazas of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Rick Barton of Antioch High School. The project consists of a spring program, aimed at bringing larger groups to the Refuge for high-impact restoration, and an application-based summer program, which focuses on specialized land management training for a small group. Students in the summer program also receive a stipend for their work.


Summer participants Adeeb Nazam, Daja Miller, and Emily Hendricks with Laura Horton (left to right).

Sixty students participated in the successful spring restoration program, and the project was featured in Examiner.com and Contra Costa Times. Following the spring program, Laura gave a presentation to the students in April on environmental jobs and invited them to apply to the summer program.

Antioch High School students Daja Miller, Adeeb Nazam, and Emily Hendricks were chosen to participate in the summer program, among many talented applicants. Daja is a recent Antioch High School graduate who will be attending Howard University in the fall and majoring in biology. She is very passionate about fair treatment for animals and helping others. Adeeb also recently graduated from Antioch High School. He has a strong interest in helping animals and working on environmental issues. Emily will be starting her junior year at Antioch High School in the fall. Her passion is learning about nature and the environment and she has worked on several conservation projects in the past.

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Wild Equity Participates in Release of Injured Baby Herons, Seeks Full Prosecution for Incident

Wild Equity staff participated in a very special event on Saturday, June 7: the release of five juvenile Black-crowned Night Herons, four of which were injured in the Oakland tree trimming incident last month. The event was hosted by our partner Golden Gate Audubon Society as well as International Bird Rescue, the organization that has been caring for the birds since the incident.

Bird lovers, conservationists, and members of the press gathered to watch young members of GGAS’ education program release the birds into a habitat area at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline park in Oakland.


Members of GGAS’ youth education program prepare to release the birds.
Photo: Laura Horton, Wild Equity.


Two Herons check out their new surroundings. Photo: Laura Horton, Wild Equity.

GGAS’ new Executive Director also took the opportunity to spread the word about their new brochure offering advice to both professional tree trimmers and backyard gardeners about taking care to avoid situations like the one in Oakland.

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Wild Equity to Discuss Migratory Bird Nest Protection in the Wake of Oakland Heron Disaster

Staff Attorney Laura Horton will give a talk on Wild Equity Institute’s migratory bird work on Sunday, July 20, 2014 as part of the Unitarian Universalist Forum series. Laura will discuss the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s nest destruction policy, which has led to the destruction of countless migratory bird nests since it was enacted in 2003. This issue was recently spotlighted after an appalling encounter between the U.S. Postal Service and baby black-crowned night herons in Oakland.

The horrific scene in Oakland, where tree trimmers hired by the Postal Service fed branches full of heron nests and chicks into a wood chipper, sheds light on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s disastrous policy. Witnesses say baby birds were falling out of the trees and that there were significant injuries of the birds and disturbance of their nests. The Fish and Wildlife Service has stated that it is investigating the incident.


Baby Black-crowned Night Herons being cared for at International Bird Rescue center in Fairfield.
Photo: Isabel Luevano, International Bird Rescue

Killing and injuring migratory birds and destroying their nests is illegal under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (“MBTA”). However, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s nest policy incorrectly interprets the statutory language of the MTBA by unlawfully distinguishing “active” from “inactive” nests. The policy allows and even encourages the destruction of inactive nests (nests without birds or eggs), even if the nest is being used as shelter or a bird returns to the nest each year. The result of the policy is inconsistent enforcement between inactive and active nests and broad latitude for those with no biological background or understanding of birds to decide whether a nest should be destroyed.


This Great Horned Owl in an empty Osprey nest shows that a seemingly unused nest
may still be used as shelter by other birds. Photo: J.D. Phillips.


In July 2012, Wild Equity asked the Service to establish a consistent policy that clearly requires a trained biologist to assess an area and a permit to be issued before nests are destroyed, whether active or inactive. Wild Equity filed a formal administrative petition with the Service urging it to change its policy. In December 2013, the Fish and Wildlife Service sent Wild Equity a letter rejecting the petition, citing limited resources and policy disagreements as the reasoning. However, the Service did say it was “reviewing options for enhancing protection for nests of cavity-nesting species, such as the burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia),” and that Wild Equity’s regulatory suggestions were “helpful in this regard, and [the Service plans] to give them further consideration.”

Wild Equity is currently reviewing the Service’s response to the petition, as well as the investigation into the Oakland incident, and will be taking further steps to avoid this kind of situation in the future; stay tuned for future updates and opportunities to get involved.

Laura’s talk will take place on Sunday, July 20 at the First Unitarian Universalist Church, 1187 Franklin Street at Geary, Martin Luther King Room at 9:30 AM. Check the Wild Equity calendar or contact lhorton@wildequity.org for more details.

Wild Equity Sues SF Rec. & Park Over Sharp Park Wetland Destruction Project

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 For Immediate Release: April 22, 2014

Contact: Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989

Conservation Groups Sue San Francisco's Recreation and Park Department
Over Controversial Sharp Park Golf Course Wetland Destruction Project 

 SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — The Wild Equity Institute, Sequoia Audubon Society, and Save the Frogs sued Mayor Edwin Lee and the San Francisco Recreation & Park Department in San Francisco Superior Court today over a project that will destroy and drain Sharp Park’s Laguna Salada wetland complex, arguably the most ecologically important portion of the Department's most biologically rich land.

“This senseless project will destroy critical wetlands, harm endangered species, and cost taxpayers over $1,000,000 to implement,” said Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute.  “Experts have demonstrated that a feasible alternative to this project exists that will not harm wetlands and will save taxpayers money.  But San Francisco has refused to consider this alternative, so on Earth Day we ask the court to bring common sense back to the Recreation & Park Department.”

“The wetlands at Sharp Park are critical to the survival of the endangered California red-legged frogs that live on the property, so it is essential that the City of San Francisco conducts a thorough environmental review before continuing to pump the wetlands out to sea,” said Kerry Kriger, executive director of Save the Frogs.

“Sequoia Audubon’s mission is to protect native birds and other wildlife and their ecosystems,” said Edwin Geer, conservation committee chair for Sequoia Audubon Society. “We remain vigilant in guarding our coastline through effective conservation measures and legal protections.”

San Francisco’s Recreation & Park Department is proposing to destroy aquatic vegetation in Sharp Park’s Laguna Salada wetland complex—arguably the most ecologically important part of the Department’s most biologically important land—so it can drain the wetland more rapidly during winter rains. 

To mitigate the environmental impacts of this project, the Department proposed a series of complex mitigation measures that required another agency—the federal Fish and Wildlife Service—to review, approve, and enforce a series of actions contemporaneous with the project’s construction.

But During a March 19 meeting with wetland experts from around the Bay Area, the Fish and Wildlife Service stated that it had not heard about these measures, and further explained that it would not be possible for the agency to implement them: all of its resources are consumed meeting its own mandates under federal endangered species law, and it could not spare resources to help local jurisdictions meet state law environmental requirements.  The agency confirmed this sentiment in follow-up emails.

Nonetheless, the City approved the project a few days later, based on assurances from Recreation & Park Department staff that the proposed mitigation measure did not actually require Fish and Wildlife Service actions and approvals—a position that is flatly inconsistent with the mitigation measure itself.

Moreover, experts have explained that the aquatic vegetation Recreation & Parks wishes to remove can only grow in shallow water.  If it destroys the vegetation while draining the wetland to shallow levels, the vegetation will grow back, creating an ongoing, expensive, and harmful cycle of dredging and draining if the Department wishes to maintain open waters in the wetland complex.

These same experts have explained that if the Department simply allowed enough water to remain in the complex during the spring and summer months the vegetation would die off naturally and would not grow back: because the water would be too deep for the vegetation to survive.  Moreover, this proposal would not increase winter flooding events at Sharp Park Golf Course, because the higher water levels need only be maintained in the spring and summer—and the golf course does not flood during these seasons.

“Before we spend a million dollars of taxpayer funds destroying wetlands, we deserve an honest assessment of environmental impacts, as well as a consideration of alternatives,” said Plater.  “To date the Recreation & Park Department has failed to honestly assess the environmental impacts of this project, and refused to consider any alternatives to it.  We expect the court to rectify that mistake.”

The Wild Equity Institute builds a healthy and sustainable global community for people

and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.
 

Wild Equity Institute Sues EPA for Failing to Curb PG&E Pollution in Antioch

For Immediate Release, March 26, 2014

Contact:  Laura Horton, lhorton@wildequity.org, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 235-0492

Wild Equity Institute Sues EPA for Failing to Curb PG&E Pollution in Antioch

San Francisco, Calif.— The Wild Equity Institute today filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) for failing to address the impacts of PG&E’s power plant pollution on community health and one of North America’s most imperiled species: the Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly, which is found only at the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge.

“PG&E needs to play by the same rules as everyone else,” said Laura Horton, Staff Attorney at Wild Equity Institute. “Other power plants have already taken measures to do right by communities and our imperiled wildlife, and EPA cannot let PG&E off the hook just because the utility is the biggest player on the block.”

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Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly photo © Liam O’Brien, http://sfbutterfly.com


EPA’s legal violation involves Title V of the Clean Air Act. Title V is a permit process that applies to “major sources” of pollution such as PG&E’s Gateway Generating Station, and results in a permit that incorporates “all applicable” air pollution control requirements in a single set of documents.

A proposed Title V permit for Gateway was released last year, and shockingly it failed to include air pollution control requirements to protect endangered species and the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge, even though another power plant a few miles down the road agreed to mitigate its pollution this past year.

Wild Equity demonstrated this failure to both EPA and the local permitting agency, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, through a formal legal petition process established by the Clean Air Act. The petition process requires EPA to respond to the petition within 60 days. However, the EPA has failed to respond to this petition at all—and in the interim, the proposed permit became final, without any provisions in place to protect the Lange’s metalmark butterfly.

There are only a few dozen Lange’s metalmark butterflies remaining in the world. The Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that nitrogen pollution from power plants near the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge is “virtually certain” to cause the species to go extinct, and earlier this year independently demanded that the EPA and PG&E consult with experts and mitigate Gateway Generating Station’s pollution.

Background on the Gateway Generating Station and the Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly.

Gateway Generating Station is a large, natural-gas-fired power plant in Antioch, California that pollutes nearby communities, worsens the global climate crisis, and threatens the survival of the Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly.

Wild Equity has for years been informing the EPA and PG&E that they must work with the Fish and Wildlife Service to assess the impacts of Gateway’s nitrogen emissions on the butterfly, as required under the Endangered Species Act. However, to date the EPA and PG&E have not fulfilled this legal duty.

The Lange’s metalmark butterfly is a brightly colored, fragile and highly endangered butterfly that has been protected by the federal Endangered Species Act since 1976. The species is endemic to the Antioch Dunes in Contra Costa County, a relict desert landscape left behind as California’s prehistoric deserts retreated from the Bay Area 140,000 years ago. Because of the Antioch Dunes’ isolation, many species found in the dunes are unique and very rare.

Sand dunes like the Antioch Dunes are nitrogen deficient, and increased amounts of airborne nitrogen emitted from Gateway changes the chemical composition of the dunes, creating soil conditions that are only suitable for the growth of invasive weeds. Under these polluted conditions, the butterfly’s host plant is lost to the invasive weeds, resulting in a population decline for the butterfly. Gateway’s emissions also harm local communities by contributing more ozone pollution and soot to an area already disproportionately overwhelmed by power plant pollution.


The Wild Equity Institute is building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.

http://wildequity.org/

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Environmental Groups Will Ask Board of Supervisors to Reject Misleading Environmental Report on Sharp Park


Building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth

March 24, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:

Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989

...Read more

3/25 - Join Wild Equity at City Hall to Protect Rare Frogs & Snakes

The Wild Equity Institute along with our partners: Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter, Center for Biological Diversity, National Parks Conservation Association, Save the Frogs!, and Golden Gate Audubon have appealed the Preliminary Mitigated Negative Declaration released for the Sharp Park Pumphouse Safety and Infrastructure Improvement Project, a project led by San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department (RPD). The appeal will go before the full Board of Supervisors on Tuesday March 25, 3:00pm at City Hall Room 250. We need you to join us at the Board of Supervisors meeting!

If the Pumphouse Project is approved in its current form it will be disastrous for the federally protected California Red-legged Frog population of the Laguna Salada Wetland Complex. The only way to get a full assessment of the significant environmental damage of the Pumphouse Project and to have an environmentally superior alternative considered is to have a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) completed for the project.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has the power to order a full EIR. Our coalition has never lost a vote on this issue at the Board—so far. But we need you to attend this hearing and raise your voice for: the California Red-legged Frog, the San Francisco Garter Snake, this rare wetland complex and all of us who want a more environmentally friendly and fiscally responsible RPD. Please join us on March 25 at 3:00pm at San Francisco City Hall Room 250!

Here are some talking points to include in your comment to the Board of Supervisors on March 25:

...Read more

Wild Equity Leads Bird Talk at Environmental Law Conference

Wild Equity staff members Laura Horton and Amy Zehring recently attended the 32nd Annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference at the University of Oregon Law School in Eugene. The conference is a premier gathering for environmental lawyers and activists worldwide, and is distinguished as the oldest and largest of its kind. Laura organized and led a panel discussion on Wild Equity’s work protecting migratory bird nests and shared information on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s harmful nest destruction policy. The panel was titled The Government’s Empty Nest Syndrome: Towards a Rational and Valid MBTA Nest Policy and included animal law attorney Danny Lutz and ornithologist Dan Gleason. In addition, Laura and Amy connected with other advocates throughout the weekend and attended panels on important topics such as endangered species protection and environmental justice.


Laura, Danny, and Dan