Enviro Updates

Sonoma County Conservation Council

A searchable archive of environmental news for Sonoma County

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags , , , ,

North Coast’s ‘Great Redwood Trail’ wins approval in California Senate, but lacks funding

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Imagine a 300-mile trail from San Francisco Bay to Humboldt Bay taking hikers, bicycle and horseback riders through a stunning North Coast river canyon and old growth redwood forests.

It would cost untold millions of dollars and won’t come soon, but the idea for what’s called the Great Redwood Trail is embodied in state Sen. Mike McGuire’s bill, which would also abolish a debt-ridden public agency and put commuter train operator Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit in charge of railroad freight service in its two counties.

The buzz is all about a trail along railroad tracks through some territory most people have never seen and which advocates are likening to the 210-mile John Muir Trail through the Sierra Nevada.

“It’s an amazing prospect,” said Alisha O’Loughlin, executive director of the 1,000-member Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition. “Something we’re very enthusiastic about.”

The trail, affording “gorgeous recreational opportunities,” would draw cyclists and equestrians from far and wide, she said.

The coalition’s only concern is that work on the trail not take priority over completion of pathways along the 70-mile SMART corridor in Sonoma and Marin counties. Just 16 miles of pathways have been built to date in segments from Healdsburg to San Rafael.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8406036-181/north-coasts-great-redwood-trail

Posted on Categories Land UseTags , , ,

Deal reached in Petaluma luxury home development

Yousef Baig, PETALUMA ARGUS-COURIER

A controversial luxury home project in the hills of west Petaluma is set to move forward after the developer and an environmental group opposed to the project struck a deal that could scale back the size of the development and preserve sensitive habitat as parkland.

The Kelly Creek Protection Project reached the agreement with East Bay developer Davidon Homes this week. It would protect at least 75 percent of the environmentally-sensitive lands surrounding Scott Ranch in west Petaluma while allowing construction of up to 28 homes.

Since 2004, Davidon Homes has been attempting to develop housing on the 58-acre property next to Helen Putnam Regional Park, initially proposing 93 luxury homes. But environmental groups and numerous residents mobilized against the project, often spilling out of the council chambers at various city meetings.

KCPP director Greg Colvin, who has been on the frontlines of that fight, watched the developer’s proposal shrink with each environmental review that came before city council.

On Monday, Davidon Homes signed a purchase and sale agreement with KCPP, promising to sell 44 of the most vital acres on the property if the nonprofit can raise $4.1 million by Sept. 1. Under the deal, KCPP will not oppose Davidon’s bid to construct up to 28 homes on the north side of the property, away from the Kelly Creek watershed and red-legged frog habitat.

Davidon will sell the entire property to KCPP if the nonprofit can raise $11 million by Dec. 1.

Read more at http://www.petaluma360.com/news/8402528-181/deal-reached-in-petaluma-luxury

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , , , ,

California’s new rooftop solar mandate

Steven Weissman, LEGAL PLANET

The California Energy Commission’s new mandate receives mixed reviews.

The recent decision of the California Energy Commission to require the inclusion of rooftop solar photovoltaics on most new homes has engendered praise from some quarters, and criticism from others. Some see this new policy as a positive force, helping to reduce the cost of solar and contribute to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Others despair policy makers’ tendency to choose technology winners and losers, and argue that the least cost choices are usually the best.

There is no disputing that the state’s new policy is a landmark event that may or may not set the stage for broader solar adoption across the country. Regardless of where you might find yourselves in the cheering section, allow me to offer several red flags to watch for, when considering critical perspectives on the topic of requiring rooftop solar:

1. When someone argues that rooftop solar is foolish because central station solar is cheaper, they are ignoring, or at least minimizing the import of, the difficulty in siting central station solar, the decade-long process of making such a project happen, the direct land use impacts of that technology, the need for more transmission lines and all of the related land-use impacts, the reduced reliability resulting from concentrating so much solar generation in one area as clouds roll by and nighttime falls, the potential of local grid benefits from local generation, and the way onsite generation can contribute to a broader strategy to make the use of energy more efficient and less impactful.

Read more at http://legal-planet.org/2018/05/18/californias-new-rooftop-solar-mandate/

Posted on Categories Sonoma Coast, Sustainable LivingTags , , , , ,

We made plastic. We depend on it. Now we’re drowning in it.

Laura Parker, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE

If plastic had been invented when the Pilgrims sailed from Plymouth, England, to North America—and the Mayflower had been stocked with bottled water and plastic-wrapped snacks—their plastic trash would likely still be around, four centuries later.

If the Pilgrims had been like many people today and simply tossed their empty bottles and wrappers over the side, Atlantic waves and sunlight would have worn all that plastic into tiny bits. And those bits might still be floating around the world’s oceans today, sponging up toxins to add to the ones already in them, waiting to be eaten by some hapless fish or oyster, and ultimately perhaps by one of us.

We should give thanks that the Pilgrims didn’t have plastic, I thought recently as I rode a train to Plymouth along England’s south coast. I was on my way to see a man who would help me make sense of the whole mess we’ve made with plastic, especially in the ocean.

Because plastic wasn’t invented until the late 19th century, and production really only took off around 1950, we have a mere 9.2 billion tons of the stuff to deal with. Of that, more than 6.9 billion tons have become waste. And of that waste, a staggering 6.3 billion tons never made it to a recycling bin—a figure that stunned the scientists who crunched the numbers in 2017.

Read more at https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/06/plastic-planet-waste-pollution-trash-crisis/

Posted on Categories WildlifeTags , ,

River otters populations rebounding in Sonoma

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

River otters are making a comeback in Sonoma County and across the Bay Area thanks in part to improved water quality and habitat restoration projects, according to ecologists.

In recognition of last week’s World Otter Day, local otter fans are hosting a Saturday lecture and series of kids’ activities at the Petaluma Regional Library from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The message of the lecture will be one of resiliency and recovery, said Megan Isadore, executive director of the River Otter Ecology Project, which is hosting the North Bay event. A second event is also taking place in the South Bay.

Pollution of the San Francisco Bay and surrounding waterways decimated river otters during the middle of the last century, Isadore said, causing them to retreat to less polluted areas.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8385938-181/river-otters-populations-rebounding-in

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , , , , ,

Republic Services to buy Santa Rosa trash hauler, recycling center

Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Republic Services, which has operated the Sonoma County-owned Central Landfill west of Cotati since late 2010, is the nation’s second largest waste firm.

Its expansion in Sonoma County could position it for a head-to-head competition with Recology for future hauling business, according to local solid waste experts.

Republic Services, the national solid waste giant that runs Sonoma County’s landfill, is in the process of acquiring a Santa Rosa garbage contractor and its recycling center in a move that could further shake up the region’s garbage industry.

Industrial Carting, along with its Global Materials Recovery Services recycling operation, both located on Santa Rosa Avenue south of the city, is selling to the Arizona-based company, according to Lee Pierce, a consultant for Industrial Carting, and Leslye Choate, a Sonoma County government official who is handling paperwork related to the deal.

Neither company would elaborate on the acquisition or disclose the terms of the agreement.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8386238-181/republic-services-to-buy-santa

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food SystemTags , , ,

Farm Bureau to offer response training to counter animal rights activists

Robert Digitale, THE PRESS DEOMOCRAT

After a massive animal welfare rally this week at a Petaluma egg farm, both Sonoma County farm leaders and a Bay Area animal rights activist foresee more showdowns at local ranches and livestock production facilities.

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s peaceful demonstration, where 40 activists were arrested, the Sonoma County Farm Bureau is planning to offer new training to farmers who may face similar standoffs.

“We need to help our members understand what to do when an animal rights demonstration happens on their property,” said Farm Bureau Executive Director Tawny Tesconi. “We’re being asked to react to something we haven’t had to react to before.”

Cassie King, an organizer with Berkeley-based Direct Action Everywhere, which sponsored Tuesday’s protest, suggested that those who share her views will return to the county in an ongoing effort to bring an end to the confinement and killing of animals for agriculture.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8386026-181/sonoma-county-farm-officials-animal

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

Dozens of animal welfare activists arrested after large protest at Petaluma chicken farm

Robert Digitale and Susan Minichiello, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

One of the largest animal welfare demonstrations ever held at a Sonoma County farm ended Tuesday with the peaceful arrests of 40 activists on suspicion of trespassing at an egg production facility northwest of Petaluma.

An estimated 500 demonstrators rallied for more than three hours across the street from a farm on Liberty Road north of Rainsville Road. Along with egg production barns, the property houses the offices of Sunrise Farms, one of the North Bay’s largest egg producers.

Before sheriff’s deputies arrived, dozens of activists walked onto the farm and took away about 10 chickens that were sick or dying, according to organizers of the Berkeley-based group Direct Action Everywhere.

That group, also known as DXE, and affiliated organizations gathered over the past week in Berkeley for what they called their “Animal Liberation Conference.” The event, which organizers said drew 1,200 registered participants from around the U.S. and other countries, included on its website an unspecified event for Tuesday listed simply as “Action #4.”

Organizers claim the egg farm is an example of a systemic pattern of criminal animal abuse in California that isn’t being addressed by either the justice system or by state and local animal welfare agencies.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8377017-181/dozens-of-animal-welfare-activists?ref=most

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , , , , , ,

California wages war on plastic

Rosanna Xia, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES

It took years of activist campaigns to turn the plastic bag into a villain, and hard-fought legislation to reduce its presence in oceans and waterways. Now, environmentalists and lawmakers are deploying similar tactics against a new generation of plastic pollutants.

There are drinking straws, which as a viral video shows can get stuck in a sea turtle’s nose. The hundreds of thousands of bottle caps that wind up on beaches. And the microfibers that wash off polyester clothes, making their way into the ocean, the stomachs of marine life and ultimately our seafood.

Each is the subject of statewide legislation under debate in Sacramento, as California again considers new environmental law that’s at once pioneering and controversial.

Their action comes as plastic takes center stage as the environmental concern du jour.

There could be more plastic by weight than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050, according to a widely cited World Economic Forum report. A recent UC Davis study sampled seafood sold at local markets in Half Moon Bay and found that one-quarter of fish and one-third of shellfish contained plastic debris.

Read more at http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-california-plastic-pollution-20180528-story.html

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

California has a recycling crisis. The only way to solve it is to stop making so much trash

Times Editorial Board, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES

Californians use — and then toss — a tremendous amount of paper and plastic packaging material every day: takeout coffee cups and lids, cereal boxes, wine bottles, plastic bags, clamshell food containers, and on and on.

It’s hard for even the most militant environmentalist to avoid contributing to this waste stream, given the inescapability of products wrapped in some sort of disposable material. Even fruits and vegetables that are naturally encased in durable, compostable wrapping will be trundled up in plastic bags in the produce aisle for the trip home.

Those disturbed by the amount of trash they produce have been able to assuage their guilty consciences by making sure every potential recyclable item ended up in the blue recycling bin. Surely there could be no long-term environmental toll if every empty plastic soda bottle and chipboard six-pack carrier was diverted from the landfill and remade into a cozy fleece jacket or an organic chemistry textbook.

What a lovely story. Too bad it’s about as true as a happily-ever-after fairy tale. Recycling has never been the solution to the problem posed by empty beer cans, plastic takeout containers and other single-use items, just a way to mitigate the effects enough to pretend that all this waste is not really wasteful. But reality is becoming harder to ignore now that the foreign market for our trash is collapsing. Hallelujah to that, as it might just be the impetus needed to force society to confront the disposable culture that is trashing the planet.

Read more at http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-recycling-crisis-20180526-story.html