Enviro Updates

Sonoma County Conservation Council

A searchable archive of environmental news for Sonoma County

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Sustainable Living, WildlifeTags , , ,

Garden Docs: Insecticides that are bad news for bees and butterflies

Joan T. of Santa Rosa asks: I was at a nursery the other day, and I had a rose fertilizer/systemic product in my cart. As I was walking through the nursery, a woman approached and asked me if I knew anything about the product, such as what it affects bees and other beneficial insects. I was puzzled and said I did not. After she told me about the concerns with this product, I was surprised, and put it back.

Can you please tell us what certain insecticides do to our bees and beneficial insects and what we should avoid buying?

Neonicotinoids are a group of insecticides that have been, and are being used by gardeners, farmers and professional landscapers. They are supposed to protect plants from sap-sucking and leaf-chewing insects. Neonicotinoids are systemic, which means they are absorbed by the plant, and are spread throughout all parts of the plant, including the nectar and pollen.

Unfortunately, bees, butterflies, and other flower-visiting insects are harmed by them and have been identified as a factor in overall pollinator declines. These systemic insecticides cause entire plants, including pollen and fruit, to become toxic to pollinators. They also are slow to break down in the environment. A large and growing body of independent science links neonicotinoids to catastrophic bee declines.

What is extremely alarming is that these products are readily available at garden centers and nurseries and sold to the home gardener, although the state of California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation has imposed a freeze on any new applications for products containing neonicotinoids while the issue is under study. The moratorium comes just as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Trump administration, began considering dramatically expanding use of the highly toxic neonicotinoid thiamethoxam on more than 165 million acres of farmland in the United States.

Before purchasing plants, ask your local nursery or garden center if they have been treated with neonicotinoids. You can also check the label for information about how the plant has been treated.

Read more for a list of products containing Neonicotinoids that you might see at nurseries and garden centers: http://www.pressdemocrat.com/lifestyle/7932506-181/garden-docs-insecticides-that-are

Posted on Categories Sustainable Living, WildlifeTags , ,

Dangers of rat poison: It kills more than rats!

Dr. Michael Trapani, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE

When we put these poisons out into the environment, they don’t stay where we put them. Wherever they wind up, they are likely to persist for a long, long time. Non-target animals, like that gorgeous owl or eagle we’re all so thrilled to see, readily become unintended victims of our efforts to control problem rodent populations. In our quest to control rats, poisons should be our last choice, not our first.

Rats as PETS: Taken as individuals, rats are pretty decent creatures. Human-raised, humane-bred rats, that is. It’s hard to find a cleaner, smarter, more outgoing pet for a young child than a common domestic rat. They enjoy being handled, are happy to hang out in a coat pocket for hours, and gleefully share a kid’s peanut butter sandwich at lunch time. Ya gotta love ‘em.

Rats as PESTS: Not so much though, when their wild relatives are scraping around inside the wall of your bedroom, breeding in your pantry, or chewing through the wiring harness of your new car. A professional exterminator may charge $400 to $500 just for the initial home visit to identify the type of rat, its means of entry, and the extent of damage they have created. Automobile repair costs have been reported at several thousands of dollars to repair rodent damage. It’s no surprise that people commonly use readily available, over-the-counter rodent poisons to eliminate rat populations. These seemingly safe products are cheap and available in almost all hardware stores, and even supermarkets.

Read more at http://www.sonomacountygazette.com/sonoma-county-news/dangers-of-rat-poison-the-family-pet-by-dr-michael-trapani-february-2018

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags ,

Altamira project gets go-ahead

“Striving to better,” William Shakespeare warns in “King Lear,” “oft we mar what’s well.”

An undercurrent of that sentiment pervaded the Sonoma City Council meeting Jan. 29, when city officials denied an appeal of a controversial affordable housing proposal – paving the way for construction of a 48-unit low-income development at the south end of Broadway, and dashing the hopes of project critics who argued it was too big, too dense and too out of character with surrounding neighborhoods.

As skeptics reminded the crowd multiple times at the Monday meeting – it would be the densest housing development in the history of Sonoma.

As if, during a housing crisis, that’s necessarily a bad thing.

Opponents of the project urged the council to do its “due diligence” and order an environmental impact report on the proposal in order to better vet potential parking, traffic and noise implications — studies which city staff had already conducted, but whose conclusions were unsatisfactory to project opponents.

The council, while acknowledging the understandable concerns of the neighbors over a project of this size in their neck of the woods, made little haste in refuting the appeal and, in the words of Councilmember Gary Edwards, getting “shovels in the ground” on this small fraction of a much-needed infusion of affordable housing stock in the Valley.

Read more at http://www.sonomanews.com/opinion/7945368-181/jason-walsh-altamira-project-gets?sba=AAS

Posted on Categories Habitats, WildlifeTags , , ,

Jail sentences for North Coast abalone poachers highlighted as state braces for closure of fishery

A Bay Area man who required a cliff rescue amid his crime and a Fort Bragg restaurateur are among about 200 people prosecuted for illegal harvest or trade of abalone caught off the Mendocino Coast last year, authorities said.

Where poachers often face fines and temporary abalone fishing bans, both men additionally were given jail time and three years probation in cases highlighted this week by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Wildlife officials spotlighted the cases in anticipation of rising black-market values they fear could prompt a wave of poaching and illegal sales as game wardens seek to enforce an unprecedented statewide shutdown this year of the ailing red abalone fishery.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/7936384-181/jail-sentences-for-north-coast

Posted on Categories Habitats, Local OrganizationsTags ,

2018 Environmental Education Local Hero: Lisa Micheli

Nate Seltenrich, BAY NATURE

Perched on a ridgeline in the Mayacamas Mountains northeast of Santa Rosa, Pepperwood Preserve spans 3,200 acres, protecting the headwaters of three watersheds that feed the Russian River and offering refuge to more than 900 species of native plants and animals. President and CEO Lisa Micheli, who took the helm at Pepperwood in 2009, has led the private preserve’s transformation into “a field station of global significance” recognized by the National Science Foundation. More than a dozen research projects—studying anything from climate change and hydrology to grasslands and phenology—are underway at Pepperwood at any given time, while the preserve and its 9,400-square-foot Dwight Center for Conservation Science also serves as a lab and nature-education center for students and citizen scientists of all ages.

Research, teaching, and outreach have come together at the preserve under Micheli, who holds a civil engineering master’s in Environmental Water Resources and a Ph.D. in Energy and Resources, both from UC Berkeley. In recognition of Pepperwood’s commitment to world-class science, environmental education, and community involvement, Micheli has been named Bay Nature’s 2018 Local Hero for Environmental Education.

Read more at https://baynature.org/article/2018-environmental-education-local-hero-lisa-micheli/

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags ,

Petaluma apartment project passes key hurdle

A proposal for a 184-unit rental apartment complex in the heart of Petaluma won the approval of the Petaluma Planning Commission Tuesday, a critical first step in moving the long-stalled project forward as the city faces a grim housing crisis.

After three years of seeking community input and altering plans based on feedback from citizens and city officials, representatives from Stockton-based A.G. Spanos Companies now face a yet-to-be-scheduled city council hearing for additional approvals, including granting access across a city-owned parcel for a road that’s part of the North River Apartment project at the intersection of Petaluma Boulevard North and Oak Street.

Read more at http://www.petaluma360.com/news/7912963-181/petaluma-apartment-project-passes-key

Posted on Categories WaterTags ,

Water contamination plagues surviving homes in Santa Rosa’s Fountaingrove neighborhood

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa officials are scrambling to figure out why the drinking water in a wildfire-ravaged section of Fountaingrove is contaminated with a chemical commonly found in plastics and gasoline.

A team of local water quality officials, regulators and experts has been working for 2½ months to understand how the volatile hydrocarbon benzene is getting into the water system and how to fix the problem.

They suspect the heat of the Tubbs fire, which incinerated 1,400 homes in the area, may have damaged parts of the water delivery system, such as plastic water pipes or meters, and caused the dangerous carcinogen to leech into the neighborhood’s water supply.

But despite hundreds of water tests, detailed mapping of the results and targeted equipment replacement, the problem still persists, leaving officials confounded and a $20 million replacement of the water system a real possibility.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/7914293-181/water-contamination-plagues-surviving-homes?ref=most

Posted on Categories Air, WaterTags , , , ,

UC Davis study to focus on post-Sonoma County fire pollution

Mary Callahan, NAPA VALLEY REGISTER

Anyone who endured the October firestorms remembers the choking smoke followed by weeks of air that was acrid and irritating, while the surrounding world felt toxic after wildfires laid waste to 137 square miles of Sonoma County.

A research team from UC Davis now hopes to find out what, if any, potential health hazards may have resulted from the incineration of more than 5,100 homes and all they contained: cleaning products, paints, pesticides, electronics packed with rare earth elements, synthetic building materials, fuels.

The two-year investigation will focus on components in the smoke as the fires burned, as well as those left in the air and ash once the flames had roared through.

Researchers also plan to test the post-fire environment for any new chemicals that may have resulted from the transformation of existing materials under extremely high-temperature, low-oxygen conditions.

Read more at http://napavalleyregister.com/news/state-and-regional/uc-davis-study-to-focus-on-post-sonoma-county-fire/article_e45b2afc-df92-5280-84ae-b24382c5f1f6.html

Posted on Categories Sustainable Living, TransportationTags , ,

New Santa Rosa bike rentals, advocates, encourage visitors to skip the car

Melody Karpinski, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Buying a car used to be a hallmark of adulthood. Yet today, the renaissance of two-wheel transportation is surging. Reducing environmental impact is not the only driving force –– instead it’s a trend mixed with a desire to return to the outdoors and create sustainable community within urban environments.

Nearly 40 percent of all bike trips in the U.S. are less than 2 miles, and the number of bicycle commuters in the U.S. grew by more than 62 percent between 2000 and 2013, according to the League of American Bicyclists.

“People want to live near where they work and they don’t need a car to do much of their daily commuting,” said Eric Anderson, a long-time developer and Santa Rosa resident. “The growing trend of ‘urban’ cycling is really related to the growing trend and shifting demography of how and where people live.”

Anderson is one of the key developers in the newly opened Astro Motel on Santa Rosa Avenue, which caters to cyclists. Guests can rent bikes from the hotel, have existing bikes fixed at the motel’s in-house bike shop, or even have them shipped ahead and assembled in their rooms when they arrive.

Read more at: http://www.pressdemocrat.com/lifestyle/outdoors/7864448-181/new-santa-rosa-bike-rentals

Posted on Categories ForestsTags , ,

PG&E trims or removes 30,000 fire-damaged trees in Northern and Central California

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has trimmed or cut down more than 30,000 damaged trees in 13 Northern and Central California counties, nearly completing a post-fire campaign to remove scorched trees that posed a threat to the utility’s power lines.

The effort is 99 percent complete in Sonoma and Napa counties, where contract tree-cutting crews dealt with about 10,500 and 13,400 trees, respectively, said Deanna Contreras, a PG&E spokeswoman.

The only work remaining in Sonoma County, where the October wildfires covered 137 square miles, is related to trees near temporary overhead power lines being erected in Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park and Hidden Valley neighborhoods, she said.

In Mendocino County, about 4,400 trees were trimmed or felled, with about 130 in Lake County.

Overall, the work is about 96 percent complete, Contreras said, but affected landowners may still ask PG&E to cut down and remove burned wood from their property at no cost.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/local/7909403-181/pge-trims-or-removes-30000