Conservation Update, 2015 May | Emergent Invasive Plant, Saddle Crest, Cleveland to Coast Corridor
NEW EMERGENT INVASIVE DISCOVERED IN OC: EARLY DETECTION & RAPID RESPONSE IN ACTION!
On March 31, OCCNPS member Barbara Boethling discovered Moroccan Knapweed (Volutaria tubuliflora)–one of California’s greatest invasive-plant threats–in the Big Canyon area of Upper Newport Bay. Barbara immediately reported it to our Invasives Committee; within hours Committee members had mapped the colony and sent alerts about it to the 6 agencies that cooperatively manage UNB. Within 12 days the Irvine Ranch Conservancy had removed the colony (3,600 plants); IRC will continue to monitor and manage the site for the next few years.
Local newspapers The Daily Pilot (dailypilot.com/news/tn-dpt-me-0410-invasive-plant-20150409,0,6141938.story) and Newport Beach Independent(newportbeachindy.com/invasive-plant-discovered-in-back-bay/) have covered the action on Moroccan Knapweed, bringing extra attention to the threats posed by invasive plants.
The Appeals Court has reversed the Superior Court’s decision to deny the County’s approvals for the Saddle Crest development. This means that the approvals are reinstated and the development can go forward—and the enviro coalition (CNPS is a member) that opposed the appeal has lost. So has the Saddleback canyons’ and foothills’ natural environment.
The Saddleback Canyons Conservancy and Rural Canyons Conservation Fund, which have long spearheaded the campaign against Saddle Crest, are now considering what further actions they can take to preserve the canyons’ rural, natural environment. See saddlebackcanyons.org for details on the current situation, and past Newsletters for the history of OCCNPS’ part in the issue.
Laguna Greenbelt (lagunagreenbelt.org/index.html) spearheads the campaign to preserve and enhance the (in places, tenuous) wildlife corridor that links the Central and Coastal portions of the Nature Reserve of OC. The corridor is essential to the Reserve’s proper functioning. Laguna Greenbelt reports that, earlier this year, a complex land swap has placed the whole length of the central corridor segment under City of Irvine ownership and zoned it exclusively for use as a wildlife corridor.
But many challenges remain, many interests would like to take “just a nibble,” to develop along the corridor’s route. Each “nibble” bottlenecks the corridor’s functioning a little; collectively, if allowed to proceed, they would in effect close it completely.
Among the “nibbles”: a small segment of corridor, constructed by the County in 2012 as mitigation for the extension of Alton Parkway, connects the FBI property (itself a large segment) to the segment adjacent to the Great Park. A 44-acre County-owned parcel that straddles the small segment is now proposed to be the West Alton Development Project. The project would cram 970 multifamily units (600+ to the west and 330+ to the east of the corridor), requiring buildings up to 5 stories high. See maps and Notice of Preparation: ocgov.com/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?BlobID=40888.
ACTION NOW: Especially if you live in the City of Irvine, get on the notification list for this project. Its DEIR is scheduled to be issued this summer, and should be extensively commented on by all nearby residents. At a minimum, the corridor segment must be effectively isolated from the development. The project is: remote from services and totally car dependent; wedged between busy Irvine Blvd, a water district facility and the FBI shooting ranges; Musick jail is the nearest neighbor. ACTION NOW: The 30-day scoping period ends May 17. If there’s anything about the project and/or the sites that you think the FS ought to be aware of and to address in the project plan, now’s the time to tell them. See commenting directions at link above.
—Celia Kutcher, Conservation Chair