Pause PG&E at Hell's Half Acre
Ask PG&E to pause work at HHA so that PG&E and relevant local non-profit organizations can develop an effective mitigation and, if possible, restoration plan.
Conservation and Advocacy for Our Native Plants & Their Habitats
The California Native Plant Society is essentially the only organization in California dedicated to the conservation of California native flora. The California Native Plant Society is recognized for its expertise in native plants; it is generally seen as credible in positions and actions that are clearly related to native plants. We lose credibility if others perceive our organization as taking a position on an issue unrelated to native plants.
To preserve our credibility and effectiveness, we focus on issues connected to our mission regarding the conservation of native plants and their habitats. If that connection is not apparent to others in a given case but we recognize and understand it, we must clarity those connections very clearly in our positions, statements, and actions, supported with scientific information.
Facing Threats to Native Plants with Advocacy
In the face of increasing threats, advocacy for native plants, for native plant habitats, and for native plants as parts of larger ecosystems is absolutely necessary. Some threats may be direct and obvious, such as removal of plant populations for development; others are indirect, in issues such as fuel management, weed invasions, decreased water availability, degraded air, water, or soil quality, and climate change. When threats are indirect, CNPS advocates must clearly establish a connection with native-plant conservation. We cannot use such indirect or theoretical connections to justify activities harmful or destructive to native plants and vegetation.
Doing Science-Based Advocacy
Through the state staff, the state programs, and the state-wide network of Chapters, California Native Plant Society provides and supports the best and most up-to-date information and research on California’s native plants, native plant habitats and native plants as parts of larger ecosystems. Making clear the effects of our actions on the conservation of native plants and their habitats is essential to maximizing the value of that science-based advocacy.
Idaho Maryland Mine
Several years ago, Rise Gold Corporation (Rise Gold) applied to Nevada County to reopen the Idaho Maryland Mine (IMM). (The mine shut down in 1956 because of reduced gold productivity.)
Why IMM Matters to CNPS
The Brunswick and Centennial sites of the proposed Idaho Maryland Mine project encompass 10 native plant communities, from montane hardwood and Sierra mixed conifer to annual grasslands, from marsh wetlands to chaparral. Far from being a wasteland despoiled by over 100 years of mining, these sites demonstrate the resilience and critical ecological functions of the native plant communities, wildlife, and aquatic habitat of the Wolf Creek headwaters.
The IMM as proposed would negatively impact these areas in multiple ways. Reopening the mine would require dewatering miles of underground tunnels; that water would run into South Wolf Creek, raising it to flood levels for as long as the mine is open. The proposal, which covers considered related zoning changes, has accumulated approximately 1000 pages in reports from Rise Gold. In 2020, the County hired a consulting firm to prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on the proposed project.
What You Can Do Now
Update: The Planning Commission will hold its final public hearing on May 10, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Rood Government Center (950 Maidu Avenue, Nevada City), in the Board of Supervisors Chambers. You still have a little time to submit comments and write letters to make your points known!
- Attend the public hearing! Speak up! At 8:30, sign-ups begin for three-minute speaking slots. Come with friends and family. Take turns listening and keeping one another informed about how long until your turn to speak.
- Submit Comments to the public hearings on this report before the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. (Deadline is May 9.)
- Join the Redbud Chapter Conservation Advocacy Committee. Contact us.
- Donate to Redbud Chapter CNPS to support advocacy efforts to stop the mine.
- Subscribe to the Minewatch newsletter and read email updates:
- Write an email or letter to the Nevada County Board of Supervisors (BOS) and speak up at BOS meetings to express your concerns about the mine project. You can send a single email that will reach all five members of the Board.
- Help with and attend community and public agency meetings, including Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors meetings. Regardless of the meeting agenda, each agency meeting starts with an opportunity for public comment. Minewatch has valuable tips for commenting.
- Make a tax-deductible donation to Community Environmental Advocates to support research, community education, and legal fees related to the IMM fight.
On December 16, the Planning Department of the Nevada County Community Development Agency issued the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for the proposed Idaho Maryland Mine (IMM) project. Redbud had submitted comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Report, focusing on the planned destruction of wetlands habitat as well as other impacts on native plants, but these comments were rejected in their entirety by the FEIR.
Notice of Public Hearing. Includes info on how to provide written or oral comments at the public hearing.
Comments on DEIR submitted by Redbud
Master Response #4 for IMM DEIR (pp. 80-83)
Master Response #30 and #31 for IMM DEIR (pp. 196-198)
Notice of Final EIR Issued December 16, 2022
Redbud News Articles about IMM
Download these issues of the Redbud News to get more background on the native plats on the IMM site, related environmental issues, and actions Redbud has taken.
Relevant Organizations & Information
South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL). See article, “California Can’t Afford the Idaho-Maryland Mine.”
Hell's Half Acre
You may know the line in Joni Mitchell’s song, “Pave paradise and put up a parking lot.” If you’ve ever been to Hell’s Half Acre in Grass Valley, you may think of it as Paradise. But if you’ve seen it since April 10 or seen photos of the destruction that’s occurred, you’ve seen the “parking lot” there! What happened? And what can we all do now?
Hell’s Half Acre as a Special Paradise
Hell’s Half Acre is located about two miles west of Grass Valley, at the intersection of Rough & Ready Highway and Ridge Road. The Redbud Chapter of CNPS has worked for over 40 years to protect and conserve this unique habitat just northwest of Grass Valley, a wonderland of native wildflowers. CNPS members and professional botanists Karen Callahan and Jennifer Buck-Diaz explained why in a Winter 2016 article about Hell’s Half Acre in Grasslands:
These distinctive open habitats have shallow soils underlain by an ancient solidified volcanic mudflow, or lahar. This cement-like layer, along with gentle slopes, allows rainfall to collect in depressions before slowly draining off or evaporating. Showy, mostly native, annual plants thrive here with little competition from invasive species that have a low tolerance for restricted drainage and shallow soils.
The stunning variety of native plant species found at Hell’s Half Acre surpasses that of any other of the rare lahar/lava cap sites in Nevada County, most of which are on private land and unprotected. Nevada County recognized the special ecological value of HHA in 1997 when it zoned this lahar plant community site as “open space” to be preserved, not developed. No other land in Nevada or Placer Counties has such geologic history, botanical diversity and floral wonder. At this time of year, Hell’s Half Acre is usually ablaze with wildflowers and nodding grasses.
Now, however, Hell’s Half Acre looks like the wasteland of Mephistopheles. Massive machinery has leveled much of it. Virtually all plants are shorn to the ground — from 75-ft foothill pines (Pinus sabiniana) to 15-ft whiteleaf manzanita (Arctostaphylos viscida) to the rare Sanborn’s onion (Allium sanbornii var. sanbornii).
The project plans for a new gas pipeline testing facility, mandated by the California Public Utility Commission(CPUC), also call for scraping off the soil with all its seeds, then graveling the area. They will then add a large building and testing equipment.
The sudden loss of trees and virtually all other vegetation at the site will leave migratory bird species, Cooper’s hawks and other bird species, most of whom return to the same nesting sites here year after year, with no place to raise their young. Similarly, bats that feed on swarms of insects in the meadow will lose valuable habitat, as will dozens of butterfly species that depend on uncommon local plants.
Who Did This and Why?
In mid-2022, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) bought a portion of Hell’s Half Acre to create an inspection site for a gas pipeline that runs out to Wheatland as part of a safety program mandated by the CPUC. PG&E will perform inspections every five to seven years.
Apparently, PG&E will grade, gravel and fence most of the 14 acres they purchased, including the majority of the lahar site with its unique plant community. Multiple versions of these plans have emerged since CNPS, Audubon, Yuba River Charter School, Bear Yuba Land Trust and others have requested that PG&E release the construction plans and any scientific studies they have conducted. These materials provide essential context for discussion of immediate mitigation efforts (e.g., possible relocation of plants) during a pause in the project. This requested information is also important to planning any long-term restoration or remediation work that may be possible after PG&E completes construction.
Local residents and organizations have expressed concerns about the apparent inadequate process, lack of public notice, and failure to mitigate or engage in discussion of potential mitigation strategies. Some are asking for environmental studies or reviews, and requesting copies of any such surveys, whether conducted by PG&E or others. As we learn more, Redbud will post updates and alerts on the Conservation Advocacy section of our website
If you have further questions or information, please share with Redbud, and we will pass them along to the PG&E public representative for this project.
What We Can Do Now
We cannot undo what has been done. We can, however, advocate for the best possible outcome for HHA. This could include mitigation, such as salvaging plants, soil, and seedbank; restoration of any portions of the site that will not be covered by building, access road, and/or gravel; and securing protection for the portion of the open space that remains unaffected. We can also aim to make sure this doesn’t happen in other environmentally sensitive places. In the long run, help us work for these outcomes:
- Convince PG&E to allow CNPS to harvest seeds and transplant any rare or sensitive plants that are within the area being developed. Encourage PG&E to move any disturbed soil containing seeds or bulbs to a mutually agreed location where seeds, bulbs, and topsoil may be recovered. Many native-plant seeds and bulbs in that soil are still viable.
- Urge PG&E to purchase the remaining designated open space portion of HHA and donate it to Bear Yuba Land Trust, with sufficient funds to maintain it.
- Engage in conversations with PG&E and the CPUC to evaluate how projects like this can proceed in the future without grave environmental damage. This may involve reviewing the role that state legislation and policy played in the saga at Hell’s Half Acre and if changes are necessary.
Right now, you can help convince PG&E to halt work at HHA until we can establish a plan to minimize and compensate for the destruction. Sign our petition today! We plan to submit it to PG&E soon!
Redbud leaders and botanists have met onsite with PG&E and representatives of several other concerned organizations. PG&E has now started allowing one of our Redbud professional botanists to flag plants that should be preserved and transplanted. We hope that this process will continue, and that joint mitigation efforts will expand as appropriate.
Advocate! Contact Public Officals.
Public Officials Representing Redbud Area
When you care about a conservation advocacy issue involving native plants, their habitats, and their ecosystems, speak up! Write, send email, call — but do reach out. (This list is under development. Please email us with any corrections, changes, or suggestions.)
U.S. Senators Diane Feinstein and Alex Padilla
U.S. Representative Kevin Kiley (U.S. District 3)
CA State Senator Brian Dahle (District 1)
CA State Assembly Representative Megan Dahle (District 1)
Nevada County Board Of Supervisors (Meets 2nd & 4th Tuesday, 9 a.m. )
- Heidi Hall, Dist 1 email@example.com
- Ed Scofield, Dist 2 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Lisa Swartout, Dist 3 email@example.com
- Susan Hoek, Dist 4 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Hardy Bullock, Dist 5 email@example.com
- Brian Foss, Director of Planning (530) 265-1256 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tyler Barrington, Principal Planner (530) 470- 2723 email@example.com
- Danny Milman, Dist 1 Represents Nevada City, Banner Mountain
- Laura Duncan, Dist 2 Represents South County
- Terence McAteer, Dist 3 Represents Grass Valley
- Mike Mastrodonato, Dist 4 Represents Penn Valley, French Corral, North San Juan
Board of Contractors: 149 Crown Point Ct. Ste A, Grass Valley, 95945 (530) 274- 1919/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Assoc. Of Realtors: 336 Crown Point Circle. (530) 272- 2627 https://nevadacountyhomes.com/contact-us/
Cities in Nevada County
Grass Valley City Council (Meets 2nd & 4th Tuesday, 7 p.m.)
- (530) 274-4350
- Jan Arbuckle, Mayor (530) 274- 4316
- Hilary Hodge, Vice Mayor (530) 274- 4318
- Council Members: Bob Branstom, Tom Ivy, Haven Caravelli
- Tom Last, Community Development Director (530) 274- 4711
- Lance Lowe, Principal Planner (530) 274- 4712
- email@example.com (530) 274- 4330
- Bjorn Jones, City Engineer (530) 274- 4353
Parks & Recreation (530) 274- 4350
Nevada City City Council (Meets 2nd & 4th Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.)
- Doug Fleming, Mayor firstname.lastname@example.org
- *Daniela Fernandez, Vice-Mayor email@example.com
- Gary Petersen firstname.lastname@example.org
- Adam Kline email@example.com
- Lou Ceci firstname.lastname@example.org
City Engineer Bryan McAlister, City Engineer (530) 265-2496 x126 email@example.com
Nevada City Parks & Recreation Dawn Zydonis (530) 265-2496 x129 firstname.lastname@example.org
City Planner Amy Wolfson Amy.Wolfson@nevadacityca.gov
- Thomas Nigh, Chairman
- Amy Cobden
- Wendy Ermshar
- Peter Van Zant
Town of Truckee Council (Meets 2nd & 4th Tuesday, 5 p.m.)
- (530) 582 7700 email@example.com
- Lindsay Romack, Mayor firstname.lastname@example.org
- David Polivy, Vice Mayor email@example.com
- Courtney Henderson firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jan Zabriskie email@example.com
- Anna Klovstad firstname.lastname@example.org
Placer County Board Of Supervisors (Meets 2nd & 4th Tuesday, 9 a.m. )
- (530) 889- 4010 email@example.com
- Bonnie Gore, Dist 1
- Shanti Landon, Dist 2 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jim Holmes, Dist 3
- Suzanne Jones, Dist 4 email@example.com
- Cindy Gustafson, Dist 5 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Katelynn Hopkins, Dist 5 Deputy Director email@example.com
Department Of Public Works (& Parks)
- (530) 886- 4901 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ken Grehm (530) 745- 7591
Community Development Steve Pedretti (530) 745- 3099
Builder Exchange & Contractor Assoc: 231 Cherry Ave. #101, Auburn, 95603 (530) 889- 3953/ placerbx.com/contact/
Assoc. of Realtors: 270 Technology Way, Rocklin. (916) 624- 8271/ pcaor.com/contacct/
Cities in Placer County
Auburn City Council (Meets 2nd & 4th Monday, 6 p.m.)
- Alice Daldin Calvillo, Mayor email@example.com
- Rachelle Radell-Harris, Vice-Mayor (530) 823- 4211 x 383 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Daniel Berlant (530) 823- 4211 x 380 email@example.com
- Sandy Amara (530) 823- 4211 (no extension listed) firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mike Holmes (530) 823-4211 (no extension listed) email@example.com
Auburn City Manager (Interim) Joan Phillipe (530) 823-4211 x 191 firstname.lastname@example.org
City Planner (Temporary) Larch Mcneill (530) 823- 4211 x 140 lmcNeill@auburn.ca.gov
- Michael Lemberg
- Steve Hiatt
- Steve Galyardt
- Fred Vitas
- Glen Kramer
Sustainability Advisory Committee
- Sandra Amara (City Council)
- Cathay Johnson (Transportation)
- Ann Bowler (Private Sector)
- Michael Lemberg (Private Sector, Business/ Development)
- Members At- Large: Rudy Beauchamp, Robert Whitson, Glen Kramer
Colfax City Council (Meets 2nd & 4th Wednesday, 6 p.m.)
- (530) 346-2313 https://colfax-ca.gov/government/city-administration/staff/
- Trinity Burruss, Mayor
- Marni Mendoza, Mayor Pro Tem
- Members: Sean Lomen, Kim Douglass, David Ackerman
City Manager Wes Heathcock Wes.Heathcock@colfax-ca.gov
Public Works Director Martin Jones email@example.com
City Engineer Carl Moore firstname.lastname@example.org
Colfax Planning Director Emmanuel Ursu (530) 346- 2313 email@example.com
Lincoln City Council (Meets 2nd & 4th Tuesday, 6 p.m.)
- lincoln.ca.gov/ https://www.lincolnca.gov/en/our-government
- Holly Andreatta, Mayor, Dist 1 (916) 434- 3290
- Alyssa Silhi, Dist 2 (916) 434- 3291
- Paul Joiner, Mayor Pro Tem, Dist 3 (916) 434- 3292
- William “Bill” Lauritsen, Dist 4 (916) 434- 3293
- Dan Karlskint, Dist 5 (916) 434- 2490
- Dan Karlskint, Chairman
- Dan Cross Dan.Cross@lincolnca.gov
- Peter Gilbert Peter.Gilbert@lincoln.ca.gov
- Michele Hutchinson Michele.Hutchinson@lincoln.ca.gov
- Eric Johnson Eric.Johnson@lincoln.ca.gov
- Bill Lyons Bill.Lyons@lincoln.ca.gov
- Tony Manning Tony.Manning@lincoln.ca.gov
- Kelye McKinney Kelye.McKinney@lincoln.ca.gov
(For the following offices: Names of officials not listed on government website)
- City Engineer (916) 434- 3233
- City Manager (916) 434- 2490 X 4
- Lincoln Public Works (Parks) (916) 434- 2450
- Planning Department (916) 434- 2470
Roseville City Council (Meets 1st & 3rd Wednesday, 6 p.m.)
- Bruce Houdesheldt, Dist 3, Mayor (916) 365- 5863 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Krista Bernasconi, Dist 4, Vice Mayor (916) 223- 1060 email@example.com
- Scott Alvord, Dist 4 (916) 784- 0240 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Pauline Roccucci, Dist 2 (916) 508- 5807 email@example.com
- Tracy Mendonsa, Dist 1 (916) 517- 7778 firstname.lastname@example.org
City Manager Dominick Casey (916) 774- 5362 CityManager@roseville.ca.us
City Planning Manager Greg Bitter (916) 774-5276 email@example.com
Water & Resources
Info to come…
Nevada Irrigation District
U.S. Forest Service
To conserve California native plants and their natural habitats, and increase understanding, appreciation, and horticultural use of native plants.