“The Boot” of North Natomas

Area of “The Boot,” aka the Upper Westside Specific Plan site

February 11, 2019

Please read the latest call to action below, from Habitat 2020 Member Organization, Friends of the Swainson’s Hawk:

Landowners in the Boot area of North Natomas have asked the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors to start the legal process needed for approval of a development plan for 2000 acres of urban development in the County covering most of the existing farmland between the City limit and Sacramento River, south of Fisherman’s Lake.

The proposal directly contradicts and would undermine the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan (NBHCP) which covers the entire Natomas Basin. This plan — a binding contract between the city of Sacramento and County of Sutter and the state and federal wildlife agencies — relies in part on the Boot continuing to remain in agriculture and open space. It protects the Swainson’s Hawk population which nests along the Sacramento River and forages for rodents in the Basin, including the Boot area. The 2001 Natomas Basin Habitat Plan designates the mile-wide strip of land, in County jurisdiction, next to the Sacramento River levee as the Swainson’s Hawk Zone, which must remain free of urban development for the HCP to succeed.

Most of the proposed Boot development would be within the Swainson’s Hawk Zone. The City’s Incidental Take Permit (issued by USFWS and CDFW) for new development in North Natomas depends on the continued integrity of the NBHCP, including continuation of agriculture and open space in the Swainson’s Hawk Zone, and would be jeopardized by new development in the Boot.

Bob Thomas, who is the project representative, was formerly the City Manager who signed the NBHCP Incidental Take Permit as City Manager, and is very aware of the importance of the Swainson’s Hawk Zone, including the Boot area, to conservation of threatened species and the City’s buildout of North Natomas.

Please help us convince the County Board of Supervisors to deny this request. Letters to the Board members can include these important points:

  1. Urbanization planning in the Natomas Basin is contrary to important County General Plan policies, including the Urban Services Boundary, and policies to preserve agricultural and open space lands in the County.
  2. The Urban Services Boundary (which excludes urbanization in this area) is the basis for our regional air quality and transportation plans which protect our health and prevent the congestion that urban sprawl engenders. This is our region’s core strategy for Climate Action and mitigation for Climate Change.
  3. There are thousands of acres of vacant land inside the Urban Services Boundary in the County where future urban development is already authorized, and thousands of acres of vacant land already zoned for development. There is no economic need to provide for more zoning for urban uses.
  4. There are thousands of vacant acres approved for development in the City and Sutter County portions of the Natomas Basin. These projects have planned infrastructure and mitigation programs. There is no economic rationale for considering development in the portion of the basin that lacks infrastructure and mitigation programs.
  5. Express your support for the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan. Urbanization of the Boot area would undermine the effectiveness of the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan. Ask the Supervisors to endorse the Natomas Habitat Conservation Plan as the best plan for the Boot.
  6. For residents of Natomas, public safety, emergency evaluation, freeway and airport access and other issues may come to mind in contemplating urbanization west of El Centro and North of I-80.

The hearing is set for 9:30 am, Tuesday, Feb 26, 2019.

The emails for the Board are: SupervisorSerna [at] saccounty [dot] net, nottolid [at] saccounty [dot] net, susanpeters [at] saccounty [dot] net, kennedyp [at] saccounty [dot] net, supervisorfrost [at] saccounty [dot] net, BoardClerk [at] saccounty [dot] net, LundgrenJ [at] saccounty [dot] net.

Please also cc or forward what you send to swainsonshawk [at] sbcglobal [dot] net.

Send an email to the Board Clerk requesting hearing notice and notice of availability of documents: BoardClerk [at] saccounty [dot] net.

For more information on the proposal, check the County website at https://planningdocuments.saccounty.net/. Search for “Upper Westside Specific Plan” Control #: PLNP2018-00284

Swainson’s Hawk in flight

Please share this call to action with friends and family who can help.

Thank you.

Friends of the Swainson’s Hawk
swainsonshawk [at] sbcglobal [dot] net
Judith Lamare
James Pachl

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2017 Habitat 2020 Accomplishments

Habitat 2020 is ECOS’ Habitat & Conservation committee. Habitat 2020 is a coalition that works to protect the lands, waters, wildlife and native plants in the Sacramento region. The great Central Valley of California has been identified by the World Wildlife Fund as one of North America’s most endangered eco-regions. Preserving its remaining open space and agricultural land is essential for sustaining native plants and wildlife, and ensuring a high quality of life for ourselves and future generations.

In 2017 Habitat 2020 had a continued engagement in a broad range of Sacramento regional environmental protection efforts that no singular organization could address alone.

These crucial activities include:

  • Continued promotion of the Heartland Project Vision for a regionally coordinated and connected system of parks, preserves and working lands:
    • Successfully negotiated a new contract in with the UCD Information Center for the Environment and the Capitol Southeast Connector JPA to continue development of the Sacramento regional natural resources data inventory and modeling project, in accordance with the ECOS-Connector JPA Settlement Agreement.
    • Aided in visioning and oversight of the SMUD carbon sequestration inventory for Sacramento County, the first application of the UCD-Heartland Natural Resource inventory.
    • Aided in the acquisition of a $600k Federal Environmental Protection Agency grant for UCD to continue a second phase of development for the natural resource inventory to cross analyze public health factors with environmental sustainability factors to better illustrate relationships between human and ecological health in the Sacramento Region.
  • Continued a decade-long resistance to irresponsible expansion of the City of Elk Grove in an effort to protect critical habitat for myriad species in the Cosumnes River corridor, including Sandhill Crane and Swainson’s hawk. Elk Grove is currently updating its General Plan and has three current Sphere of Influence Expansion Applications. A primary concern is the Kammerrer-99 SOI proposal, outside of the long-standing County Urban Services Boundary and the Regional Sustainable Communities Strategy. Habitat 2020 engagement and commentary has so far led to the decision to recirculate the Draft Environmental impact report to better address important concerns raised with the EIR’s initial analysis. The Final EIR has recently been released and great concerns for the project remain. The Local Agency Formation Commission hearing to consider approval of the project is scheduled for February.
  • Continued critical representation of the environmental community in development of the final South Sacramento Habitat Conservation Plan and Environmental Impact Report and Statement released this year, after decades of evolution. Habitat 2020 engagement was essential to this process, being the only group to review the entire public draft of the Plan and the environmental documents, over 3300 pages. The extensive commentary Habitat 2020 has provided is aimed at correcting some long standing issues that remain before certification.
  • Partnered with Friend’s of the Swainson’s Hawk to negotiate an agreement with the City of Sacramento to preserve the integrity of the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan in mitigation of their approval of the Greenbriar project.
  • Provided expert testimony to the ongoing CA WaterFix hearings concerning important terrestrial impacts posed by the proposed Delta tunnels project with H2020 partners, including Friends of Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and SOSCranes.
  • Tracked initial local implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, offering in depth commentary on the pros and cons of the Sacramento Central Groundwater Authority’s proposed Groundwater Management Plan Alternative, with the aim to outline a constructive path forward to address current deficiencies with increased public participation and oversight. We continued our active presence at the Environmental Caucus of the Water Forum, and this last year Ted Rauh of our Water Group became an alternate South Central Groundwater Committee Board member representing environmental interests.
  • H2020 Partner, SOS Cranes, continued participation in the Statewide Sandhill Crane Conservation Strategy Technical Advisory Committee in development of a plan due for release in 2018.
  • Continued participation in the Sacramento Area Council of Governments “Sounding Board” advisory committee for development of the 2020 Metropolitan transportation Plan Sustainable Communities Strategy (MTP/SCS), emphasizing the need for smart, more compact regional growth that simultaneously provides greater, more equitable access to non-auto modes of travel, and preserves natural and agricultural resources. Habitat 2020 has also offered important representation in the SB 375 target revision process currently underway at the CA Air Resources Board, with an aim to determine the most ambitious GHG reduction targets feasible for the Sacramento Region’s MTP/SCS.
  • Supported Audubon Society efforts to preserve essential Purple Martin nesting habitat in the City of Sacramento’s I St bridge replacement project.
  • Supported International Dark Sky Association recommendations to the Cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento for reducing light impacts to aquatic and terrestrial habitat on the Sacramento Riverfront.
  • Supported Folsom community residents in a campaign to develop an alternative plan for storm/waste water infrastructure improvements to minimize impacts to Hinkle Creek and its surrounding forest.
  • Coordinated broad regional stakeholder input into a robust set of recommendations for the City of Sacramento for the consideration of investment in a regional educational facility focused on the region’s unique natural resources.
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2017 ECOS Accomplishments

We want to take a moment to highlight some the Environmental Council of Sacramento’s (ECOS) accomplishments this year and inform you about current activities and challenges moving into the New Year. We know these are challenging times but we hope you can find some encouragement in how our local advocacy makes a difference throughout the Sacramento Region.

For the countless number of Californians affected the horrendous wildfires or threatened by too little or too much water, this year has not been a happy one. ECOS usually focuses on guarding against environmental assaults unique to Sacramento County, but climate change is increasingly impacting everyone, whether local residents or not. Over the past year, ECOS has been increasingly proactive in building our relationships with, and holding accountable, our local elected officials, while educating them about environmental problems and effective solutions.

2017 began with ECOS’s participation and advocacy in support of a package of ethics reform ordinances that the City Council adopted on March 21. The reforms include the creation of an independent Ethics Commission, adoption of an Ethics Code and Sunshine Ordinance to increase the accountability of elected and appointed City officials.

In response to the national debate on the role of science in federal actions, ECOS joined a coalition to organize the April 22 Sacramento March for Science that had over 15,000 participants advocating for the value of the scientific method and the need to act upon the science of climate change to accelerate the pace of greenhouse gas emission reductions.

On the implementation side, ECOS advanced our climate protection commitment by:

  • Successfully advocating as part of a local government, business, and nonprofit coalition for the award of $44 million from the Volkswagen settlement agreement to the City of Sacramento for the construction of electric vehicle charging stations and acquisition of EV fleets to be stationed in disadvantaged neighborhoods and managed by local nonprofits in car sharing programs;
  • Participated in the planning and production, led by 350 Sacramento, of the “Leading the Way to Carbon Zero Community Forum” on May 13; and
  • Tracked and provided testimony on the development and updating of climate action plans by the County of Sacramento and local cities.

With the economy continuing to improve, land use projects of increasing size and adverse environmental impact were proposed within the county in 2017. Some are new – such as the Natomas North Precinct community proposal (5,700 acres, 55,000 proposed new residents) – and some are novel configurations of previously defeated proposals, such as the latest Elk Grove Sphere of Influence application. With the increasing need to accommodate new residents in ways that will limit increases in greenhouse gas emissions, these business-as-usual land use designs undercut the gains made by a growing number of residents who are investing in climate change solutions through the retrofitting of residences with solar panels and the replacement of fossil fueled vehicles with electric cars.

In addition to highlighting the adverse environmental impacts of these proposals, ECOS is working hard to protect high value lands before they become targets for development. We have played a major role in pushing adoption of the South Sacramento County Habitat Conservation Plan to the finish line after more than a decade in development. Furthermore, in conjunction with our member partners, we protected the Greenbriar settlement agreement through tough negotiations to ensure that the integrity of the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan was preserved.

Via our settlement agreement that protects against leap-frog development along the proposed Elk Grove – Folsom Connector, we acquired funding for the mapping of important habitat and open space lands in Sacramento County. To further this effort, we have partnered with UC Davis through a U.S. EPA grant in the development of a habitat inventory and health benefit assessment project. When the regional natural resources data inventory and modeling project is complete, and as funds become available, it will facilitate the identification of critically important lands to protect through future acquisition or conservation easements.

In the transportation arena, ECOS is similarly working proactively to increase mobility while reducing environmental impacts. When Caltrans failed to correct deficiencies in its review of impacts from the construction and operation of additional lanes on Highway 50 between I-5 and Watt Avenue (despite our repeated comments), we challenged the project’s environmental impact report in court.

The above matters represent only a portion of our 2017 activities. We remain engaged on many fronts including issues such as future transportation funding options, Phase 2 hearings on the California WaterFix, and engagement on local implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and many more.

Our annual events like Sacramento Earth Day, Environmentalist of the Year and the Wild and Scenic Film Festival represent the core of our annual funding but we need your help to bridge the final budget gap. Although dedicated volunteers complete much of our work, we are significantly enhanced by the logistical support provided by two part-time paid staff. Our work is made possible by your generous commitment to our region and a desire to make it a healthier and more sustainable.

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