Zone the wildlife refuge “Open Space”

Below is the draft of a city council resolution that has been introduced to the council by councilmembers Stewart Chen and Tony Daysog.  It is on the council agenda for 7 PM, Tuesday, February 19, 2013.  The community is urged to attend and voice their opinion.  

The refuge has been home, harbor, and safe haven for many species, even during use as a military base.  As the property transitions to VA ownership, the protective status of “Open Space” and “Wildlife Refuge” should travel with it on into the future.  It is a rare piece of earth on the Bay that should be available for nature to reclaim.  Proper zoning will reflect the level of commitment we have toward environmental stewardship in an era of growing demands on ecosystems everywhere.

zone it open space

Draft – City Council Resolution

Resolution re-affirming support for creation of the Alameda Wildlife Refuge at Alameda Point

Whereas, the 1996 Community Reuse Plan identifies the southern two-thirds of the Naval Air Station-Alameda airfield for preservation as a wildlife refuge;

Whereas, the 1996 Community Reuse Plan stipulates that this area “would remain as open space to provide for the preservation of wetlands, sensitive species, and regional open space uses”;

Whereas, the City of Alameda General Plan was amended in 2003 to add Chapter 9 on Alameda Point, which includes support and encouragement for funding and implementation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Comprehensive Conservation Plan for the Alameda National Wildlife Refuge;

Whereas, the General Plan amendment supports “a system of trails that provide public access to and within the Wildlife Refuge” that balances natural conservation with public access and education;

Whereas, the General Plan amendment supports the creation of education facilities and programs, similar to other conservation areas such as the Elsie D. Roemer Bird Sanctuary;

Whereas, the wildlife refuge is home to one of the most successful nesting sites in California for the endangered California Least Tern;

Whereas, Breakwater Island is part of the wildlife refuge vision in the 1996 Community Reuse Plan, and it is the only night roosting area of its kind in San Francisco Bay for California Brown Pelicans, which were only recently removed from the Endangered Species List;

Whereas, the wildlife refuge, and the entirety of Alameda Point and its adjacent waters, are subject to special restrictions for protection of the least terns by authority of the 2012 Biological Opinion issued by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the responsible agency for enforcement of the Endangered Species Act;

Whereas, the 511-acre refuge area offers a rare and vast inner urban opportunity for public access and education, a respite and retreat from the built environment, introduction of native plant species, expansion of wetlands, and wildlife recovery and protection efforts;

Whereas, the Alameda Wildlife Refuge would complement the land uses contemplated for the mixed-use area of Alameda Point, as well as complementing the entire city and the Bay Area;

Whereas, numerous federal, state, and regional public agencies possess the experience and mission for collaboratively managing a wildlife conservation area;

Whereas, environmental cleanup and remediation will be completed by the Navy in compliance with federal and state environmental laws;

Whereas, ownership by the VA will ensure that potential environmental cleanup liabilities regarding the Site 2 landfill, and any other portion of the federal property, will be borne by the VA (unless retained by the Navy) regardless of the land uses;

Whereas, the wildlife refuge vision is compatible with, and complementary to, proposed plans for a VA clinic and columbarium;

Now be it therefore resolved:

          The City Council of the City of Alameda re-affirms our commitment to and support for the creation of a wildlife conservation area known as the Alameda Wildlife Refuge at Alameda Point;

          And be it further resolved that the adjacent waters of the Alameda Point Channel, and Breakwater Island, are to be included in the management plan for the refuge;

          And be it further resolved that the City Council of the City of Alameda will support the zoning of the wildlife refuge property as “Open Space with a Refuge Overlay,” or similar conservation zoning designation, to promote the protection and implementation of the values and goals recited in this resolution.

Burrowing owl on refuge.
Burrowing owl on refuge.

Author: richard94501

My blog is Alameda Point Environmental Report covering environmental issues from wildlife to cleanup at the former Navy base in Alameda now called Alameda Point. Articles on my blog are frequently printed in the Alameda Sun newspaper. I also host a Twitter site and a Flickr photo site. I hope you find my stories and photos of interest. Richard Bangert Alameda, California

4 thoughts on “Zone the wildlife refuge “Open Space””

  1. Totally in sympathy with supporting the refuge, but would like some clarifications:
    1)What reason has been given for the change in boundary?
    2)What difference is it likely to make in the use of the property?
    3)Who owns the property now?
    4)Does the City have the right to “zone” federal property?

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    1. 1) The boundary was changed to move the clinic building and part of the columbarium farther away from the least tern nesting site. Proximity to the tern nesting site was facing opposition from the Audubon Society, and was not likely to have been approved by the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

      2) The main difference in land use impacts will be the reduction in land available for active park use in the Northwest Territories, when and if money becomes available for the park district to create a regional park. The city will be giving up about 70 acres.

      3) The property is currently owned by the Navy.

      4) Yes. The city has zoned federal property in the past. The base is currently zoned “Industrial – Government.” The federal property on McKay Avenue (part of which has become controversial of late) has always been zoned by the city.

      The zoning, however, would not be binding on the federal government. The main benefit of the city zoning federal property is for adjacent or nearby land owners to know what to expect.

      With regard to the wildlife refuge, zoning it open space or wildlife refuge would take on symbolic importance because of the community reuse planning effort that pre-dated the VA’s interest in the property, and which stipulated that a wildlife refuge would be created. Since the VA’s acquisition of the property was only for their 110-acre project, their stewardship of the 511 acres they don’t need is discretionary. Maintaining the “refuge” zoning would be a major step in reaching full wildlife refuge status.

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