I recently attended a mushroom talk held by my local California Native Plant Society chapter. (No, mushrooms aren’t plants — they are more closely related to animals than to plants, which is why it’s hard to treat fungal infections — but it’s cool.) One of the things that came up at the talk was a project that has been in the works for the past decade to preserve a good chunk of open space not very far from me. The various cities and counties involve will be voting on it this October.
I had never heard of the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Conservation Plan before. Which is silly, because I’m reasonably up to date on deforestation in Brazil and Indonesia and a number of other areas around the world that are threatened by human economic and population expansion. Yet in my own backyard, here’s a unique ecosystem under pressure from urban development. It’s easy to say, “Save the rainforest!” when you don’t live in one and your economic future doesn’t depend on encroaching into that land. It’s harder when you have to measure the economics of your area against the long term benefits of habitat preservation.
Even so, I am definitely in favor of protecting more open spaces from being paved over and turned into a condos. In the Bay Area, we’ve already done a whole lot of paving, and have already lost a lot of habitats and species. Time to learn how to share.
What’s so special about the 46,000 acres that the Habitat Plan would protect? They include some unique serpentine ecosystems. Serpentine soil is rocky and low in nitrogen, potassium, and other things plants like. But it’s far from barren: some extremophile, highly adapted plants and animals have evolved here and live nowhere else. Endangered native wildflowers, burrowing owls, checkerspot butterflies, and kit foxes all thrive in the Bay Area’s shrinking serpentine ecosystems.
The Habitat Plan would ensure long term protection for these 46,000 acres of open space while directing urban development back within cities and towns. You can learn more about it at their website or on Facebook.
Santa Clara County, Gilroy, Morgan Hill, and San Jose vote on the plan between October 9 and October 23. If you’re local (and even if you’re not), I hope you’ll join me in urging elected officials to approve the plan. I’m trying to work up the courage to attend some of the city council meetings, even though I am totally the kind of introvert who would rather do almost anything than speak in public.
I firmly believe that conservation should extend to, and maybe even start at, home. Checkerspot butterflies may not be as sexy as jaguars, but that doesn’t make them less worth protecting.
What local conservation projects are happening around you? If you don’t know of any, I challenge you to find out!