Two protest letter regarding three proposed burn in native grassland and wildflower habitat, June 2010 at Mid-pen. preserves.


Craig Dremann - Box 609, Redwood City, CA. 94064 (650) 325-7333

Board - Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District June 15, 2010
Attn. : Clerk of the Board
330 Distel Circle, Los Altos, CA 94022/

RE: April 14, 2010 Board Meeting
Agenda Items #6, #7 and #8 Authorizations to burn three preserves.

Dear Board of Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District,

I object to the Board of Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, authorizing at the April 14, 2010, Board meeting, the three 2010 burn projects at RUSSIAN RIDGE OPEN SPACE PRESERVE (hereafter Russian Ridge), SIERRA AZUL OPEN SPACE PRESERVE (hereafter Sierra Azul), and MONTE BELLO OPEN SPACE PRESERVE (hereafter Monte Bello):

Agenda Item 6 - Authorization to Conduct a Training Burn at the Rancho de Guadalupe Area of SIERRA AZUL OPEN SPACE PRESERVE in Conformance with the Agreement with Santa Clara County Fire Department - (Report R-10-38)

Motion: Upon motion by Director Hanko, seconded by Director Siemens, and unanimously passed, the Board determined that the recommended actions as set out in the report are categorically exempt under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA); and authorized the General Manager to work with Santa Clara County Fire Department and other fire agencies to conduct a prescribed burn for training purposes at the Rancho de Guadalupe area of Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve, as specified in the existing Permit to Enter, and to allow for additional training not involving live fire, from the date of execution through December 31, 2010. (Vote 7-0-0)

(Page 4 of April 14, 2010 minutes
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Agenda Item 7 - Authorization for Staff to Conduct a Prescribed Training Burn at MONTE BELLO OPEN SPACE PRESERVE - (Report R-10-39)

Motion: Upon motion by Director Riffle, seconded by Director Cyr, and unanimously passed, the Board authorized the General Manager to execute a Permit to Enter with California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) to jointly conduct a prescribed burn with the District, for training purposes and vegetation management, at the Monte Bello Open Space Preserve in 2010. (Vote 7-0-0)

(Page 5 of April 14, 2010 minutes).
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Agenda Item 8 - Authorization to Conduct a Vegetation Management Prescribed Burn at RUSSIAN RIDGE OPEN SPACE PRESERVE in 2010 and Determination that the Project is Consistent with the Environmental Impact Report and Related Mitigation Measures Prepared by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Report R-10-37)

Motion: Upon motion by Director Harris, seconded by Director Hassett, and unanimously passed, the Board determined that the recommended action is consistent with the Environmental Impact Report and Related Mitigation Measures Prepared by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) as set out in the report; authorized District staff to work with CAL FIRE and other fire agencies to conduct a prescribed burn at Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve in 2010 for habitat enhancement purposes; and authorized District staff to extend an agreement with CAL FIRE to conduct prescribed burns at Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve for two additional years. (Vote 7-0-0)

(Page 3 of April 14, 2010 minutes)
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I am requesting that the Board directs the staff to prepare and Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the three 2010 burns, for the following reasons.

Hereafter CEQA is the California Environmental Quality Act, Public Resources Code § 21000 et seq. and an EIR is an Environmental Impact Report.

1.) The two burns proposed for MONTE BELLO and SIERRA AZUL are not exempt from CEQA and no EIR has been prepared for the RUSSIAN RIDGE burn, and the only document related to the 2010 burn, is a 2007 CALFIRE Russian Ridge prefire checklist, and that document is inadequate and cannot be used as a substitute for an EIR under CEQA.

2.) The District has failed the CEQA FAIR ARGUEMENT standard, which requires the District to prepare EIRs for each of the three burns.

I have provided the Board with the fair arguments, based on substantial evidence, in 127 emails since 2006, about the effects of the District's 2002 and 2007 burns.

I have also outlined in a web page at http://www.ecoseeds.com/invent.html, my measurements and photographs of the environmental outcomes for those burns at RUSSIAN RIDGE, and provided the Board with substantial evidence that there have been significant environmental impacts caused by those burns.

The "Fair Argument standard" means that under CEQA, an agency must prepare an EIR, "Whenever it can be fairly argued on the basis of substantial evidence that the project may have significant environmental impact."

3.) District's stated reasons for the necessities of the three burns in 2010, not supported by any evidence.

Two documents were mailed out, dated April 6, 2010, as notification by the District for the three Preserve burns, one by Gordon C. Baillie an MBA and another by David Sanguinetti, Operations manager.

Gordon Baillie's claim for the Sierra Azul burn is that "Prescribed burns are..used to manage the land for fire safety and the health of the natural environment..They also reduce invasive [exotic plant] species and support native plant and a diverse healthy ecosystem."

David Sanguinetti's claim for burning at Russian Ridge and Monte Bello, is that, "The burns have also been an excellent resource management tool..."

There is no evidence that any of these claims are true, and none of those claims are supported by adequate measured data, or even by any photos of the "before and after" effects of each burn.

In 1998 and 1999, burns at Russian Ridge were conducted by the District's hired consultant, without any EIR, and the District staff did not monitor the weeds or the native plant species, during the years the consultant was working on exotic plant (weed) management of that Preserve in 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000.

The District produced a document ("Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve Grassland Monitoring Summary," pdf file, no date, no author, #12287F) that concluded that any Russian Ridge vegetation measurements done by their hired consultant (Rana Creek Habitat Restoration 2000) before and after those two burns is useless for any future exotic plant or native plant vegetation measurement comparisons.

Furthermore, the District did not conduct any vegetation measurement at Russian Ridge before and after the 2002 or 2007 burns, that the District conducted without any EIRs, and no Russian Ridge exotic plant or native plant vegetation measurements were done in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 or 2008.

Under CEQA, the Board is prohibited from authorizing the three 2010 burns without an EIR, and especially when the Board and the public lack any knowledge of the environmental consequences of their decisions, before they are made. (Western Placer Citizens for an Agr. and Rural Env. v County of Placer--App. 3 Dist. 2006, 50 Cal. Rptr. 3d 799, 144 Cal. App. 4th 890).

Under CEQA, the purpose of an EIR is to provide detailed information to the public and to responsible officials, about significant environmental effects of a proposed project; and the EIR must contain substantial evidence on those effects and a reasonable range of alternatives.

When the Board authorized the three burns in April for 2010, neither the Board nor the public had been provided with any substantial information about the projects, that are required by CEQA. Furthermore, the stated reasons for the necessities for the three burns, has not been back up by any substantial or measured evidence.

4.) The three 2010 fires, pose a real and substantial danger to the native plants on those preserves, and the determination to burn is not supported by substantial evidence.

Since one of the District's stated purpose for the three proposed 2010 burns, is to reduce the exotic plant (weeds) cover, then that purpose naturally assumes that the three burns could also produce significant environmental effects on the native plants, therefore CEQA requires that EIRs be written for the 2010 burns.

By checking photographs that were taken in 2002 of Russian Ridge, prior to the 2002, 2007 and 2009 burns, any reasonable person does not need to be a trained botanist, to clearly see that the exotic plant cover, specially the four-foot tall weeds like the wild oats and the Harding grass, have greatly benefited from the numerous fires, with these weeds able to rush in and cover the burned ground faster than the native plants can regenerate.

Additionally, when you set fire to tall weeds, they produce fires with about 10-50 times more burnable biomass, than if you burned a native wildflower or native grass area. The perennial native plants are unable to survive such a severe fire, killing the native species in the burn areas on the north end of Russian Ridge, like Coyote mint, Mules ears, and Melica grass.

If the District had conducted annual vegetation cover measurement since 1997 at Russian Ridge, those measurements would show that the yellow star thistle, the Italian thistle, and exotic clovers have greatly benefited from the numerous fires, so the claim that the fires are managing weeds on that preserve is in error, and is grossly misstated.

5.) Failure to write EIRs for the three burns is considered by the courts, as an abuse of discretion.

Whenever an agency fails to do an EIR for a project, when there is a possibility that the project may have a significant environmental impact, the courts have ruled consistently against the agency, calling it an "abuse of discretion. "

6.) No EIRs and no alternatives to burns given to, or discussed with the public.

This is a violation of CEQA---when no EIRs were written for any of the Russian Ridge burns in 1998, 1999, 2002, 2007, 2009 and now for 2010, the District has not given the public a range of alternatives, and fostered public participation and encouraged the public to examine those alternatives.

Under CEQA, when an agency proposes a project like the three burns, courts have ruled that the agency must "foster...public participation" and offer to the public, "...a range of project alternatives for examination and must publicly disclose its reasoning for selecting those alternatives." (Preservation Action Council v. City of San Jose, App. 6 Dist. 2006, 46 Cal. Rptr. 3d. 402, 141 Cal. App. 4th 1336).

7.) Conclusion. The State of California considers our native grassland and wildflower field habitats to be the second most endangered plant community in California.

To any reasonable person, there has been no good faith effort by the District for over twelve years to adequately manage the public's extremely rare and irreplaceable native grassland habitats and wildflower resources---by approving the numerous burns, without full disclosure, no EIRs, no informational public discussions nor opportunities for public review, no meaningful analysis of the effects of all those fires on the environment, no consideration of alternatives given to the public, no substantial evidence that the burns will achieve the stated goals, and the burns have been conducted as an abuse of discretion by the District.

I am requesting that the Board directs staff to prepare and EIR for the three 2010 burns, so that the Board and the public can be fully advised of the environmental impacts of the three burn projects.

Sincerely,

Craig Dremann (650) 325-7333


Craig Dremann - Box 609, Redwood City, CA. 94064 (650) 325-7333

Clerk of District, Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District June 22, 2010
Attn. : Clerk of the District
330 Distel Circle, Los Altos, CA 94022

CC. Calfire Director
Santa Clara County Fire Chief
City of Palo Alto Fire Chief

RE: April 14, 2010 Meeting - Agenda Items #6, #7 and #8 Authorizations to conduct three burn projects, are illegal under CEQA--PART 2 of protest.

Dear Board of Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District,

Below are listed my additional protests to the Board of Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, regarding the authorization of three burn projects at the April 14, 2010 Board meeting:

Agenda Item 6 - Authorization to Conduct a Training Burn at the Rancho de Guadalupe Area of SIERRA AZUL OPEN SPACE PRESERVE in Conformance with the Agreement with Santa Clara County Fire Department - (Report R-10-38)

Agenda Item 7 - Authorization for Staff to Conduct a Prescribed Training Burn at MONTE BELLO OPEN SPACE PRESERVE - (Report R-10-39)

Agenda Item 8 - Authorization to Conduct a Vegetation Management Prescribed Burn at RUSSIAN RIDGE OPEN SPACE PRESERVE in 2010 and Determination that the Project is Consistent with the Environmental Impact Report and Related Mitigation Measures Prepared by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Report R-10-37)
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The State of California Department of Fish and Game considers native grassland and wildflower habitat as the second most endangered in California.

Hereafter, CEQA is the California Environmental Quality Act, Public Resources Code § 2100 et seq. and an EIR is an Environmental Impact Report.

The three 2010 burn projects of concern, are at RUSSIAN RIDGE OPEN SPACE PRESERVE (hereafter Russian Ridge), SIERRA AZUL OPEN SPACE PRESERVE (hereafter Sierra Azul), and MONTE BELLO OPEN SPACE PRESERVE (hereafter Monte Bello).

I am requesting that the Board direct staff to prepare an EIR for the three 2010 burn projects that were approved at the April 15 Board meeting.

On June 15, I emailed and mailed via certified mail to the Clerk of the District, six reasons why an EIR is legally required before three burn projects in 2010 can proceed.

A copy of my June 15 letter will be sent to CALFIRE, Santa Clara Fire and Palo Alto Fire, together with these additional protest items, so that these agencies will be notified regarding the three burn projects.

FURTHER PROTEST ITEMS:

7.) NO REVIEW OF CUMULATIVE IMPACTS OF THE BURN PROJECTS. Neither the Board nor the public, has had any review of the cumulative environmental impacts of the prior burn projects in 1998, 1999, 2002, 2007, and 2009, before deciding to conduct the three new burn projects in 2010,

CEQA Guidelines, Cal. Code Reg. Title 14, § 15355, "Cumulative impacts" refers to two or more individual effects which, when considered together, are considerable or which compound or increase other environmental impacts.

§ 15355 (a) The individual effects may be changes resulting from a single project or a number of separate projects.

§ 15355 (b) The cumulative impact from several projects is the change in the environment which results from the incremental impact of the project when added to other related past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future projects. Cumulative impacts can result from individually minor but collectively significant projects taking place over a period of time.

The environmental damage by the burn projects on the Russian Ridge native flora is apparent even to the non-botanist. The previous burn projects have helped spread the weeds, especially the wild oats and Harding grass. You can compare how Russian Ridge looked in 2002 to today, utilizing the photo panoramas on the Web.

Thirty-two different locations on Russian Ridge were photographed in 2002, at http://doors.stanford.edu/quicktime/index.html and http://www.virtualparks.org/parks/russian-text-list.html.

In my 128 emails to the Board since 2006, and my webpage at http://www.ecoseeds.com/invent.html, I found that cumulative environmental impacts have occurred, caused by the previous burn projects at Russian Ridge.

8.) NO REVIEW OF THE SIGNIFICANT IMPACTS of the burn projects, done in 1998, 1999, 2002, 2007, and 2009 on any of the District's preserves. I have noted in my 128 emails to the Board, and at http://www.ecoseeds.com/invent.html that significant environmental impacts have occurred from burn projects at Russian Ridge.

The CEQA guidelines define "significant effect on the environment" as: "a substantial, or potentially substantial, adverse change in any of the physical conditions within the area affected by the project including land, air, water, minerals, flora, fauna, ambient noise, and objects of historic or aesthetic significance" (CEQA guidelines, Cal. Code Reg. Title 14, § 15382).

There have been significant effects on the environment at Russian Ridge of substantial and adverse changes to the flora and to the California native wildflowers, which constitute objects of historic and aesthetic significance.

9.) SIERRA AZUL 2010 BURN PROJECT, there are at least three errors in the CEQA paperwork filed with Santa Clara County and with the State of California.

First Error is in the Notice of Exemption (NOE) , filed June 14 with the County of Santa Clara, why the burn project at Sierra Azul is exempt from CEQA: "Staff concludes that this project will not have a significant effect on the environment."

This Notice of Exemption to the State contradicts an earlier statement issued on April 6, by the District regarding the burn, by Gordon Baillie, where the previous burns at that particular preserve have been used to "...reduce invasive species and support native plants and a diverse, healthy ecosystem."

The District is admitting to the public of the potential of the burn projects at this preserve to kill weeds, which means that the burn project also has the potential to have an adverse impact on the native flora, therefore an EIR is necessary.

10.) SIERRA AZUL 2010 BURN PROJECT, the second error, using Cal. Code Reg. Title 14, § 15304 Minor Alterations.

The Notice of Exemption filed June 14 with Santa Clara County and with the State of California, states that the burn is exempt from CEQA under Cal. Code Reg. Title 14, § 15304, the Minor Alterations exemption.

This exemption is not supposed to be used for projects like burns. Whenever fire is involved in land management, and the area contains California's second most endangered habitat, there is a reasonable possibility of an environmental impact.

Fires, by their very nature, make major alterations to the environment, and since the potential for the burn project to kill weeds, and is one of the District's stated purposes in their April 6 letter to the public, therefore an EIR is required and this exemption cannot be used.

11.) SIERRA AZUL 2010 BURN PROJECT, the third error, using the Cal. Code Reg. Title 14, § 15306, Collection of Data.

The Notice of Exemption (NOE) filed June 14 with Santa Clara County and with the State of California, states that the burn is exempt from CEQA under Cal. Code Reg. Title 14, § 15306, Collection of Data.

The Collection of Data exemption is null and void for the Sierra Azul burn project, because this particular exemption states that the project shall not cause "..a serious or major disturbance to an environmental resource." The very nature of a fire, and the stated purpose by the District for this particular burn project, is to make major alterations in the environment.

12.) NONE OF THE MONTE BELLO 2010 BURN PROJECT CEQA paperwork has been filed with Santa Clara County or with the State of California.

The only paperwork supplied to date by the District Clerk for the 2010 Monte Bello burn project is a Notice of Determination (NOD) filed August 2, 2004, stating that the fire will not have a significant effect on the environment. However, no evidence is presented to support that conclusion.

This 2004 Notice of Determination does not qualify to be recycled in 2010 to act as the 2010 Notice of Determination for the current Monte Bello burn project.

The District has received pertinent new information, from 2006 to 2010, about the environmentally damaging effects of past burn projects, and a "fair argument" exists (Laurel Heights Improvement Assoc. v. U.C. Regents (1993) 47 Cal. 3d 376).

The District has failed to promptly, upon the receipt of that new information, either, to write the legally required CEQA EIRs, or review their "Thresholds of significance" for their burn projects (Public Resource code § 21082).

Furthermore, there may have been a complete failure by the District over time to ever have complied with § 21082, regarding the numerous burn projects conducted over the past 12 years on the District's preserves.

13.) NONE OF THE RUSSIAN RIDGE 2010 BURN PROJECT CEQA PAPERWORK HAS BEEN FILED with Santa Clara Co. or State of California.

The CEQA paperwork supplied by the clerk for the 2010 Russian Ridge burn project is a 2007 CALFIRE preburn checklist. That checklist is not a substitute for an EIR, as in Sundstrom v. County of Mendocino (1988) 202 Cal.App.3d 296.

14.) WITHOUT THE CEQA paperwork filed or accurately filled out for the three burn projects in 2010, it is reasonable to assume that under CEQA, the District cannot legally conduct those burns, until EIRs are written for each of them.

I am requesting that the Board directs staff to prepare EIRs for the three 2010 burn projects, so that the Board and the public can be fully advised of the environmental impacts of the three burn projects.

Sincerely,

Craig Dremann (650) 325-7333

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Updated 6/22/2010