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Endangered flowers trigger fight over California housing project (another plant of a "plant"?)
AP on Bakersfield Californian ^ | 7/8/06 | Terence Chea - ap

Posted on 07/08/2006 1:02:12 PM PDT by NormsRevenge

Did residents of this idyllic wine country town illegally plant an endangered flower to sabotage a proposed housing development?

That's the question at the heart of a quarrel folks here have dubbed "Foamgate."

Bob Evans, a 72-year-old retired elementary school principal, says he was walking with his dog last year when he came upon the tiny white flowers of Sebastopol meadowfoam poking from shallow pools of water in a grassy field.

The former bean farm happens to be the chosen site of the 20-acre Laguna Vista housing development. Evans and other opponents seized on the discovery of the federally protected species in hopes it would force the developer to scale back plans calling for 145 houses and apartments.

"It was the bad luck of the developer that it popped up," Evans said.

But when state wildlife officials investigated, they determined the meadowfoam had been planted there and ordered it dug up.

This year, the flowers returned, and with them the controversy.

Sebastopol, an upscale community of about 8,000 people 50 miles north of San Francisco, is known for its environmentally conscious residents and restrictive growth policies.

"Our community takes a very hard, careful look at development," said Kenyon Webster, the town's planning director. "That small-town character is the reason a lot of people want to live here."

When the meadowfoam appeared in April 2005, and the Department of Fish and Game determined it had been transplanted, it appeared to be a case of overzealous conservationists.

"The people who planted it mistakenly believed that it would be the silver bullet that killed the project," said Scott Schellinger of Schellinger Brothers, the Santa Rosa developer behind Laguna Vista.

Known as Limnanthes vinculans, the multistemmed herbs grow up to a foot tall and have small bowl-shaped white flowers. They are only found in seasonal wetlands and vernal pools created by spring rains in this part of Sonoma County.

Threatened by agriculture and urban development, the meadowfoam was listed as an endangered species by the state and federal governments, making it illegal to harm or remove them without permission. Wetland and vernal pool habitat has been set aside to protect them.

Evans and other members of the Laguna Preservation Council say the proposed $70 million development could damage the nearby Laguna de Santa Rosa, a 240-square-mile basin of wetlands that runs through Sebastopol.

"When you minimize wetlands, then you decrease of diversity of species everywhere," Evans said.

Evans called Sonoma State University biology professor Phil Northen as well as the head of the local chapter of the California Native Plant Society. They visited the site and agreed the plants were native.

Northen, who doesn't live in Sebastopol and had never met Evans before, said the field was "perfect habitat" for meadowfoam, and that there was no evidence the flowers had been planted.

But when the Fish and Game team visited the site at Schellinger's invitation a few weeks later, it reached the opposite conclusion.

Eric Larsen, the department's deputy regional manager, said the flowers had never before been seen at the Laguna Vista site, which is at a higher elevation than the typical meadowfoam habitat. Team members also noticed plants beneath the meadowfoam, leading them to believe it had been relocated.

"They didn't belong there," Larsen said. "It was appropriate to remove them from the site."

Fish and Game launched an investigation into who planted the flowers, but they never identified any suspects. Their refusal to offer evidence for their conclusion has prompted Laguna Vista opponents to cry foul.

"The Department of Fish and Game refuses to show the data that supports this alleged act of eco-terrorism," Evans said. "I didn't plant it. No one planted it. It's clearly a natural plant that grew there because that's where it belongs."

Fish and Game interviewed Evans and Northen, but Larsen said the case went cold. Releasing evidence from the investigation could encourage others to try the same stunt, he said.

If the plants were found to be indigenous, it could have triggered another round of environmental studies and forced the developer to reconfigure the project, said planning director Webster.

Foamgate might have ended there, had the flowers not sprouted again in recent months in the same area.

Schellinger said the new plants grew from seeds scattered during the "original criminal act." Fish and Game agreed and wasn't inclined to reopen the investigation.

Still, following a series of public hearings, the Sebastopol City Council tabled final approval of Laguna Vista. A mediator is now overseeing negotiations between Schellinger Brothers and residents in hopes of reaching a compromise that could include a scaled-down version of the project.

Evans and his allies believe the reappearance of the meadowfoam proves that the land targeted for development is home to an endangered species.

"They're just simple little white plants," Evans said. "What makes them special is that they have overcome great difficulty and survive in a place where it's very difficult to survive."


TOPICS: Culture/Society; US: California
KEYWORDS: california; endangered; environment; fight; flowers; foamgate; housing; lagunavista; meadowfoam; plantedevidence; project; propertyrights; sebastopol; trigger

1 posted on 07/08/2006 1:02:14 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
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To: NormsRevenge

On the one hand, I favor property rights. On the other, I'm sick of watching more open space in California and elsewhere plowed under for yet more housing and mall development. We need rational land use planning and in its absence we get ridiculous exploitation of technicalities like this.


2 posted on 07/08/2006 1:06:47 PM PDT by Argus
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To: NormsRevenge
"It was the bad luck of the developer that it popped up," Evans said. But when state wildlife officials investigated, they determined the meadowfoam had been planted there and ordered it dug up.

I am sure Mr. Evans is the prime suspect. That anyone would do this causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential damages to the developer is maddening.

3 posted on 07/08/2006 1:11:21 PM PDT by beltfed308 (Nanny Statists are Ameba's.)
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To: Argus

This is ridiculous! Plants and animals face extinction all the time. If their populations are reduced to tiny amounts, living in a tiny area, they are probably about due for extinction.


4 posted on 07/08/2006 1:21:18 PM PDT by Dr. Bogus Pachysandra ("Don't touch that thing")
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To: Argus

The problem is primarily with elected officials. Most counties and municipalities have general plans that look good on paper, balancing the interests of residential developers, industry, agriculture, and open space advocates. Officials then issue special use permits or other exceptions which defeat the intent of the general plan. There is a reason developers make donations to the campaigns of elected office holders.


5 posted on 07/08/2006 1:22:22 PM PDT by concentric circles
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To: Argus
Here in Central Texas land owners have been known to light fires in caves on their property to kill anything in it so the damned environmentalist do not find a "new" endangered species and thus make their land worthless. It makes perfect sense. The outcome is that species that would have lived are killed because of the virtual expropriation of a mans private land. When you have valuable land near Austin, Texas and discover an endangered species on it, you have just lost your land to any development but the government is kind enough to still make you pay the taxes on it but you can not build on it. This defacto confiscation of your property without just compensation.
6 posted on 07/08/2006 1:23:27 PM PDT by cpdiii (Socialism is popular with the ruling class. It gives legitimacy to tyranny and despotism.)
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To: NormsRevenge
Can we send some of these to transplant too?


7 posted on 07/08/2006 1:28:39 PM PDT by SouthTexas (Kim Jong has NoDong)
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To: Argus
On the one hand, I favor property rights. On the other, I'm sick of watching more open space in California and elsewhere plowed under for yet more housing and mall development. We need rational land use planning and in its absence we get ridiculous exploitation of technicalities like this.

I totally agree. We are in the same situation in Washington- watching beautiful areas getting plowed under to build a bunch of generic McMansions with no yards or trees left over.

8 posted on 07/08/2006 1:33:25 PM PDT by conservative cat
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To: NormsRevenge
Schellinger said the new plants grew from seeds scattered during the "original criminal act." Fish and Game agreed and wasn't inclined to reopen the investigation.

If it grows this easily, maybe it doesn't belong on an endangered list.

9 posted on 07/08/2006 1:44:00 PM PDT by T. P. Pole
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To: NormsRevenge

A Sebastapol meadowfoam bought at the local nursery; $14.95

What I'm going to sell my house for in California: half a million to three quarters of a million dollars.

My laughing all the way to the bank when I leave this state: priceless


10 posted on 07/08/2006 1:47:59 PM PDT by A message (We who care, Can Not Fail)
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To: conservative cat
I'm in agreement too. The developers have to be able to strike a medium between their needs and the needs of the community and nature. Their building a Walgreens within a one eighth of a mile of my house. There are already at least six drugstores within one mile, surely another isn't really needed for the community but why let that get in the way of it.

Then there are these planned communities, your neighbors backyard is your front yard, you can barely walk between the buildings, and of course the area was clear cut so you have no trees.
11 posted on 07/08/2006 1:55:12 PM PDT by Hawk1976 (Borders. Language. Culture. AAA-0. Free Travis Mcgee.)
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To: Hawk1976

"my house."

Understand this concept?

Same for the Walgreens....


12 posted on 07/08/2006 2:00:55 PM PDT by dakine
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To: dakine

Notice how many more are within a mile. Yet, I while have to endure more clear-cutting near my property, increased heat because asphalt reflects heat where trees don't just so Walgreen's can have a store in an already saturated market.


13 posted on 07/08/2006 2:12:31 PM PDT by Hawk1976 (Borders. Language. Culture. AAA-0. Free Travis Mcgee.)
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To: Hawk1976
"clear-cutting near my property"

You're learning...

14 posted on 07/08/2006 2:17:35 PM PDT by dakine
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To: Argus
On the other, I'm sick of watching more open space in California and elsewhere plowed under for yet more housing and mall development. We need rational land use planning and in its absence we get ridiculous exploitation of technicalities like this.

What we really need is for tyrannical busybodies, who want to impose their aesthetic sensibilities on the community at someone else's expense, to open their own G** D*** wallets and buy the land they want to see preserved. Failing that, they should press for the government to purchase such property at fair market value.

"Rational land use planning" that places the burden of preservation on the backs of individual property owners should be resisted with armed violence.

-ccm

15 posted on 07/08/2006 2:32:25 PM PDT by ccmay (Too much Law; not enough Order)
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To: Hawk1976
The developers have to be able to strike a medium between their needs and the needs of the community and nature.

The hell they do. It's their property and they should do as they see fit with it.

-ccm

16 posted on 07/08/2006 2:35:50 PM PDT by ccmay (Too much Law; not enough Order)
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To: NormsRevenge

Limiting development to protect beautiful wild areas is a good thing. But what is the special value of a meadowfoam plant? Can we get oil or beer out of it?


17 posted on 07/08/2006 2:36:27 PM PDT by Sender ("Why, by God, I actually pity those poor sons-of-b*tches we're going up against. By God, I do".)
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To: ccmay

That was a good post!


18 posted on 07/08/2006 3:18:20 PM PDT by cpdiii (Socialism is popular with the ruling class. It gives legitimacy to tyranny and despotism.)
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To: conservative cat

You just wait. Mt. Ranier is going to go off some day and the resulting landslides are going to cover up most of Seattle's more distant suburbs.


19 posted on 07/08/2006 5:20:35 PM PDT by muawiyah (-)
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To: ccmay
Oh your right, excuse me, I didn't see it before but now I do. Humans live so much better when they are smashed right up on top of each other and the need for another asphalt strip mall are just so obvious.

Or better yet a heavy trucking terminal should be located practically inside of a neighborhood while there are hundreds of acres not near a neighborhood where it could have been placed.

I guess these developers should also be able to dump whatever chemical or trash they want on their property as well, after all it is their property.

Developers can, and in some areas of the US do, balance the needs of the community and nature. Conservation is not particularly a liberal left issue even if they hijacked it.

A cursory search on Free Republic will find Freepers who have been to Communist and former communist countries, they speak of the environmental decay there, among others granted but my main concern here is the environment. In this manner pure capitalism and pure communism are not so far apart. No one in either case can stop the developer from doing something that harms the environment.

You don't have to be a global warming nut or anti-human or even liberal to realize we have to be good stewards of the environment.
20 posted on 07/08/2006 6:25:04 PM PDT by Hawk1976 (Borders. Language. Culture. AAA-0. Free Travis Mcgee.)
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To: Hawk1976
If you want to 'preserve the environment' then buy some.

L

21 posted on 07/08/2006 6:29:00 PM PDT by Lurker (2 months and still no Bill from Pence. What is he milking squids for the ink?)
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To: Lurker

Okay, let's say I rush out and buy 100 hundred acres of woodland to be conserved. What happens when on an adjoining 20 acres a brewery opens up and in this pure capitilistic scenario they decide it's cheaper to toss the chemical byproducts out the back door rather than pay for proper cleanup and removal.

This chemical byproduct moves into my area killing the nature I was trying to conserve.

No, Environmental Protection and conservation has a proper role for government. Left to their own devices buisnessmen would too often take the lowest cost solution even if it harmed their neighbors and workers. History bears my point out.


22 posted on 07/08/2006 6:54:48 PM PDT by Hawk1976 (Borders. Language. Culture. AAA-0. Free Travis Mcgee.)
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To: Dr. Bogus Pachysandra
This is ridiculous! Plants and animals face extinction all the time. If their populations are reduced to tiny amounts, living in a tiny area, they are probably about due for extinction. 4 posted on 07/08/2006 1:21:18 PM PDT by Dr. Bogus Pachysandra ("Don't touch that thing")

What is the matter, don't these liberals understand Darwin? Species evolve or die. Make these liberals stop fighting Darwinism!

23 posted on 07/08/2006 7:19:17 PM PDT by american_ranger
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To: NormsRevenge

We have a problem in San Diego related to a public school. The site didn't exist until it was created by man for a future public school. A canyon was filled in. Now that the school is needed, enviromentalists suddenly discovered "fairy shrimp" in vernal pools on the site. Fish & Wildlife has declared these shrimp endangered although they refuse to conduct the DNA testing required to prove these are the endangered variety and not a common one. Talk host Roger Hedgecock suspects these "fairy shrimp" were planted by eco-terrorists.


24 posted on 07/08/2006 7:32:53 PM PDT by newzjunkey (Support Arnold-McClintock or embrace higher taxes, gay weddings with Angelides.)
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To: NormsRevenge
There are quite a lot of places to start here.
First, 98% of all the plants and animals that have ever lived are extinct. So in reality saving a plant or animal that is going extinct is actually going against nature.
If one really wants to return to a time in the past why is it never one where the land was underwater or ice?
Second, if all of the roads, buildings, bridges any infrastructure were jammed into a area of America it would cover between 3-5% of the land.
Third, IMHO what is going on all over America is Agenda 21.
The putting aside of, at least, 50% of the land so as to return it to nature. You see man is not a part of nature, people are looked at, by environmentalist's, as a type of virus to nature. Does one really think that nature can tell the difference between a rock and a plastic bottle. Does one really believe that nature can be harmed? It can always be altered, cultivated, changed organically,frozen, fried, flooded etc. but harmed. I think not.
Forth, from the story it is apparent that environmentalists will not stop at breaking the law in order to impose their 'religion' on others.
Fifth, this is a private property fight. Why should some properties, i.e. environmentally, 'sensitive' land have more protections then yours under the law. As much bad press as eminent domain has been getting lately doesn't alter the fact that it (eminent domain) is a constitutional right of the people, but it seems that land designated for preservation or habitat cannot be eminently domains. Equal protection under the law, I don't think so.
Sixth, homeowners associations have rules and regulations for living in a particular community and one can always decide not to live there because of them. But because of government required comprehensive plans by counties and cities have been initiated, your local planning and zoning board have become the nation wide homeowners association. Only problem with that is that I already have a set of laws for mine, and that is the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. Constitutional rights are being trampled upon because of environmentalism and also by people demanding more and more government to fix their day to day problems.
Seventh, and last for this post, if ones wants to stop sprawl, ramped growth and all of that you need to look no further than your local government. The bigger it gets the more money it needs. It produces nothing. It's only source of funds is what you make. And, if you do not make enough our you go, eminent domain, and bring in a better serf to feed the feudalistic system we have embraced. The fault of uncontrolled growth is not with just developers but with the bureaucracy that has to control in order to survive and thus becomes, no longer, the protector of ones unalienable rights, as deemed by our Constitution, but a destructive force to the American way of life and slowly puts out the lights in the city on the hill.
25 posted on 07/08/2006 7:41:23 PM PDT by Jonathan E (Sustainable Development/Smart Growth is "Environmental Sharia")
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To: Jonathan E

Man is no more a virus than beaver, ants, termites, bees, moles, or prarie dogs are. In fact most animals make alterations to their environments in some form.

Environmentalists are a bunch of kooks. What doesn't follow is that we should there fore asphaplt over every square inch of land we can.

There are ways of spreading out and building to accomadate nature, and we should consider them.

Florida burns because their are too many residents now. All those people pulling water from the aquifier are making things go dry. People upthread are telling me that's just tough cookies, I don't see it that way.


26 posted on 07/08/2006 8:45:10 PM PDT by Hawk1976 (Borders. Language. Culture. AAA-0. Free Travis Mcgee.)
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To: muawiyah

Before house hunting last time, I studied the lahar maps. We should be safe from those, but my husband likes to tell me if the mountain blows in the right direction, we could still have debris land on us.


27 posted on 07/09/2006 9:15:57 AM PDT by conservative cat
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To: Hawk1976
but my main concern here is the environment

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Hm,,,,like a religion?
28 posted on 07/09/2006 9:34:41 AM PDT by wintertime (Good ideas win! Why? Because people are not stupid.)
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To: conservative cat

There will be lots and lots of poison gas ~ did you put that in your equation?


29 posted on 07/09/2006 1:30:43 PM PDT by muawiyah (-)
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To: wintertime
Okay, lets look at it from a Christian point of view for a second. The Earth is given to humans but we are also commanded to be good stewards. A good steward will not wantonly violate the environment.

Corporations exist for profit. Which is how it should be, unfortunately they tend to look strictly at the short term and profit margin. That makes it look like a good idea to dump the waste byproduct from your brewery into the nearest creek, it harms the environment and will harm others downstream but hey it increased the corporations profit. That means I need a warren of some sort to make the corporation dispose of the waste byproduct in the most human and environment friendly way. Even if it means there product may cost a bit more.

All those corporations moved to China which may as well be renamed the land of slave labor and no environmental protection law. Now their rivers are hopelessly polluted, just like New England's rivers just two decades ago, and there is a smog cloud emanating from China that can reach the Oregon coast.

We do not know neither the day nor hour of Christ's return. We must remain good and faithful stewards. Evidence from communist and former communist countries should tell you that environmental conservation and stewardship is not a leftist ideal.
30 posted on 07/09/2006 9:47:22 PM PDT by Hawk1976 (Borders. Language. Culture. AAA-0. Free Travis Mcgee.)
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To: Hawk1976
Okay, let's say I rush out and buy 100 hundred acres of woodland to be conserved. What happens when on an adjoining 20 acres a brewery opens up and in this pure capitilistic scenario they decide it's cheaper to toss the chemical byproducts out the back door rather than pay for proper cleanup and removal.

Then you sue the b@stards for fouling your property. It's the American way...

31 posted on 07/09/2006 10:23:23 PM PDT by Smokin' Joe (How often God must weep at humans' folly.)
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To: Hawk1976

We must remain good and faithful stewards. Evidence from communist and former communist countries should tell you that environmental conservation and stewardship is not a leftist ideal.

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

I agree. If land has importance toward preserving the earth, then the community should justly pay the owner for its collective use.

I don't believe that Christ would approve of falsely planting an endangered plant on a farmer's land. He would consider this theft and destruction of that man's financial worth. Those falsely planting the endangered species are not worshiping Christ. They are worshiping their own golden calf of environmentalism.


32 posted on 07/10/2006 5:20:51 AM PDT by wintertime (Good ideas win! Why? Because people are not stupid.)
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