Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | monterey county
Monterey General Plan Update
Sierra Club Comments, Addendum B
ADDENDUM B to Sierra Club Comments on GPU4/EIR
Overview of Distribution of Native Vegetation by Slope Categories
The attached Table (Addendum A) shows the current extent and protection level of habitats within Monterey County -- sorted by 2 slope categories: 1) steep slopes -- those greater than or equal to 25%, and 2) moderate to gentle slopes- those less than 25%. The Table is sorted by levels of protection.
Calculations are based on spatial data from the following sources:
Data analysis: The status of many of Monterey County’s various at-risk habitats is represented in the attached Table. Highlighted in pale yellow in the last column of the matrix are “poorly protected” elements --those that have less than half of their current extent protected. These elements could be considered especially “at-risk” and high priorities for conservation efforts (including protective policies) due to their limited representation on existing public lands. The current extent of most of these habitats is significantly reduced from natural historic extent, i.e. 50% “protected” may actually only represent a small fraction of historic distribution -- such as is the case for valley oak woodlands, vernal pools and many others.
Highlighted in orange are elements with lower levels of protection (less than 50%) for which at least 25% of what is unprotected occurs on steep slopes. It is clear that these elements would be seriously threatened by policies allowing grading in a substantial fraction of their habitat. So for example, annual grasslands, which are extremely important to native wildlife, have a low level of protection -- only 14% of current extent in the County occurs on public lands or private conservation easements. And of the unprotected stands, 27% is on steep slopes. The potential impact of slope policies being relaxed is the loss of 27% of at-risk grasslands-- which is significant.
Another example: coast live oak woodlands we know have already been dramatically reduced from their original extent -- through fuel wood-cutting, agricultural conversion, rural residential development, etc. Less than half of what remains (roughly 43%) are on public land or private conservation land. The majority is unprotected. Nearly 60% of the unprotected stands are on areas of steep slope. This is a dangerous level of vulnerability considering GPU4’s policies for conversion and development.
If the thresholds are changed, the situation looks more alarming. And of course grading will have indirect adjacent impacts – beyond the boundaries of the actual vegetation or species involved. This is not accounted for in these data.
When considering the number of acres of habitat involved as opposed to the percentages, for example, almost 89,000 acres of blue oak woodlands occur on steep slopes that are unprotected.
Summary: These data provides significant factual examples of the extent to which some of the important vegetation and wildlife habitats in Monterey County are already vulnerable. Further assaults due to the weakening of existing policies, ordinances and practices as proposed in GPU4 would be undeniably significant. The cumulative impacts of such biological disruption and destruction have not been acknowledged, considered nor analyzed in GPU4 and its EIR. The cumulative impacts on sensitive species are also significant and should have been analyzed in the EIR.
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