The effects of climate change are now an increasingly urgent reminder of our dependence on nature for survival. It’s good news that the California legislature passed a budget bill this summer with funding for our state’s 30 x 30 effort, paving the way to protect 30% of California’s land, fresh water, and sea by 2030. The goal is to conserve enough land and water to slow the pace of global warming. Preserving biodiversity and ensuring clean air and safe drinking water for all.
Our local community is already setting standards to protect the Earth to maintain a livable environment. Internationally, 17% of the land is protected in some form. In California, 24% of the land is protected. In San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, approximately 26.5% of the land — more than 300,000 acres — has already been preserved as open space and farmland. This is an incredible achievement for an urban area like Silicon Valley, and it speaks to the amazing efforts of environmental and community leaders over the past decades to protect our beautiful forests, hillsides, Baylands, and other areas of open space.
We may be leading the way but we need to do more. As the climate warms, we need to protect more local wetlands and floodplains to help restore groundwater and protect against flooding. We need to conserve more local farmland to achieve food security. And we need to take care of more walkways in the open spaces to give the native wildlife and plants a chance to migrate to survive.
Change must occur gradually and with community participation. Here are a few notable local land use decisions that can get us closer to or away from 30 x 30 goals. My organization, the Palo Alto-based nonprofit Green Foothills, works on these land use issues with our community partners. Visit our website at greenfoothills.org to learn more about these and other land use issues that our organization is working to resolve.
Limits of Stanford University’s Academic Growth (AGB), which is part of the Stanford Community Plan, has protected thousands of acres of open space on the hillsides from development since it was approved by Santa Clara County in 2000. Not only does this landscape provide stunning scenery, it also provides Home to threatened and endangered species such as the California tiger salamander and the California red-legged frog. However, AGB’s ban on development is not permanent. Currently, a supermajority vote (four out of five superintendents in Santa Clara County) is required to allow development in the Stanford foothills, but that requirement will expire in 2025. Now the Board of Supervisors is considering amendments to the Stanford Community Plan, including extending the AGB supermajority vote requirement for another 99 years. At a minimum, this supermajority vote requirement should be extended, if not permanent.
The city of East Palo Alto An environmental review is currently underway for a proposed modernization of a specific Ravenswood Business District plan, which could allow massive development near the wetlands and Bayfront Preserve that is open only to the city. Wetlands are incredibly efficient at capturing carbon. They also protect communities from sea level rise by absorbing storms and providing essential habitat for many endangered species. Green Foothills supports the residents of East Palo Alto, who are asking the city council to ensure equitable public access, protect natural habitats, and create new urban green spaces.
One of the worst pollutants in our region, Lehigh Quarry – Located south of Palo Alto – Wants approvals to expand mining activity. This is laughable given the 2,000 violations of federal, state and local laws and regulations they have accumulated over the past 10 years, including the effects of air pollution and water quality on Permanent Creek. On the moon now, this is an area of over 800 acres that could be protected and restored as a habitat. On June 7, the county board of supervisors directed employees to explore the possibility of revoking the use permit for the Lehigh Cement Plant.
Supervisors also directed employees to explore whether the Lehigh quarry (separate from the cement plant) could be considered a public health and safety inconvenience due to these violations. This report will be returned to the Board of Directors and to the County Planning Committee at a later date. When the decision comes back to the council, the community must come together to support closing this polluting process.
A San Diego-based debt-acquisition firm has proposed an open-pit sand and gravel mine Sargent Ranch quarry, on the sacred Aboriginal landscape and important wildlife corridor of Juristac, located in the foothills southwest of Gilroy. Juristac is the holiest site in the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band and the only path for animals like mountain lions, bobcats and badgers to migrate south from the Santa Cruz Mountains. The county conducted an environmental review of the Sargent Ranch Quarry’s impacts and found 14 separate significant and unavoidable impacts, including irreversible damage to Juristac tribal cultural landscapes, corridors of wildlife movement, air quality, and scenic city views. hillsides. The public is encouraged to provide comments on the proposed mine by sending an email to the county at [email protected] The province must deny this incredibly destructive sand and gravel mine and protect this irreplaceable sacred site and wildlife habitat.
30×30 is part of the new story we’re writing as a genre. These are just some of the land use issues that occur in our backyard, and there are dozens of other local threats and opportunities that our society needs to address to combat climate change and the biodiversity crisis. Our region is taking the lead in climate action but we need to do more to reach the 30 x 30 goal. Green Foothills has been protecting local nature and farmland since 1962, and we will continue to support communities to advance 30 x 30. As the saying goes, we must think globally and act locally .