The Newspaper of the San Francisco Bay Chapter

Sunrise at Yosemite  Dennis Sheridan

Sierra Club Yodeler
ISSN 8750-5681
Published bi-monthly by the
San Francisco Bay Chapter
Sierra Club

Altamont Landfill Open Space Fund purchases important open space

Cottonwood Creek 
(along Doolan Road), where the California tiger salamander breeds.
A fund created as an outcome of a Sierra Club lawsuit has been helping to purchase important open-space lands in the Livermore-Pleasanton area.

The Altamont Landfill in eastern Alameda County receives waste from most of Alameda County as well as from San Francisco and San Ramon. In the mid-1990s Waste Management Inc., operator of the landfill, applied to vastly expand the landfill's capacity and to accept waste from throughout northern California. Appalled that an Alameda County landfill might become the dumping ground for huge quantities of waste trucked long-distance for decades to come, the cities of Livermore and Pleasanton as well as the Sierra Club and the Northern California Recycling Association sued to prevent the expansion. The lawsuit was eventually settled. The landfill was allowed to expand, but its capacity was capped at half the original proposal, only local jurisdictions were permitted to dump waste, and various per-ton "tipping fees" were imposed to help compensate for the damage done by the facility.

The largest of the fees, $.75 per ton (plus adjustments for inflation), goes to an open-space fund to purchase biologically sensitive and scenic land in eastern Alameda County. The goal is to help preserve native biodiversity, protect important viewsheds, and acquire land suitable for non-motorized recreation. Since its inception in 1999, the fund has collected over $10 million and made half a dozen grants for properties on Pleasanton Ridge, at Lake Del Valle State Park, and near Livermore. Because the Sierra Club was a party to the lawsuit and the settlement, the Club has one of four votes on the committee that disburses the money. Livermore, Pleasanton, and Alameda County have the other votes.

Cottonwood Creek 
(along Doolan Road), where the California tiger salamander breeds.
This year promises to be the most productive yet for the open-space fund, with three grants made. The first, made in June, was the largest ever approved by the committee - $1 million to the East Bay Regional Park District to acquire the Tyler Ranch on Sunol Ridge. Tyler Ranch is a 1,500-acre property rising from Foothill Road in Sunol to the top of the ridge where it adjoins Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park. The property has commanding views and contains habitat for the federally listed Alameda whipsnake, California red-legged frog, and Western pond turtle, as well as for mountain lion, bobcat, deer, golden eagle, and other raptors. A new staging area in Sunol will provide a second access point to Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park, now served by only one very steep entryway near Pleasanton. This will make the park much more accessible to users from Fremont, Union City, Newark, south Hayward, and other south and west Bay cities.

The second grant, approved in July, was $525,000 to Livermore to purchase a 107-acre parcel at the mouth of Doolan Canyon north of I-580 just outside city limits. Located between Dublin and Livermore, Doolan Canyon is critical habitat for the California tiger salamander and the California red-legged frog. The Doolan Road property borders a stretch of Cottonwood Creek where tiger salamanders have been observed and provides essential upland habitat for tiger salamanders during much of the year, a fundamental part of their life cycle. A seasonal stock pond on the property may be a breeding site for the red-legged frog. In addition, the acquisition will help secure Livermore's northern urban-growth boundary and prevent vineyard development from moving up Doolan Canyon to the north. Intensive agriculture is one of the main threats to the California tiger salamander in this area.

Map by Bob Newey

The third grant is for $300,000 to acquire 74 acres just south of Livermore. This parcel will expand Sycamore Grove Regional Park and provide a protected corridor linking Sycamore Grove with Del Valle Regional Park. The land has fine views of the south Livermore Valley area and Del Valle Park, and it contains habitat for numerous grassland and riparian species as well as dispersal habitat for the California red-legged frog, which has been documented in Sycamore Grove's Arroyo Del Valle Creek. The Tri-Valley Conservancy will deed the land to the Livermore Area Recreation and Parks Department but will maintain a conservation easement over the property to ensure its protection in perpetuity. The Conservancy is one of just 78 land trusts nationwide that have been accredited by the Land Trust Alliance for adhering to the strictest standards for quality and permanence in its conservation work.

These grants typify the kinds of lands the open-space fund is meant to protect. They also forge positive relationships with other agencies and organizations dedicated to protecting open space. As monies accumulate in the fund and as other grants are funded, the inventory of permanently protected land in Alameda County will continue to grow, preserving our natural heritage for current residents, future generations, and most important - for the survival of native species that depend on these intact ecosystems.


© 2010 San Francisco Sierra Club Yodeler