Marin County Vegetation Biodiversity Plan in Final Review

Two meetings in October to assess decision process in maintaining public safety and protecting wildlife

screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-12-41-42-pmSan Rafael, CA – With its 34 preserves and more than 16,000 pristine acres of undeveloped wild lands, the Marin County Open Space District is charged with both promoting environmental stewardship and protecting public safety.

To help achieve these goals, the department has created the Vegetation and Biodiversity Management Plan (VBMP), a decision–making framework aimed at reducing wildfire risks and saving indigenous wildlife from invasive species. The plan was developed to provide a science-based approach to the District’s vegetation management efforts.  In addition, it provides greater clarity and transparency of the department’s decision making criteria to the community and partner agencies including local fire departments.

Two public meetings will take place in October at which District staff and other County of Marin personnel will discuss the possible approval of this modern strategy that is necessary to manage preserves acquired over the past 40 years. There are more than 100 rare plant species in the preserves, including at least eight found only in Marin and nowhere else in the world. It’s up to the District to protect that wildlife as well as the residents who live nearby.

“Marin is renowned for its dedication to preserve open spaces for the sake of habitat protection and recreation, and our goal is to build on that reputation,” said Max Korten, General Manager of Marin County Parks. “This framework will help us prioritize our actions for the safety and health of our communities as well as the plants and animals that make their homes in our preserves.”

In developing the VBMP, the District assessed its vegetation management practices, mapped vegetation across all of its preserves, solicited input from Marin fire agencies, interviewed regional land management agencies, and convened an independent scientific review panel. In total, the District held 15 public workshops and meetings to allow interested parties to participate in the process and comment on the plan.

“The plan is the foundational groundwork for collaboration, meeting two important goals from a fire protection standpoint: reducing fire fuels while mutually reducing non-native, fire-prone species,” said Jason Weber, Marin County Fire Chief. “We look forward to continued collaboration with the Open Space District in protecting our communities.”

The District also completed an environmental impact report (EIR) for the VBMP, which was released in 2015. The EIR went over the impacts on biology, hydrology, geology, air quality, greenhouse gases, noise, visual resources, and cultural resources. After the release of the draft, staff received comments raising concerns with the use of herbicides. The EIR includes all reasonable alternatives without a “no herbicide alternative” because it is not practical given the scope of the plan.

The Marin County Parks and Open Space Commission plans to discuss the draft VBMP at its October 11 meeting, which starts at 2 p.m. If approved, it would move on to the Marin County Open Space District Board of Directors on October 18.

Both meetings will take place in the Board chamber of the Marin County Civic Center, at 3501 Civic Center Drive in San Rafael.

The Board of Directors’ approval of the VBMP would involve certifying the final EIR and satisfying the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act. In the bigger picture, it would serve as a culmination of an extensive and collaborative public engagement process.

The public is welcome to join the discussion and both meetings this month. Learn more about the VMBP on the Marin County Parks webpage.

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