Sep 18, 2012

California Wildlife Refuge Gets Ax

The Alameda Sun reports that the final nail appears to be in the coffin for any hopes regarding the creation of the proposed Alameda National Wildlife Refuge in California.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) received the green light from the US Fish & Wildlife Service for its Alameda Point clinic and national cemetery project in late August. Fish & Wildlife issued its biological opinion, which focuses only on the impacts to the least tern colony that nests on the previously proposed wildlife refuge.

While they agreed with the VA that the project would adversely affect the least tern, they concluded their review by saying the tern colony’s existence is not placed in jeopardy by the plans.

The opinion includes a description of the VA’s planned uses for the 511 acres, labeled “VA Undeveloped Area,” that will not be used for the clinic or cemetery. The description makes clear for the first time that the national wildlife refuge envisioned by Fish & Wildlife in 1998 is dead.

Other than the 9.7- acre nesting area for the terns, the remainder of the tarmac, taxiway, and runway pavement will be used for emergency training exercises during the non-nesting season (Aug. 16 through March 31), and set aside to be used as a staging area during emergencies and natural disasters. Two ammo bunkers will be used to store emergency supplies.

The Golden Gate Audubon Society — Friends of the Alameda Wildlife Refuge had been working to build support for the refuge.

The committee restores habitat for California Least Terns and other shorebirds on more than 500 acres of land at the former Alameda Naval Air Station. The committee organizes monthly work parties to create Least Tern nesting sites and remove invasive weeds.

Members work with biologists to monitor wildlife populations at the refuge, sponsor tern research projects, and build community awareness about the site. FAWR is working to have the land transferred from the U.S. Navy to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and designated a permanent national wildlife refuge.

The 1998 Fish & Wildlife plan for a national wildlife refuge included visitor projections that ranged from a low of 46,000 to a high of 113,000 annually.

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