Thursday, January 29, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Burrowing owl mitigation has failed

By
From page A13 | November 11, 2012 |

Burrowing owls need short vegetation to avoid predators and see their prey in order to survive. Courtesy photo

By Catherine Portman and Pam Nieberg

As many local environmentalists recall, nesting burrowing owls at Mace Ranch were illegally disked into the ground in 2000. As part of the mitigation for this loss, the city of Davis, as the lead agency for the Mace Ranch development project, worked with Yolo County to create a burrowing owl reserve at Yolo County Grasslands Regional Park on Mace Boulevard south of Davis.

The 2004 mitigation agreement included a management plan for the reserve. That plan requires that the vegetation on the reserve be kept short, as burrowing owls require short vegetation to avoid predators and see their prey in order to survive.

The management plan unambiguously defines the vegetation height objective: “Maintain herbaceous vegetation height and density in a range suitable for year-round occupancy, including nesting and foraging by burrowing owls.”

The plan also specifically defines the height of vegetation burrowing owls need to survive: “Effective height of the vegetation in the reserve area will be no greater than five inches in the first half of April of each year and no greater than four inches after the growing season when herbaceous vegetation has senesced.” The management plan requires twice-yearly (April and July) vegetation height measurements and burrowing owl census.

The city of Davis’ wildlife resource specialist conducted the vegetation height measurements and owl census between 2005 and 2007. From 2007 to 2009, the city engaged a certified burrowing owl biologist consultant from Sustain Environmental Inc. to conduct the required surveys.

Unfortunately, a review of these vegetation height measurements demonstrates that the city has completely failed to meet the specified height requirements and has not been in compliance with the management plan since 2005. The height has been above 5 inches at every April measurement, with highs of 12 and 20 inches. One single July measurement was below 3 inches when the park was grazed. All the other July measurements were above 4 inches, with a high of 10 inches.

SEI’s 2009 report summarized the city’s non-compliance with the vegetation height requirement: “The survey data suggest that the current mowing/grazing regimen is not providing the desired results and/or that the compliance standards and goals may not be well understood. The standard is not merely to reduce vegetation height in advance of scheduled bi-yearly inspections, but to manage the vegetation year-round.”

In its 2008 report, SEI wrote, “… vegetation heights of four times the standard (16 and 18 inches) were measured along some of the transects, and the mean effective height of every one of the transects exceeded the compliance standard by at least 25 percent. … From a burrowing owl’s perspective, approximately half of the reserve was unsuitable habitat at the time of the July survey.”

The management plan requires a semi-annual burrowing owl census to determine the effectiveness of the plan in actually maintaining or increasing the number of burrowing owls at the site. In 2005, a single owl was sighted in February and March. In 2011, a single owl was sighted in April. The last known breeding of burrowing owls at Grasslands Park in 2005 was on the radio-controlled airplane runway where the grass is routinely mowed.

The Burrowing Owl Preservation Society and the Sierra Club Yolano Group have written letters and held meetings with the city’s wildlife resource specialist, the sustainability program manager and the current mayor, asking the city to fulfill its legal obligations and actively implement the management plan, but to no avail. The Burrowing Owl Preservation Society also has requested a meeting with the Davis city manager, but received no response.

This lack of action on the part of the city to meet its environmental obligations is disconcerting. It is unconscionable that a city that prides itself on its environmental reputation and its respect for wildlife is disregarding a legally binding agreement to properly maintain the burrowing owl habitat at Grasslands Park. It is time for the city to step up and fulfill the terms of the contract to which it agreed.

— Catherine Portman is co-founder and CEO of the Burrowing Owl Preservation Society. Pam Nieberg is secretary of the Sierra Club Yolano Group.

Comments

comments

Special to The Enterprise

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Work continues to modernize Davis Healthcare Center

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

     
    Holman continues to educate and inspire

    By Daniella Tutino | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    ‘Huck’ and ‘Tom’ float old Arboretum dock to removal

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Teens arrested after midnight joyride

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

     
    Biologists: Raising California dam would harm salmon

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    Overweight video game avatars ‘play’ worse than fit ones

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Meet the mayor for coffee at Peet’s

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Author joins radio show

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

    Make your own SoulCollage on Sunday

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

     
    Walk through Quail Ridge Reserve on Feb. 14

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Calling all chicken owners: Apply for coop crawl, share information

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Hopmans named associate vice provost for global affairs

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

     
    Review motivation to refresh your healthy-habits plan

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6 | Gallery

    Tips to protect skin this winter

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

     
    For health and healthy appearance, there’s just one quick fix

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

    Measles outbreak grows

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A9

     
    NAMI-Yolo examines inpatient services at potluck

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    .

    Forum

    Basement living, with attitude to match

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Paso Fino coming to a vote

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    50 years since Ash Hall

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10 | Gallery

     
    Can climate change bring us together?

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

    .

    Sports

    Aggies still looking for record hoops win

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Blue Devil Hammond has a huge day at home

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Pent up? Join Davis’ latest athletic event

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Two in a row for Devil boys

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    UCD roundup: Aggie football players crack the books

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

     
    Youth roundup: Harper hoopsters off to hot start

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Treys send Toronto past Kings

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

     
    .

    Features

    College Corner: Have wanderlust? Go overseas for college

    By Jennifer Borenstein | From Page: A8

     
    District learns from bomb threat incident

    By Kellen Browning | From Page: A8

    It’s Girl Scout Cookie time!

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A8 | Gallery

     
    What’s happening

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A8

    Feenstra-Fisher wedding

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

     
    .

    Arts

    Show explores the evolution of dance

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    A rose by any other name — if there is one

    By Michael Lewis | From Page: A11

     
    Acclaimed guitarist Adrian Legg to play at The Palms on Saturday

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11 | Gallery

    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    James George Tingus

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Thursday, January 29, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: B6