I attended about the first 50 minutes or so today, June 18th, of the Users Advisory Group meeting for the EACCS. To get some background, please go to their website here. Their website has a lot of good information. I would like to praise them for the amazing job they have done with utilizing their website to distribute and publicize information about the strategy. Posted on the website are past meeting minutes, future meeting agendas, detailed drafts of the strategy, and much more. I encourage you to check it out.
I feel from my perspective, that of a wildlife enthusiast with no particular agency loyalty or technical background, I hold a unique perspective on these meetings and I can draw out information which would be pertinent to the general public. If you want more objective background of what was discussed or more details to substantiate my opinions below, again please look at their website for meeting notes or other documentation.
For the amount of time I was there, there were two points other people made that stood out to me in particular. The first was the issue of “keeping common species common.” One individual (sorry I did not note who) made the point that the strategy was concentrating too much time on focus species such as the Red-legged Frog or the California Tiger Salamander, and neglected to address the common species. The individual asserted that common species are the true marker of an ecosystem’s health. A member of the steering commmittee said there were regulatory reasons for addressing the focus species, among other reasons. There simply aren’t enough resources available to members of the strategy to save every specie in every habitat. I agree on both counts. Common species are intrinsically linked to the focus species, as all wildlife is linked in various types of food chains or mutualistic partnerships which should not go unnoticed. But the issue does remain that generating political capital to even implement strategies such as this is extremely difficult, and we should use our resources wisely.
The second point that struck me as interesting was the idea of working at the regional level as well as the habitat level. From my limited understanding of the strategy, I can see it targeting various species and various habitats – identifying the ones that are in need of conservation based on a number of factors. However, another individual pointed out that regional conservation was important as well. By this, he meant preserving landscapes and areas. Preserving the shape and nature of the East Alameda County as a composition of a variety of habitats and species is a different perspective than targeting specific habitats and specific species, but it is another valid perspective. Habitats and specifies do not function by themselves, and we as people who enjoy the beauty of nature do not generally see isolated habitats and species. What we see are landscapes and regions composed of a multitude of things. Therefore we should consider their conservation as well.
Another point I thought of while the meeting was going on was the issue of the “general public.” The strategy, as far as I have seen, uses factors such as “focal species needs” or “habitat goals” to produce conservation guidance and mitigation guidance for the strategy, but one variable I did not initially see was what I call the “appreciation” variable. I believe making natural places accessible and well-known to the general public should be a factor in this strategy. This is one of the goals of sfbaywildlife.info. I will do more research about the strategy before I hold additional judgment.
All in all, I am very impressed so far by the collaborative, modern, and open effort to create a conservation strategy for East Alameda County.