California Native Plant Society Letter about the Bombing Range Issue

 

Monterey Bay Chapter, California Native Plant Society,

Mary Ann Matthews, Conservation Chair,

Mar. 2, 2001

 

Our organization has been studying the flora of Fort Hunter Liggett

and working to protect it for over 25 years. We would like to ask

that the following issues be examined thoroughly in the

Environmental Assessment for the proposed practice bombing

activity now being scoped. If, as seems likely, the impacts are found

to be significant, then an Environmental Impact Statement should

be prepared as provided under NEPA.

 

1. Presence of Rare, Threatened, or Endangered Plants: Because

we have never been permitted to visit Stony Valley, site of the

proposed project, we are unfamiliar with the flora of the site. We

understand that the Floristic Survey carried out recently also did

not include Stony Valley. Therefore we ask that a survey by

qualified academics be carried out so as to cover the long blooming

period at FHL. We are aware that a rare member of the mustard

family, Streptanthus albidus ssp. peramoenus, was collected there

by Alice Eastwood (later Curator of Botany at the California

Academy of Sciences) in 1897. We also know that there are a

number of vernal pools in Stony Valley that could well support rare

species found elsewhere at FHL. The Floristic Survey of FHL

contains a list (pp. 32-33) of the 57 plant species of concern that

should be considered in the survey.

 

2. Impacts on Wildlife: In our effort to preserve intact ecosystems,

we recognize the importance of protecting such species as the bald

eagle, California condor, kit fox, arroyo toad, red-legged frog,

California tiger salamander, and other sensitive species described in

the document which we co-authored in 1997, 'Fort Hunter Liggett

Natural resources Conservation Report.' For example, the diversity

of breeding birds at FHL has been shown to be higher than any

other site in southern Monterey Co.

 

3. Impacts on nearby Wilderness Areas: Our members have been

visiting the Ventana and Silver Peak Wilderness Areas for many

years (Silver Peak was only designated a few years ago, but it has

always been a de facto wilderness) for nature study, recreation,

and solitude. The area is known to attract visitors from all over the

country and beyond for its spectacular scenery, extraordinary

biological values, and unspoiled natural condition. The impact on

these activities is not easy to measure, but it is likely to be

significant, resulting in economic losses to surrounding

communities. Further, both government agencies and local and

national conservation groups are in the process of spending

substantial millions of dollars to acquire inholdings to preserve and

protect the natural values of the Santa Lucia Mountains. These

organizations should be contacted about potential impacts on their

efforts.

 

4. Impacts on Native American and Archeological Sites: If as little is

known about these subjects in Stony Valley as about the native

flora, then surveys must be carried out to determine what might be

at risk from errant practice bombs or from the noise alone. There

are a number of studies of damage to indian ruins in the southwest

from the shock waves from low-flying aircraft.

 

5. Health Impacts: There is a growing body of studies on the

impacts on human and wildlife health from excessive noise. Decibel

studies should be conducted by a qualified expert to determine the

level at various sensitive points.

 

We appreciate the opportunity to comment at the scoping stage of

this project, and we look forward to receiving a copy of the EA or

EIS.