San Franscico's Endangered Herps vs the Golf Course

Rana draytonii. UC Berkeley, BioKeys
Sharp Park, a golf course owned by the City of San Francisco has been accused of killing the
endangered California Red-legged Frog, Rana draytonii.  Sharp Park is located in Pacifica, but is operated by the SFRPD. The City allegedly destroyed a wetland in order to construct the park in the 1940s, and a recent lawsuit claims that the continued operation of the golf course violates the Endangered Species Act. The federal government has claimed for years that the course interferes with amphibian reproduction. Damage is caused by draining the ponds around the course and leaving the frog's eggs exposed to dry conditions, but lawnmowers also pose a direct threat to the adult frogs. In 2008, a coalition of environmental groups proposed a similar lawsuit, but the City failed to provide a solution. This population is also threatened by: pumping water out of Laguna Salada, Sanchez Creek, and Horse Stable Pond reduces the availability of aquatic habitat for the species; the use of significant amounts of fertilizers and other chemical compounds to operate and the golf course; the frog uses animal burrows for cover, the golf course operation destroys animal burrows and actively traps animals to prevent them from burrowing on the property; and SFRPD has also failed to provide adequate protections from sea level rise, which will inevitably result in seepage of saline water through the groundwater buffers into Laguna Salada.

The endangered San Francisco Garter Snake, Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia is restricted to San Mateo County's wetland habitats and is likely found in and around Sharp Park where it feeds, at least on occasion on the Red-legged Frog. While, Rana draytonii has now been extirpated from more than 70% of its historic range and is currently restricted to select coastal drainages from Marin County south to Baja California, with a few isolated populations in the Sierra Nevada and the Transverse ranges, the garter snake is known only from the immediate coastal areas of San Mateo County (includes Pacifica and San Francisco). The National Park Service has expressed interest in acquiring the land, but only if it can be converted from the golf course to a public park.

Golfers enjoy a round of golf at Sharp
Park Golf Course  Credit Julie Littman

News stories reporting on the reaction to environmentalists' recent 60-day notice of intent to sue sent to the city of San Francisco over violations of the Endangered Species Act at Sharp Park Golf Course from environmentalists and golfers alike. Some suggest San Francisco's plan will protect the endangered species, by posting signs and fencing warning people to stay out of the restoration area; and they note the city has  already made changes to the management and maintenance of the golf course. However, environmentalists want more and see a mixed-use recreational area to replace the golf course. Repairing the outdated seawall is needed to protect that area of Pacifica from flooding as well as protecting the endangered species. Environmental groups such as the Center for Biological Diversity and Wild Equity Institute oppose federal funding of repairs and upgrades to the seawall and have already begun a letter writing campaign stating that the money will be used to maintain the golf course as it is instead of better protecting the endangered species on the property. As often occurs in environmental controversy, conflicting interests often manage to confuse the public.

See the following:

Pacifica Patch