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Goals to preserve land should not be feared

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Posted: Thursday, August 2, 2012 12:00 am

The recent letter concerning conservation easements contains a number of misleading and erroneous statements. The letter attacks the San Joaquin Council of Governments as being a "quasi-government organization" intent on taking away land for wildlife.

SJCOG is governed by elected officials from the Board of Supervisors and the city councils. They allocate state/federal transportation funds and administer the voter-approved transportation sales tax (Measure K). This structure allows shared guidance from the cities in cooperation with the county, and their specialists provide technical support so members do not have to duplicate these functions.

SJCOG administers the San Joaquin Habitat Plan. This plan, adopted in 2001, was initiated by business and property owners seeking efficiency and certainty in meeting environmental requirements for new development. Part of the plan is the purchase of land and/or easements from willing sellers to preserve habitat. Funding for the plan is primarily from development fees. If any owner participated by taking money for establishing a habitat easement "unknowingly," then shame on them.

The "conspiracy" letter goes on to attack AB2785, adopted in 2008, and suggests that readers research the bill. I did so. The bill, in the words of the legislative analyst, calls for the State Department of Fish and Game "... to investigate, study and identify those areas in the state that are most essential as wildlife corridors and habitat linkages and prioritize vegetative data development in those areas." The law specifically does not implement land use decisions, nor does it alter any legal rights and privileges of privately or publicly owned property.

The law is about being efficient — helping entities, such as SJCOG, avoid wasting money on habitat that is not helpful to the overall goal. Rather than advocate unfounded conspiracy theories, we should applaud an effort to make governmental decision-making more effective and efficient.

The overall goal of maintaining some open space and of using land in a manner that helps preserve wildlife and can provide related benefits, such as water quality, is hardly one to fear. Even the Bible tells us to take care of the Earth — having dominion over the Earth and all its creatures hardly means we get to trash the place and kill creatures that inconvenience us.

Richard Prima


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