Sunol-Ohlone Land Use Plan
Promoting Land Use Plans for public lands at Sunol
and Ohlone Regional Wilderness Preserves that emphasize restoration of
wilderness and wildlife habitat values
In 2003 the East Bay Regional Park District released a disappointing draft 25-year Land Use Plan for management of natural resources in Sunol and Ohlone Regional Wilderness Preserves. The Alameda Creek Alliance and a coalition of other environmental and flyfishing groups proposed an alternative plan emphasizing restoration of wilderness values to the Preserves. The most important element of the community alternative was reforming commercial cattle grazing in these parks to restore habitat for trout and other sensitive wildlife species.
Over three-quarters of Sunol and Ohlone Parks are leased for private commercial cattle grazing. The Park Districts rationale for the grazing program is fire and invasive plant control, but there is no evidence grazing of grasslands reduces wildfires, there is no rural/urban interface in these parks to cause fire concerns and cattle are a significant vector for spreading invasive plants. Cattle in these parks cause damage to Alameda Creek habitat for native trout and amphibians and overgrazing can degrade habitat for other sensitive species. Nearby Mount Diablo State Park ended commercial cattle grazing in 1989, providing a local model for prioritizing natural ecosystem protection in parklands while managing for native plants, recreation and fire control.
Unfortunately the Park District glossed over many impacts in the parks from cattle grazing and ignored much of the public input. After a dispute over the appropriate level of environmental review needed for the plans, the Park District discarded the entire Land Use Planning process for Sunol and Ohlone Parks. Fortunately the land owner of these parks (the SFPUC) is proposing positive changes in grazing practices, such as excluding cattle from about 7.5 linear miles of upper Alameda Creek and associated riparian areas, which includes all of Alameda Creek through these parks.