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Judge Rejects Requests For Early Decision in Sharp Park Lawsuit, Stays Case Until October

The court ordered the City of San Francisco to seek authorization from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for activities that could endanger frogs and snakes.

A U.S. District Judge today rejected the City of San Francisco’s request filed by a group of environmentalist organizations over alleged Endangered Species Act violations at the .

She also rejected environmentalists’ request for a summary judgment in their favor. 

Last year, the groups, led by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Wildlife Equity Institute and including the Sierra Club, on the basis that ongoing golf course activities, such as pumping water off the course, which floods during the rainy season, and mowing grass, were killing San Francisco Garter Snakes and California red-legged frogs, endangered and threatened species, respectively. If the trial goes their way, it could mean an end, temporarily at least, to golf on all or part of the course.

Judge Susan Illston cited evidence and restrictions from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that could cast doubt on the city’s claim that the a population of California red-legged frogs has grown in recent years. She ordered the city, which owns and operates Sharp Park Golf Course, to obtain authorization from the Fish and Wildlife Service for activities that might harm the species.

To give the city time to seek such authorization, Judge Illston stayed the case until October.

“The court’s ruling lays bare the damage golf course activities such as draining water from wetlands exacts on two of the Bay Area’s most imperiled animals,” said Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute. “We expect the Fish and Wildlife Service to require that the golf course cease killing endangered species and propose a comprehensive mitigation and restoration plan as part of any permit.”

Still, Judge Illston did not grant the plaintiffs their summary judgment, either.

During hearings last week on which Illston based her decision today, counsel for the City of San Francisco claimed that draining aquatic feeding and breeding habitats for the frogs and snakes benefits the species.

Illston wasn’t convinced, however, and environmentalists believe the truth will be vetted when the city attempts to gain authorization to conduct such operations with the Fish and Wildlife Service.

“The endangered species permit process will weigh the biological impacts of excessive water pumping and habitat destruction to protect one golf course,” said Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The permit should force the Park Department to change golf course operations to actually protect imperiled frogs and snakes.”

What do you think about Judge Illston's decision?

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hutch April 27, 2012 at 12:25 AM
Even with golfing the frog populations have drastically increased over the years so how is the golf course harming them? Sure, we must protect species. But it can be done in a way that allows humans to enjoy a golf course that just celebrated it's 80th birthday. One of the only public courses around that is still affordable to over 30,000 golfers. These frogs aren't even here naturally and they wouldn't even be here if it weren't for the golf course creating the lagoon and having the levy built. IMO the golfers should come first.
Woody Elliott April 27, 2012 at 04:07 AM
So let me get this straight. The golf course has been there for eighty years. The golf course kills frogs and the snakes that prey on them. Thier are both snakes and frogs on the course that has been there for eighty years. So if thier have been frogs and snakes STILL there at what rate are they being killed. Or are they being supported Sharp Park..charge 'em green fees
Richard Carlson April 27, 2012 at 04:24 PM
This law suit is just the beginning and if they win you can kiss the game of golf goodbye. There won't be a course that's safe anywhere in the US. Just because it's private doesn't stop environmental laws and there are threatened species everywhere. Think about farm land that lies fallow because of some rat. This is just the begining

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