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.”
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