By Freddy Howell, Owner, Wild Bird Center-Los Gatos

From my perspective, it is important to preserve wildlife and their habitat. They also don't have a voice so it is up to us.

As many of you know, the San Jose Water Company (SJWC) owns many acres adjacent to Sierra Azul Open Space in the Los Gatos Creek watershed and is planning to log over 1000 acres. There are some major environmental issues associated with this plan. The impact on wildlife is what I am addressing here.

Since an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is not required in this instance, it is a red flag to our legislators that there is a major loop hole in the permitting process. Usually, an EIR must be done on any project that has any potential impact, direct or indirect, on listed species of the Federal Endangered Species Act. This watershed area is a known habitat of the California Red Legged Frog. This listed specie is very sensitive to degradation of water quality. An EIR also requires a base line species inventory to find out what plants and wildlife are present.

Any plan must be assessed for impacts. Direct impacts would include trees cut down that have active raptor nests. “Species of special concern” such as the Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks are known to nest in the redwoods in this area. Indirect impacts include the cutting down of these same trees or adjacent trees in non nesting times that could induce birds to abandon this area as a nesting site.

Because the SJWC land is contiguous to Midpeninsula Open Space’s Sierra Azul, logging this area would cause forest fragmentation. Fragmentation of the forest disrupts the habitat of sensitive species which allows more aggressive species to move in. Crows, jays and especially the parasitic nesting Brown-headed Cowbirds are considered “edge” species and as more land is opened up, they move in and compete with the native birds for food and nesting sites. Crows and jays also prey on eggs and nestlings of resident songbirds, while Brown-headed Cowbirds lay their eggs in these songbird’s nests so that the host bird raises the cowbird, usually 2 to 3 times it’s size. Since the cowbird has expanded it’s range as land is opened up to agriculture and forest clearing, resident songbirds have not evolved with the cowbird and do not recognize the larger egg and therefore, raise the cowbird baby instead of their own.

Other examples of aggressive species impact include the bolder, introduced species like the red fox overtaking native gray fox territory or eastern gray squirrel driving the less aggressive western grays further up into the mountains. Another example that is playing out in the northwest is the Spotted Owl’s historic territory being invaded by the larger, bolder Barred Owl. This could translate into the Great Horned Owl moving into the territory of the smaller Northern Pygmy and Saw-whet Owls.

Fragmentation of the closed canopy forests creates space for invasive species such as French Broom, a great fire hazard, that keeps the native forest from reestablishing. Breaks, such as logging roads and helicopter landing sites, create isolated island like habitats and intimidates species from normal migration and dispersal. Each helicopter landing site is a clear cut acre. On the map of the proposed logging area near Lake Elsman, there six landing sites designated.

Fragmented habitats may disperse wildlife into residential areas or it may disperse them from the logged areas altogether. It is important to keep the wildlife in mind and the balance preserved.

I strongly urge mountain residents to contact Neighbors Against Irresponsible Logging (NAIL) to find out how we as a "village” can defeat this logging

This article is by Freddy Howell, posted here at her request.

Rebecca Moore
September 15, 2005