None happy with draft tree rules

07/15/2010

Environmentalists and San Geronimo Valley homeowners are butting heads over the county’s draft revision of an ordinance that would require permits to clear brush within 35 feet of creeks in the Lagunitas Creek Watershed. Environmentalists spoke out during Monday’s Planning Commission meeting against what they feel are liberal exemptions in the ordinance—the goal of which is to maintain vegetation around critical habitat for endangered coho salmon. They also spoke in support of the county’s proposal to extend the 35-foot protected zone to ephemeral creeks, which are dry except during or after a rain. “The ephemeral streams play a huge part in water quality and runoff. It’s not just where the salmon are, but it’s about the overall watershed,” said Nona Dennis, president of the Marin Conservation League. But homeowners at the meeting said leaving these areas vegetated poses serious fire hazards, and could increase the threat of landslides. Meanwhile environmentalists argued that not only woody, but also herbaceous vegetation should be protected. Dan McKenna of the San Geronimo Valley Planning Group argued that the proposed list of exempted trees was too broad, and suggested the ordinance—part of the Marin Countywide Plan—use the word “native” instead of the word “riparian,” since native species are indisputable while what constitutes riparian areas is contested. The Planning Commission is now preparing a second draft.