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Saving what's left while it lasts (3 of 3)

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
October 9, 2007


Last week a green milestone occurred, two in fact. Al Gore winning the Nobel peace prize was globally significant, Locally significant was the Encinitas City Council voting unanimously to create of an environmental stewardship committee. To paraphrase Bob Dylan, the times certainly are a-changin'.

The questions Mr. Gore and the Encinitas Environment committee must begin to ask when do we start looking at how many is to many and how much is too much? How does one window dress disaster?

The eternal pessimist in me, realizes that although both occurrences equate with good news, it is news long overdue. The climate is still changing and species are in rapid decline due to overpopulation and unsustainable over development. But I be a fool not to see heightened environmental awareness as progress.

As I write this third column in a series of three on open space acquisition and preservation. I do so as someone already looking for the life boat. Without open space, without wild California, without viable swaths of habitat and the flora and fauna that make Southern California, Southern California, quality of life is forever diminished.

The parable of "The Tragedy of the Commons," dates back to the 1833 lectures of William Forster Lloyd addressing the effects of overpopulation of a small farming community. Expanded by Californian ecologist Garrett Hardin in 1968, the Tragedy of the Commons is now the accepted view of how free access and unrestricted demand for a finite resource structurally dooms the resource through over-exploitation.

The goal of the environmental movement has always been about conservation preservation and restoration of earthly habitats. I can see the new Encinitas Environment Committee weighing in on the ill-fated Batiquitos Bluff project currently making it's way through the process courtesy of the Encinitas Planning Department. And I'm sure the California Coastal Commission, will have something to say about loss of California Gnatcatcher habitat so close to a coastal estuary.

Saving what's left while it lasts will requires creative thinking and a commitment to long-term sustainability. Mitigation banks and conservation easements are steps in the right direction.

Mitigation banks are preserves of protected, restored or constructed wetlands or other habitats, set aside to meet governmental requirements for compensatory mitigation of impacts to wetlands and other habitats which occur with development. Landowners and developers are required to make up for habitats lost to development, purchasing "credits" in a mitigation bank is one way to accomplish such requirements.

Another option other than an outright purchase of the desired habitat are conservation easements. A conservation easement is a voluntary, legally binding agreement limiting certain types of uses, or development from taking place on a piece of property in perpetuity, while protecting the property's ecological or open-space values.

Both of these tools could be used to protect the Batiquitos Bluffs habitat from destruction.

To quote Encinitas Councilwoman Teresa Barth "Now is better than never."

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