270 Acres in San Francisco under Consideration for Endangered Species Protection

Wall Street Journal reporter Jim Carlton recently revealed that 270 acres of San Francisco land could be designated as critical habitat for a new endangered plant. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has targeted a few hundred acres in the heart of San Francisco—including the backyards of some homeowners.

'For sale' sign on chain link fence
Earlier this year we reported that California currently has a total of 155 species listed for protection and 52 pending species up for consideration by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Most decisions are in favor of protection, and if these pending species are approved a 30% increase in California endangered species could affect home owners, builders, and brokers, agents, buyers, sellers – in short everyone.

Under this new proposal, about 270 acres of land mostly in parks would be designated as critical habitat for the Franciscan manzanita, a low-growing evergreen shrub thought to have been extinct here since the 1940s until a single example was found in 2009.

Many residents have expressed concern that creating the habitat may curtail recreational activities such as hiking and dog walking. The habitat would include about one-third of the 800 acres of undeveloped parklands managed by the city’s Recreation and Park Department.

Nationwide the amount of land and water covered by the Fish and Wildlife Service’s critical-habitat listings has jumped 46% since 2003 to an area as big as Texas and Tennessee combined. That growth has come in tandem with increased listings under the Endangered Species Act.

After the discovery of the single Franciscan manzanita, the Wild Equity Institute—a group that helps organize environmental causes—helped get the plant listed as endangered, and in September 2012, Fish and Wildlife proposed the habitat area. In June, the agency added 3.2 acres of private property that would abut as many as 22 homes. The city’s Recreation and Park Department supports the idea of the habitat.

Fish and Wildlife’s Ms. Norris said specific plans for its restoration would be made only after the habitat is finalized in a few months. But affected homeowners remain on edge. “If I wanted to terrace my yard completely, I could potentially run into some resistance,” said Owen Randall, a 38-year-old legal-services project manager whose backyard on Marietta Drive extends down a hill included in the zone.

Their objections have gotten the attention of some city officials. “My hope,” said Supervisor Norman Yee, whose district would include parts of the habitat, “is that the wildlife folks will work with the local jurisdiction and property owners to come up with an amenable solution.”

What do you think? Should these homeowners be worried if the proposal is approved? We’d like to hear from you.