A plea to save the badgers
Paula Lane’s badgers are under threat. They are on the verge of losing their 100-year-old home or habitat and being displaced. It seems unreal to write this editorial 20 years after the initial fight to save Paula Lane began. Here in Petaluma, this is the reality.
The American badger (Taxidea taxus) is a special status mammal of California special concern. The American badger is also a key species. Keystone means that the badger in its grassland ecosystem is used by other wildlife. The badger reflects the health of its ecosystem. If it were removed from the ecosystem, the impact on other species and the ecosystem would be dramatic.
At the Paula Lane Open Space property, an adult female badger lives in her native territory. The habitat sensitivity becomes higher. Male badgers travel to and from land. In the fall, during mating season, if the adult female becomes pregnant, she safely creates her burrow complex, gives birth around February, and raises her young.
As a key species, the adult female badger harbors habitat to support other wild mothers who give birth and raise their young – white-tailed deer, gray fox and many others. The Sunset View Bench on Paula Lane, installed in 2016 and available 24/7, is visited often, with a joy felt by visitors who gaze at the peaceful landscape and experience a variety of wild scenes.
All will be lost in this wonderful land unless the city of Petaluma is shut down, the damage done is reversed and the habitat is restored. Contractors in the town of Petaluma extensively graded and built a road into the habitat, calling it an ADA Access Trail. It is along the entire frontage of Paula Lane. Planned earlier for farming along the fence, the need for habitat security became evident and in 2017, a review of the work plan for the planned multi-faceted project associated with the grant agreement of open spaces has been treated. Farming has been removed from this frontage, leaving the habitat intact but can be enjoyed from Sunset View Bench on Paula Lane.
With this change, removing the ag from the facade, the planned project continued to include sustainable agriculture in an area without habitat, as well as an interpretive kiosk, a bicycle rack, a garden for pollinators and two other wildlife viewing areas, one with a bench, inside the entrance to the property. Two short segments of trails connected the elements of the project. All of these activities were balanced and did not disturb sensitive habitat. An active volunteer program for habitat restoration and improvement, as well as education to include Petaluma Junior High School, an intern-mentor program for undergraduates and climate change data collection for the national phenology project were facets of the project. Public access during the day on most days of the week would also be open.
Through all of this, the habitat would be protected, the American badger could live safely, and other species of wildlife and birds could also live safely and be enjoyed.
ADA compliant access has been provided for this property where technically possible. The heights of the benches had been adapted for ADA compliance. An interior path leading to a wildlife viewing area has been planned. If you walk through the Paula Lane property today, you will see urbanization and a heavy hand imposing actions incompatible with any kind of balance for this 11.22 acre sanctuary.
The Open Space-funded property has a conservation easement placed and owned forever by Sonoma County Ag and Open Space District. The priorities of this easement are clearly stated: “The priority of the preservation and protection of natural resources prevails over the preservation and protection of the resources of open spaces, which will prevail over recreational and educational uses, which will prevail over agricultural uses. . Easement does not indicate contempt for natural resources and open spaces in favor of authoritarian public recreational and agricultural access.
The aesthetic of the open space, as visitors sit quietly on the Sunset View bench, has been destroyed.
The open space of Paula Lane is located in the center of an important wildlife corridor. I recently completed a mapping of wildlife corridors and passageways, reflecting how the wildlife of Petaluma moves and survives. Wildlife corridors and passageways support movement from habitat to habitat, the ability to feed, procreate and support biodiversity. Paula Lane Nature Reserve is also PLAN’s innovative project design – heavy use, low impact. This design supports multifaceted project elements with public access and low impact on our environment. This design was part of the climate action framework adopted by the city of Petaluma. Now it’s violated.
Our community of Petaluma deserves the long-standing multi-faceted planned project designed and implemented by Paula Lane Action Network (PLAN). Our fauna deserves to live in its habitat in complete safety, without encroachment, in its sanctuary.
Susan Kirks is a Californian naturalist and American badger expert. For more information on efforts to help the local badger population, email [email protected] or call 707-241-5548.