June 26, 1994
Board of Directors
East Bay Municipal Utility District
375 11th Street
Oakland, California 94607-4240
Re: Your Watershed Master Plan
Humans believe that they "own", and have a right to dominate, every square inch of the Earth. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that there has never been any place on the Earth designated off limits to humans. We have a few so-called "wildlife preserves" where some species are allowed to multiply in order that they can be exploited by us. Such preserves are usually open to hunting, logging, mining, tourism, and other profit-making industries. A few may be open only to scientists and their students. But to my knowledge, no wildlife have ever been deliberately allowed to live unmolested by mankind.
Humans claim a right to travel wherever they wish; we don't accord wildlife the same right. Whenever we feel like it, we build a road through their habitat and thereby decimate their feeding and mating choices. Only the bravest (and luckiest) are able to cross these perilous rivers of noise and speeding traffic, which gets heavier daily. Even humans often get killed attempting to cross them. We (e.g. the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the California Department of Transportation) claim (the thought of) wildlife crossings as "mitigations" for our freeway construction projects, but never actually build any of them.
Humans claim a right to eat whatever they like; we don't accord wildlife the same right. When human life is at risk, even endangered species are probably not safe. When a mountain lion kills a human, we punish this impudence by shooting the first one we can find, and then justify it after the fact by saying that its teeth "match" the human's scars. Even our pet dogs are considered so important that they can extract such revenge!
Humans claim a right to be unmolested in their homes; we don't accord wildlife the same right. If any wildlife, even endangered species, occupy land that a human wants, s/he simply takes it. Any wildlife living there are considered simply the property of the land "owner". Killing them is not equivalent to murdering a human. If the citizens or government want to protect the wildlife, they must pay the "owner" for that right.
The consequence is that the Earth is today losing over a hundred species a day. Species! Extinct! Gone forever!
Thus it is refreshing and inspiring that EBMUD is actually seriously considering biodiversity as a possible goal of your watershed management plan. In today's hedonistic political and economic climate, that takes a lot of integrity and guts, qualities obviously lacking in nearly every government agency that I know of, and most private organizations as well.
Wasn't it sad, Tuesday, June 7th, that you had to listen to a long string of selfish whiners begging and browbeating you to let them bicycle on your protected watershed lands? Did you notice that I was the only speaker not to come from a selfish position? The Sierra Club and a few others did mention wildlife, but none offered to give up their hiking or horseback riding access. Although I love hiking more than anything else in the world, I have never set foot on your watershed lands, and do not intend to. All I ask is that you protect the wildlife that seeks refuge there. (Of course, that requires more than putting a 15 MPH speed limit on the mountain bikes racing through the migrating species's habitat, as the East Bay Regional Park District does.)
Ideally, this means removing, as much as possible, all roads, trails, and other human artifacts, and keeping everyone out for all but essential water-related business. After all, I think you have better things to do than babysit the biker-hiker-equestrian wars. After hearing them argue about who does the most environmental damage, I am convinced that they all should stay out. One would think that the East Bay Regional Park District would be the one to champion wildlife and biodiversity, but wildlife seem to be their last priority, after golf courses, mountain bike racing, bulldozing new "fire" roads everywhere (even in the Ohlone "Wilderness"!!!), and trying to attract as many people into the parks as possible. You are our only hope!
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.