August 23, 2000
Board of Directors
East Bay Regional Park District
2950 Peralta Oaks Court
P.O. Box 5381
Oakland, California 94605-0381
Re: Habitat Off-Limits to Humans in the East Bay Regional Parks
It is unconscionable that humans should "own" and dominate every square inch of the Earth. That is a way to guarantee that most wildlife will become threatened or extinct. The only moral and practical choice is to designate parts of all of our natural areas to be off-limits to all humans. Consequently, I have been looking for opportunities to designate such areas in local parks and other natural areas.
For example, a large part of Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve (north of Claremont Avenue) is chaparral through which hiking would be very difficult. There are currently no trails through it. It would be very easy to designate that area off-limits to all humans, with no significant loss to park visitors or anyone else. That area has not been visited by anyone, to my knowledge, in the seventeen years that I have been watching it. That is a pretty good indication that we have no real need to go there!
The area is home to some very important wildlife species: I have seen rabbits, fence lizards, rattlesnakes, a ring-necked snake, numerous birds, and even a spotted skunk. And I would not be surprised if there are Alameda whipsnakes in the area, attracted by the fence lizards. They deserve to remain living there, undisturbed by recreationists!
All that you would have to do is put up a few signs, including an interpretive display explaining why the area is being closed, and document it in your written materials and management plans. Since it would obviously have no negative effect on the environment, no EIR would be required.
I think that it would go a long way toward educating people on what wildlife needs to survive, as well as creating some positive publicity for the Park District, which is, frankly, not known for caring for its wildlife. It would be the first such area in the world officially off-limits to all humans. That would automatically make you world-famous!
But don't let me stop you from designating a part of every park off-limits to humans. We don't need to be so incredibly selfish as to claim every square inch of every park for human use. There are many areas, such as the one in Claremont Canyon, that are already de-facto human-free. If they were officially designated off-limits to humans, not a single human would suffer.
By the way, I suggest that all human artifacts be removed first -- trash, buildings, roads, fences, etc. And, of course, pets and livestock should not be allowed there. Exotic species, as much as practicable, should also be removed, before closing the areas.
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.
P.S. "All humans" means "all humans", including biologists, fire-fighters, police, and land managers. None of them have a legitimate need to go there!
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