January 24, 1993
Board of Directors
East Bay Regional Park District
2950 Peralta Oaks Court
Oakland, California 94605-5369
Re: "District Acts to Protect Newts"
I was very happy to see that you closed South Park Drive for several months in order to protect the newts who need to cross the road. I hope that this type of courageous conservation becomes the norm in the management of our parks. I also hope that you will exploit this opportunity to the fullest to educate the public about the importance of protecting wildlife.
For example, there should be a large, conspicuous educational display next to the gates so that people can learn about the newts and other wildlife that live in this area. After explaining why the road is closed, it would be good to give other examples from here and around the world of "sacrifices" being made to protect plants and wildlife. E.g., I heard that there are islands in the Hawaiian chain that have been made offlimits to humans, in order to protect birds or other wildlife.
It should end with a list of other measures that are necessary to preserve our local wildlife (not just the "endangered" ones), and how the public can help. At the top of the list should be other suggested road closures, tunnels, and wildlife corridors that are needed in the Bay Area, statistics on the numbers and types of animals killed on our roads, etc. Most people have their heads firmly planted in the sand, ignoring this obvious problem; you can be of significant help to enlighten them.
It wouldn't hurt to admit your own failures in this area. I don't understand why your success (with the newts) was prowdly broadcast in your "Regional Parks" newsletter, but I had to read the "Examiner" to find out that you tried to relocate some deer from Ardenwood to Ohlone Regional Wilderness (typically, to please a farmer) and caused most of them to die.
Also unfortunate was the lack of backbone (is this evolution at work?) shown in the fact that you immediately caved in to bicyclists, and allowed them onto the "closed" road. Your logic escapes me. Do you really think they will keep their speed at the posted 15 MPH on that steep downhill run? Do you really think that a newt cares whether it gets squashed by a car, a truck, or a bicycle, or at what speed?
Twentieth century man has become so ignorant of, and alienated from, his/her roots that we now think (judging from our actions) that we don't need other species (except for those that are economically profitable)! In order to reverse that trend, we need to send clear verbal and nonverbal messages that repudiate this sort of thinking, and that replace it with the appropriate reverence, courageously and unashamedly making use of our oft-vaunted freedom of speech. Please help!
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.