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SF sued over Sharp Park red-legged frog

March 3, 2011 7:21:25 PM PST
The future of a golf course on the Peninsula may hinge on a lawsuit that tests the interests of an endangered species against those of golfers.

If you believe San Francisco's Recreation and Parks Department, the wildlife restoration effort at Pacifica's Sharp Park is going well. As of Thursday, it has documented 157 healthy clusters of endangered red-legged frog eggs.

"We've never had as many egg masses as we've had this year," said Lisa Wayne with San Francisco Recreation and Parks.

But environmentalists say that is not enough.

"They've been taking red-legged egg frog masses and moving them because they're draining so much water off the course they can't be sustained in the places they're laid ? and now they've actually killed some of them," said Brent Plater of the Wild Equity Institute of who has filed a federal lawsuit to protect the endangered red-legged frog and San Francisco garter snake. The city, environmentalists and golfers have been arguing about them for almost three years.

"The golfers are surely reasonable. the public agencies are reasonable. They don't seem to like compromise," said Richard Harris with the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance.

The lawsuit that environmental groups threatened to file, originally, asks that the city of San Francisco protect the snakes and the frogs. The conflict is that in doing so, golf in the area wouldn't exist anymore.

"Every single element of the promises they've made to the environmental community have been broken," said Plater.

In late 2009, the Recreation and Parks Department drafted a plan to partially re-route the course, and increase protection. The meeting was contentious.

"These species are not going to persist if we keep the golf course at this site," said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity.

"The frog and the snake exist down there because of the golf course, not in spite of it," said Bo Links with the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance.

Today, fences surround sensitive areas. The city sends staff to monitor the creatures twice a week. The Recreation and Parks Department says it could do more, if not for legal issues.

"We've been trying really hard as an agency to be good stewards, to strike a balance between preserving a golf course and preserving the species, and it's undermining that," said Wayne.

Now, an affordable seaside golf lies in the balance. Those who play there, who might lose it, are not pleased.

"This golf course is incredibly affordable," said golfer Lauren Barr. "It would be such a loss if it wasn't here."


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