By Galli Basson, Open Space Authority of Santa Clara Valley
As anyone who lives in the Bay Area knows, a high-speed train connecting Northern to Southern California is in the works after being approved by voters in 2008. With the rail line planned to run through Coyote Valley, the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority is keenly interested — and highly involved — in the project. While the promise of removing cars from the roads and decreasing car pollution is intriguing, protecting our land, animals, and people is critically important as well.
Coyote Valley is already crossed by Highway 101, Monterey Road, and Santa Teresa Road. All these vehicle thoroughfares limit wildlife permeability as animals travel between mountain ranges to find food, habitat, and mates. For example, Monterey Road features a concrete median topped by a fence, which inhibits animal movement. As a result, many animals are killed crossing that area, which threatens not only wildlife, but drivers as well. Adding a train track will create yet another boundary preventing animals from moving across the valley.
Our agency is working with various researchers, non-profits, and other agencies to determine the best plan to solve this issue. A land bridge, for example, would offer animals a plant- and tree-covered “overpass” that would get them across Monterey Road and the train track safely. So many species would benefit from the bridge: gray foxes, mountain lions, bobcats, badgers, deer, coyotes, raccoons. Yet decreasing roadkill is just one benefit. A land bridge would enable animals to find mates further afield, fostering genetic diversity that is critical to the long-term health of many wildlife populations, and even the survival of others.
This is not an easy project, or one that will be finalized quickly. Coyote Valley is a complex landscape, and many organizations are working together to determine and fund the best plan for people and animals alike. I encourage readers to stay engaged with what’s happening in Coyote Valley. Now is the time for all of us to make an impact on the future of transportation and open space in our own backyard.
About Protect Coyote Valley
The Protect Coyote Valley campaign is led by the Committee for Green Foothills and supported by Greenbelt Alliance, Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful, Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter, and SAGE — Sustainable Agriculture Education. It aims to preserve Coyote Valley, San Jose as open space that offers flood-buffering wetlands, an essential wildlife habitat and migratory area, and active farmlands.