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Tell California’s High Speed Rail Authority to Protect Wildlife and Avoid Farmland Destruction in Santa Clara County

June 20, 2020

This Tuesday, June 23, is the deadline to submit comments on the environmental analysis of running high speed rail from San Jose to Merced. Please email the California High Speed Rail Authority using the form below, asking it to protect wildlife movement through Coyote Valley and Pacheco Pass, and to avoid sprawl and the loss of farmland from a potential train station in the County’s Agricultural Resource Area.

What’s Happening

In April, the California High Speed Rail Authority (Authority) published the San Jose-Merced rail alignment draft environmental review for public comment. The review of impacts to wildlife in  Coyote Valley is insufficient and could result in failure to protect wildlife movement as well as causing negative impacts to habitat and the planned wildlife crossings we have fought so hard to bring to the area. For example, rail line fencing might not guide animals to the few safe crossings, and a potential wildlife bridge might be stopped from construction.

Our analysis also shows that wildlife are not able to cross the rail line effectively in the southern end of the county running up to Pacheco Pass. While the draft proposes wildlife crossings like culverts to help animals travel under roadways and other barriers safely, they are too small, too long, too few in number, and too dark for the animals to see through to the other side.

Additionally, the impacts to farmland and new threats of sprawl from the potential east-of-Gilroy station and maintenance facility in the County’s Agricultural Resource Area will be extreme. A  new station and maintenance facility in this area will consume over two hundred acres of farmland as well as limit wildlife movement. This is why for the past 9 years we have consistently supported the other proposed location for the station in downtown Gilroy. The downtown station provides better transit access in central Gilroy, making it more affordable and equitable with less environmental adverse impacts.

Why It Matters

Some wildlife, like mountain lions, face severe threats to their survival due to habitat loss from increased development and barriers to migration. The high speed rail alignment through Coyote Valley and up through Pacheco Pass puts animals like mountain lions, coyotes, tule elk, deer, and others at further risk. It is critical that we maintain wildlife habitat and, where possible, enhance wildlife movement so that animals can do more than just survive, but also thrive in our county.

The County established the Agricultural Resource Area to indicate where it will focus farmland conservation as part of its strategy for climate resilience and in support of a robust local agricultural economy and food system. The potentially east-of-Gilroy station and maintenance facility would be a significant blow to that effort and make surrounding farmland very vulnerable to development. We need to permanently protect these lands for the long-term sustainability and health of our region and to mitigate the negative impacts from sprawl development and climate change.

What You Can Do

Please join us in asking the High Speed Rail Authority to improve its environmental review by working with local expert agencies to design better and more wildlife connections across the rail line in Coyote Valley and Pacheco Pass, and rejecting the east-of-Gilroy Station and maintenance facility in the County’s Agricultural Resource Area.