Helping to Address Crucial Environmental Issues in San Benito County

Protesters prepare to demonstrate against sprawl near Highway 101 in San Benito County. Photo Credit: Juan Estrada

Over the years, Green Foothills has worked on a number of issues in counties adjacent to San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties that have cross-border effects. Our recent work in San Benito County has garnered us an invitation and funding to continue partnering with local organizations and the Amah Mutsun Tribe in fighting to protect open space there. We welcome the opportunity as protecting nature in Santa Clara County is going to require protecting it in San Benito County as well.

San Benito and Santa Clara County’s shared border and wildlife corridor along the Pajaro River extend from Juristac to the Diablo Mountains. Along with Coyote Valley, the Pajaro River’s wildlife corridor is critical to maintaining biodiversity in our region. In Santa Clara County, we have been partnering with the Amah Mutsun as they seek to protect Juristac and many other important areas of their heritage that extend into San Benito County. We are also actively partnering with a number of environmental advocates in that county to address some crucial environmental issues of late.

Our Victories Are Temporary, Our Defeats Are Permanent – San Benito County Edition

In 2020, we were thrilled to have played a role in San Benito County voters resoundingly rejecting Measure N – the deceptive and destructive Strada Verde sprawl initiative. It would have allowed for the development of a 2700-acre open space parcel immediately adjacent to Santa Clara County, threatening the Pajaro River wildlife corridor with the nucleus of a new city. During the campaign, we offered local environmental advocates the benefit of our experience to bolster their efforts in opposing this misleading ballot measure.

Despite the clear rejection of Measure N by voters, the developers are nonetheless seeking approval of their project by county supervisors. Measure N was an attempt to circumvent the regular planning process, avoiding environmental review, consistency with the County General Plan, and a vote of the supervisors. Now a majority of county supervisors seemed to welcome the prospect of this planning process grinding forward.

This situation is not new to us. A common saying passed along among environmentalists is “Our victories are temporary, but our defeats are permanent.” Applicants don’t give up on getting approval for a sprawl project. And we don’t give up on our vigilance to defeat them to protect our natural environment.

In addition to this renewed sprawl proposal, there are a number of other environmental threats facing the County. The Highway 101 intersections through the county all are at risk of development that will result in the loss of agriculture and riparian habitat. This area, along with Strada Verde, also forms part of the Juristac cultural area sacred to the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band and overlapping into Santa Clara County.

A massive landfill expansion proposal outside of Hollister on county jurisdictional land would destroy hundreds of acres of open space – and not to serve local needs but those of Santa Clara County. The city of Hollister is also vulnerable to outward sprawl proposals, and other areas of the county are under potential threat. These types of proposals are similar to issues we’ve faced in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, and we can use our experience to assist local groups developing environmental solutions to these open space threats.

Funding From Wildlife Conservation Network Supports our Work in San Benito County

We gratefully acknowledge the financial support from the Wildlife Conservation Network that allows us to continue supporting efforts to protect nature in San Benito County. Throughout the next year, we welcome the opportunity to help create changes in policies that will benefit wildlife, farming, and open space in both San Benito and Santa Clara Counties. It’s time to move beyond simply fighting bad projects to actually improving conditions.

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