Judge denies injunction that would protect frogs, snakes at Sharp Park

A federal judge in San Francisco has denied an effort to temporarily halt maintenance activities at Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica, which environmental groups say are putting endangered snakes and threatened frogs at risk.

Judge Susan Illston ruled Tuesday that the plaintiffs failed to show that there would be “irreparable harm” to the threatened California red-legged frog and the endangered San Francisco garter snake if she ordered San Francisco Recreation and Park Department officials to immediately stop pumping water and mowing lawns at the golf course.

The suit claims The City, which owns the course, is violating the Endangered Species Act.

Environmental groups claim pumping to reduce winter flooding can fatally expose the frogs’ eggs to the air, and that lawn mowing endangers both frogs and garter snakes, which feed on frogs.

Illston noted that experts from both sides agree that the Sharp Park frog population has increased over the past 20 years, and found “persuasive” The City’s claim that it will monitor water levels and consult with federal wildlife officials before moving vulnerable frog eggs.

Illston also cited The City’s self-imposed 2009 plan for “no-mow zone” areas and suspending golf play when someone sees one of the at-risk creatures on a green scheduled for maintenance.

“I’m very gratified that the court recognized The City’s careful stewardship of Sharp Park for the benefit of the species, which ensures that they continue to thrive,” said Jim Emery, a city attorney who is working on the case.

Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity, a plaintiff, had another view.

“It’s shameful that San Francisco intends to continue draining and mowing sensitive wetlands for another winter — you’d think the ‘green city’ would do right by its namesake endangered species.”

aburack@sfexaminer.com

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