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Gavel Banging

Welcome to the Ocean Beach DOG Weblog...

This weblog serves as an online journal whose primary purpose is to compile responses to the various court filings and press releases produced by the Center for Biological Diversity's staff attorney Brent Plater.  Mr. Plater's agenda calls for the complete ban of off leash recreation in all GGNRA areas. In order to accomplish his objective,  the Center for Biological Diversity has aligned itself with various groups Mr. Plater has arbitrarily designated as "animal welfare organizations". Evidence will bear out that nothing could be further from the truth.... 
 
Please be sure to visit: http://brentplaterunleashed.blogspot.com and http://brentplaterpromotions.blogspot.com for more information on this subject.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Motion to Strike Plater Amici Curiae Brief 7:25 pm pdt

An Open Letter to the Audobon Society

April 28, 2005

 

Elizabeth Murdock

Executive Director

Golden Gate Audubon Society

2530 San Pablo Ave, Suite G

Berkeley, CA  94702-2047

 

Dear Ms. Murdock,

 

I was distressed to see that Golden Gate Audubon has tried to intervene in United States v Barley, et.al. with Brent Plater representing us.  The arguments in Plater’s amicus brief and his public statements are so far separated from the real world that GGAS association with him and his brief reflects badly on our good judgment and commitment to truth.

 

1.  Mr. Plater testified at the SF Police Commission meeting on April 20, 2005 that, dog owners “have filed a lawsuit against the park … that would …destroy the park itself.  They have alleged the land transfer that granted the park to the national government is invalid.  That would eliminate federal jurisdiction altogether.  They’re trying to destroy the entire park system…”

 

In fact the dog owners have filed no lawsuit at all.  They are defendants, defending themselves against citations they consider to be legally invalid.  The defense, if successful, will not “eliminate federal jurisdiction altogether,” nor “destroy the entire park system.”  Mr. Plater is an experienced lawyer.  He knows full well his statements are false.  GGAS’s representative reflects badly on the truthfulness of GGAS.

 

2.  The amicus brief filed on behalf of Audubon (and others) argues to eliminate off-leash recreation in the GGNRA in order to protect the dogs from injury and death.  (“Argument I   Running dogs off leash at the GGNRA puts the welfare of dogs at great risk.  “…literally hundreds of off-leash dogs have been lost, injured, or killed while roaming the park off-leash.”)

 

Surely you don’t believe protecting the health of dogs has anything to do with GGAS’s intervention in United States v Barley, et.al.  Nor would any other reasonable person.  This argument makes GGAS look silly and cynical, discrediting any other statements GGAS might make.

 

By the way, walking off-leash at the beach is a very safe activity for dogs.  It will be fun, if Plater’s intervention is accepted by the court, to watch him try to convince the judge of the bizarre facts alleged in his declaration.  But more discredit for GGAS.

 

3.  Plater engages in a McCarthy-like ad hominem public smear of the defendants in United States v Barley, et.al. which should embarrass GGAS members.  In his posting to the SF Animal Law yahoo group Plater repeats the bogus claim that his brief is to protect the dogs.  (Indeed, he mentions no other reason for the brief in his posting.)  Then, he describes the people he is going after as  “individuals associated with a group called Ocean Beach D.O.G. (sic) … Ocean Beach D.O.G. (sic) espouses the extremist theories of the Pacific Legal Foundation, to whom sections of Ocean Beach D.O.G.'s website is (sic) dedicated. … (Ocean Beach DOG) is helping advance PLF's agenda.”

 

Does GGAS know what is meant by the phrase “guilt by association?”  Ocean Beach DOG does not espouse the views of the Pacific Legal Foundation, has not dedicated their website to PLF, and makes no attempt to advance PLF’s agenda.  Ocean Beach DOG mentions PLF in the context of PLF’s suit asking a federal court to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to act on delisting petitions.  Specifically OBDOG discusses a scientific study, Population Differentiation among Snowy Plovers (Charadrius alexandrinus) in North America, by Leah R. Gorman, which must stand or fall on its own merits.  PLF referenced that study in the delisting petitions, but neither wrote nor commissioned it.  Plater’s tactic of argument, smear by “guilt by association,” should be abhorrent to GGAS members.

 

I still hope that GGAS will someday start to choose its battles, its representatives, and its arguments more judiciously. 

 

Best regards,

K.M.

San Francisco, CA 

4:45 pm pdt

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Breathtaking...

The failure of logic in Mr. Plater’s Amici Curiae Brief is breathtaking.  He advocates a ban of off-leash dog walking in the GGNRA for the safety of the dogs.  Since this brief is in part on behalf of the Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, I find his conclusion curiously hypocritical.  I would bring to your attention the following statistics from the National SAFE KIDS Campaign and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):

 

  • More than 3.5 million children ages 14 and under get hurt annually playing sports or participating in recreational activities.
  • Sports and recreational activities contribute to approximately 21 percent of all traumatic brain injuries among American children.
  • More than 775,000 children, ages 14 and under, are treated in hospital emergency rooms for sports-related injuries each year.

 

 

Children’s participation in sports and recreational activities has not been abolished for their safety.  In fact, we are still constructing and maintaining children’s playgrounds and skateboard parks, as well as encouraging children to participate in organized sports.  We, as a society, recognize that the value of exercise and the social and life skills developed by participation in sports activities is beneficial to children.  The benefits outweigh the risks. 

 

The same can be said for off-leash dog walking.  A local vet when questioned about off-leash exercise said the following, “It’s very important for dogs to get out and get exercise.  The one thing that I know for certain is that dogs do live longer and are healthier and happier if they are socialized, if they get out and get activity and they get exercise.  It’s good for the dogs and it’s also good for the community.  Dogs that are socialized with people and other dogs are not really a risk to the community.  The dogs that attack other dogs and people are usually the dogs that have been confined in their home, in a backyard, and they have had no contact.  It’s important for the dog’s health and happiness, but also for the community as well that they get out”.

 

The SFSPCA has been consistent in their advocacy for off-leash dog walking, citing it as “a vital component of responsible pet ownership.  San Francisco’s Ocean Beach is among the few remaining places in our densely populated urban environment where dogs can socialize freely and run off the energy they’ve built up from having been confined in houses and apartments.  Tens of thousands of dog owners throughout the San Francisco Bay Area depend on Ocean Beach to provide for the health and well-being of their pets.  In return, dogs enrich—even protect—our lives”.

 

Ken White, director of the Peninsula Humane Society, stated: “ PHS believes that there ought to be off-leash areas.  I don’t think there is a humane society that would disagree…It is a fraction, a fraction of our animal control complaints and concerns that come from the off-leash areas… Problems most typically come when people DON’T have an off-leash area to go to and find themselves trying to create one on their own.”  However, he goes on to state: “ I absolutely believe having been in this issue around the country, that you will not come up with a solution that pleases everybody.”

 

The fact is that off-leash dog-walking does not please the groups for which Mr. Plater advocates.  And that is the long and short of it.  However, considering that the transfer of property from San Francisco to the GGNRA was predicated upon continuation by the GGNRA of the historical recreational usage, legally, I believe this is a situation Mr. Plater is just going to have to live with.

 

 S.M.V.

9:04 am pdt

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

An Open Letter to the San Francisco Police Commission

STEPHEN S. SAYAD

Attorney at Law

 

 

P.O. Box 330100

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA  94133

TELEPHONE (415) 331-5856

 

 

April 26, 2005

 

San Francisco Police Commission

Hall of Justice

850 Bryant Street, Room 505

San Francisco, CA  94103

 

Re:       Formal Complaint Re: Comments Made By Brent Plater

At Commission Meeting on April 20, 2005

 

Dear Commissioners:

 

I am writing to formally protest material misrepresentations made to the San Francisco Police Commission by Brent Plater at the Commission’s last meeting on April 20, 2005.  While I was not present at the meeting, I have a first hand (verbatim) record of the statements made by Mr. Plater.

 

As part of the remarks made by Mr. Plater regarding a purported problem he is having walking his dog in City parks due to alleged harassment by off-leash dogs, Mr. Plater stated to the Commission:

 

“I wanna talk to you a little bit today about what it means – the social fabric of San Francisco.  I’m not sure if you’re aware of this but right now three individuals who received citations for runnin’ their dogs off-leash illegally at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area have filed a lawsuit against the park over these $50 tickets that would, if they’re successful, would destroy the park itself.  They have alleged the land transfer that granted the park to the National Government is invalid.  That would eliminate federal jurisdiction altogether.  They’re just trying to destroy the entire Park system unless they’re able to just do this one type of recreation activity.  And that to me doesn’t represent a social fabric of San Francisco.  In fact, it’s very degenerative.”  (Emphasis added)

 

Mr. Plater’s statements are false in numerous respects and create a substantial issue as to his credibility and the credibility of the organization he is counsel for, the “Center for Biological Diversity” and other organizations he represents and whose views he espouses.


 

The litigation to which Mr. Plater is referring is currently pending on appeal before the Honorable William Alsup in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.  The case (No. 04-CR-0408) is entitled, United States of America v. Gretchen Barley, Donald Kieselhorst, and Stephen S. Sayad.  As Mr. Plater well knows (as demonstrated infra), I, along with Ms. Barley and Mr. Kieselhorst, are defendants in a criminal action brought against us by the federal government over citations we received (under 36 C.F.R. § 2.15(a)(2)) for walking our dogs off-leash on the tidelands at Crissy Field.  None of us (or anyone else of whom I am aware) “filed a lawsuit” against the GGNRA seeking to expand the existing right to off-leash dog walking in a very limited portion of the GGNRA.  To the contrary, we chose to defend against the citations, on two primary grounds:  (1) that the tidelands at Crissy Field are owned by the State of California (as an incident of its absolute sovereignty) in public trust for the citizens of the State for, inter alia, general recreational activities (and therefore not subject to federal regulation);[1] and (2) that the GGNRA never rescinded its official “1979 Pet Policy” which specifically allows for off-leash dog walking in specified areas (including portions of Crissy Field) comprising only one percent (1%) of lands within the GGNRA. 

 

On December 2, 2004, Magistrate Judge Elizabeth LaPorte issued an order granting defendants’ motion to dismiss the citations on the grounds that the GGNRA’s 1979 Pet Policy was still in full force and effect.  The United States chose to appeal Judge LaPorte’s decision.  Defendants filed a protective cross appeal, and the matter is currently in the briefing stage with a hearing on the appeal scheduled for May 31, 2005 before Judge Alsup.

 

Accordingly, Mr. Plater’s statement that “three individuals filed a lawsuit against the park” is patently false, and was known to be false at the time it was made to the Commission.  Indeed, on April 6, 2005 (after the opening appellate briefs of the United States and defendants had been filed), Mr. Plater left me a voicemail message stating that “certain organizations” he represents wished to file an amicus brief on the appeal.  I returned Mr. Plater’s phone call and requested that he specify what issues involved in the action his clients wished to address.  At 7:43 p.m. on April 6, 2005, Mr. Plater sent me an e-mail stating:

 

The Center for Biological Diversity and several other non-profit organizations intend to file an amicus brief in the above-referenced matter [“United States v. Barley, et al., Case No.CR-04-00408-WHA”] tomorrow, April 7, 2005.  The purpose of the brief will be to inform the Court that off-leash dog walking at the GGNRA is harming dogs, harming wildlife, and inconsistent with the purpose of the GGNRA as established by Congress over 30 years ago.  I am writing to determine if you will, or if you will not, consent to the filing of this amicus brief.

 

Thus, at least as early as April 6, 2005 (and likely much earlier), Mr. Plater was well aware of the fact that neither I nor the other defendants had filed suit against the federal government, that we were simply defending ourselves against citations we believed were improperly issued, and that Judge LaPorte had in fact found that the GGNRA’s long-standing 1979 Pet Policy remained in effect, had not been rescinded in accordance with applicable law, and forbade the federal government from issuing citations for off-leash dog walking in the areas encompassed by the 1979 Pet Policy.

 

The question therefore arises as to Mr. Plater’s motives for misrepresenting these facts to the Commission.[2]  I believe his motives are clearly aimed at the creation of a false record that off-leash dog walking is out of control, in the hopes of putting pressure on the Commission that action is necessary to curb off-leash dog walking.  While I have my own feelings (irrelevant here) as to what Mr. Plater and the Center for Biological Diversity hope to diversify, I recognize their right to free speech in addressing the Commission.  What I strongly object to, and what should not be allowed, is what I find tantamount to the filing of a false police report when Mr. Plater so blatantly misrepresents facts to the Commission in order to further the interests of the organizations he represents and whose views he shares.[3]

 

I submit that Mr. Plater should be censured for his misrepresentations to the Commission.  There is no room for his attempts to create a false and misleading record in order to promote his agenda and the agenda of his clients.  Unless the Commission takes action against Mr. Plater, it will be opening the door (if it has not already occurred) for others to attempt to manipulate the truth in the hopes of exerting pressure and extracting action on the part of this and other City commissions and agencies.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

 

Stephen Samuel Sayad



[1]               The “public trust” doctrine under which the State holds the tidelands in trust for its citizens, has its origins as far back as Roman law, and the United States Supreme Court has, on several occasions, reaffirmed the State’s absolute sovereignty and trust obligations over its tidelands.

[2]               While I have no intention of involving the Commission in the merits of this litigation, Mr. Plater’s statement regarding the alleged land grant is also patently false.  The alleged grant involves a March 9, 1897 Act of the California Legislature ceding fee title from the State to the United States of, if anything, only tidelands.  While Judge LaPorte found the Act to be ambiguous, she nonetheless ruled that the Act transferred ownership of the tidelands at Crissy Field from the State of California to the federal government, and declined to follow the holding in United States v. Watkins, 22 F.2d 437 (N.D. Cal. 1927) finding that the Act only transferred ownership of tidelands adjacent to islands in the State.  This issue is the subject of defendants’ protective cross-appeal.  Mr. Plater’s assertion that the Act involved the grant of the GGNRA itself “to the National Government” could not be further from the truth, and is a position not even the United States has asserted in the litigation.  Thus, again, Mr. Plater has made a significant misrepresentation to the Commission.

 

[3]               Mr. Plater appears to have a penchant for being less than forthright with the truth.  I responded to Mr. Plater’s e-mail by stating that I (in representing only myself in the litigation) would not stipulate to his filing of an amicus brief because, putting aside his clients’ political and social agenda, the filing would be inconsistent with the briefing schedule ordered by the Court, and would raise, for the first time on appeal, issues and evidence that were not presented to the trial court.  Nonetheless, when Mr. Plater filed his clients’ motion for leave to intervene on appeal, he cited only my reference to his clients’ political and social agenda, did not advise the Court of my specific substantive and procedural objections, and did not attach my correspondence to him setting forth my objections.  This lack of candor by Mr. Plater will eventually be taken up with the Court.

9:39 am pdt

Monday, April 25, 2005

Center for Biological Diversity Making False Statements?

Judge Confirms $600,000 Libel Award and Finds Fault with Environmentalists

Judge Richard Fields entered formal judgment on March 2, 2005 against the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental activist corporation, and found that they must pay $600,000 in actual and punitive damages to Arizona rancher Jim Chilton and the Chilton Ranch and Cattle Company.

The formal judgment confirmed a Tucson jury’s verdict, delivered on January 21, 2005, finding the Center for Biological Diversity guilty of making “false, unfair, libelous and defamatory statements” against Jim Chilton, a fifth generation Arizona rancher whose pioneering ancestors drove cattle into Arizona in the 1880’s. The jury awarded Chilton $100,000 in actual damages and $500,000 in punitive damages because the Center for Biological Diversity defamed him and his family business in a two-page press release which included links to 21 photographs posted on the Center’s website, from July 2002 until July 2003.

In his ruling, Judge Fields entered a formal judgment declaring that the Center and its employees “made false statements” in their press release. The judge also found that the press release “contained misleading photographs” and “did not accurately describe the condition” of Chilton’s 21,500 acre Forest Service grazing allotment, located northwest of Nogales, Arizona.

The Center for Biological Diversity, a high profile environmental activist corporation, has written many petitions leading to the listing of species as endangered. Scientists have questioned whether some of these species are actually endangered. At trial, the Center claimed to have filed over 170 lawsuits against federal agencies. According to Chilton, these lawsuits have stopped school construction, terminated thousands of lumber production jobs, put Arizona and New Mexico communities into economic distress, and driven many western ranchers to the verge of bankruptcy.

Kraig Marton, an attorney from the Phoenix-based law firm of Jaburg and Wilk, who represented Chilton when he fought back, stated, “This case shows how pictures can lie,” said Marton. “We are very pleased with the ruling,” he added and noted, “It is about time that the tables were turned on this group.”

Chilton said the suit was filed to challenge the way the Center for Biological Diversity consistently does business. “They don’t use science, they just wear people down and drive them out of business,” said Chilton. “They routinely use endangered species to raise money and fund their attacks on the cowboy and western culture.” Chilton has also stated that after his expenses for this lawsuit are covered, he plans to donate the remaining money to the Arizona Cattle Growers Association to help spread the word that modern ranching conserves habitat for wildlife, increase biodiversity, and reduces threats of wildfire.

At trial, the jury was shown the photographs disseminated by the Center that focused on tiny barren areas and implied that the range had been devastated by cattle. Chilton’s lawyer put up photographs taken from the same sites looking north, south, east, and west that revealed a vibrant and thriving environment. Experts testified that the allotment had been well managed by the Chiltons and, in fact, had been written up by leading range scientists as a “Success Story”, the professional journal, Rangelands.

The jury agreed with Chilton’s claims, finding that the Center knowingly disseminated false and malicious statements in a news advisory, and that misleading photographs were used to harm the Chiltons after the Center’s unsuccessful attempt to block the renewal of Chilton’s grazing permit.

Chilton, who felt elated and vindicated, said the jury had done an admirable job of understanding days of scientific testimony. “This case will help the public become aware that ranchers support real recovery of endangered species because quality habitat makes quality ranches.”

Chilton emphasized that this case demonstrates the need to strengthen the Endangered Species Act to close loopholes that have allowed groups like the Center for Biological Diversity to make money by suing the federal government. It was revealed at trial that the Center collected over $990,000 in 2003 from lawsuits it filed, mostly against the government. Chilton decried the Center’s list-and-sue policy as preventing the agencies and landowners from actually working to recover species.

According to Chilton, “Now is the time to get recovery results from the Endangered Species Act by requiring peer-reviewed science for listings, providing incentives for landowners, recreationalists and rural businesses to preserve open space and improve habitat for species.” Chilton concluded that “we must actually recover species, not just play the game of listing them to put money in activist coffers and put Americans out of work.”

by Toni Thayer
Sierra Times www.sierratimes.com
http://www.sierratimes.com/05/03/06/enviro_libel.htm

S.R.G.

8:42 am pdt

Consider the Source: The Center for Biological Perversity
From the Sacramento Bee - Environment, Inc.

No environmental group in America files more endangered species cases at a more frenetic pace than the Southwest Center, which has since dropped the "Southwest" from its name to reflect its expansion into California and Oregon. Public records show that from 1994 to 1999 alone, the Center for Biological Diversity and its lawyers filed 58 lawsuits, an average of one every 32 days.


Occasionally environmental lawsuits cause other damage -- to the very groups that file them.

One such case unraveled in Arizona recently when the Southwest Center sued the U.S. Forest Service, alleging that it failed to "consult" with the Fish and Wildlife Service about cattle grazing's effect on endangered species -- a violation of federal law.

The suit targeted large swaths of federal land leased to ranchers, including a lease held by Joe and Valer Austin, owners of the picturesque El Coronado Ranch in the Chiricahau mountains.

The Austins are no ordinary husband-and-wife ranch team.

Since buying El Coronado in 1984, they have invested more than $1 million to return it to ecological health. They have constructed 20,000 erosion control structures, cut back herds dramatically and reduced the seasons they graze, and worked to restore threatened and endangered species. They have welcomed university and government scientists to the ranch to observe their efforts.

Their work has earned them numerous awards, including the Joseph Wood Krutch Award from The Nature Conservancy in 1996 and, two years later, the W.R. Chapline Land Stewardship Award from the Society for Range Management.

That didn't satisfy the Southwest Center, which alleged in its 1998 Forest Service suit that the Austins' ranching practices were harming endangered species.

"It was a real slap in the face," Joe Austin said.

Valer Austin added: "They just put us in the same bucket with everybody else. They didn't even come out here to see what we were doing."

The Austins didn't stand idly by. They jumped into the lawsuit with the federal government -- and emerged victorious. Senior U.S. District Judge Alfredo Marquez in Tucson ruled that the suit had been brought in bad faith and ordered the center to pay the Austins' $56,909 legal bill.

Still, Joe Austin feels conservation has suffered a defeat.

"Everything we were trying to do to convince other ranchers and landowners that endangered species are not a liability has been lost," he said. "The Southwest Center proved me wrong. The Southwest Center proved to everybody that having an endangered species is a liability.

"In fact, many people think you should just get rid of them," Austin said. "That is the exact thing I didn't want to happen."

What's the center's view? "It's a bummer," said Suckling. "I wish it had not come down this way. But would I sue again? Absolutely. (The Austins) are having an impact on public land. The fact that they are doing good things elsewhere doesn't excuse it."


Kieran Suckling is the Executive Director of the Center for Biological Diversity. This is an extreme environmentalist organization as you can see....

Reporter: "You are forcing change on society and you are aware of it?"

Suckling: "Yeah! Isn't that what an activist is! What do you think an activist is? We change society!"

Reporter: "Can't you do this in a humane and gentle way?"

{take a deep breath before reading on}

Suckling: "It is sad, but I don't hear you put that in a direct relationship to the effect on the land. I hear you talk about the pain of the people but I don't see you match that up with the pain of the species."

Reporter: (dumbfounded) "What?"

Suckling: A loach minnow is more important, than say, Betty and Jim's ranch - a thousand times more important. I'm not against ranching, it is a job. My concern is the impact on the land."

S.R.G.

8:20 am pdt

Sunday, April 24, 2005

An Open Letter to the Center for Biological Diversity
I grew up in the east bay area, and have lived in the city of San Francisco
for the past decade.  San Francisco's residents are fortunate enough to live
in a dense urban area enhanced by over 200 city owned open spaces (city
parks) and acres of federal recreational areas (Golden Gate National
Recreational Area) directly adjacent to/surrounding the city in which we can
recreate.  These areas are important for the earth (for reasons I know you
understand) and important for the people who live near and recreate in them.
They allow city dwellers to maintain a critical relationship with the earth
and her inhabitants, and remind people of the fact that we are part of a
larger ecosystem.

San Francisco is also a very dog-friendly city - several areas of the city
have more than 3,000 dogs per square mile, and every 4th household has at
least one dog.  These dogs are important companions for urban dweller's
psychological and physiological health, foster humane behavior, offer an
important connection to the natural world, create safer urban open spaces,
act as a sort of "social glue" - bringing people together as the ultimate
ice-breaker, they also are at the center of communities of people who share
and recreate in these parks and open spaces.

Off-leash recreation is critical to all dogs health and welfare, and if you
do not agree or do not understand this, I invite you to come visit San
Francisco for just one day - or even longer - and see how well-behaved,
happy and healthy our dogs are.  You can also read the documents in support
for off-leash recreation written by our local SPCA here:
http://www.sfspca.org/advocacy/off-leash.shtml

Tourists always stare in wonder as all the dogs get along, and at how
well-behaved the dogs are - often times taking pictures and openly making
statements that they, "wish it was like this where we live".

Sadly, the assault on off-leash recreation is a nation wide problem and the
areas where dogs can exercise under the direct supervision of their
guardians is nearly extinct in many areas.  In many areas, this recreational
activity is being fenced into undesirable pens (only useful for people who
have not trained their dogs and incredibly boring for dogs who have had the
benefit of a better existence), and more and more trail or open space
recreation is being taken away from us every day.  It is not only
irresponsible to not train our dogs so that they can recreate under voice
control, but inhumane and unreasonable to keep dogs tethered or fenced their
entire life.  As a life-long animal right activist, I am against zoos for
many reasons, and I'm not about to sentence my animal companions to live
their lives in zoo-like conditions.  Dogs have been an important part of
human society since the early development of our species, and they offer a
great number of benefits for humans - the least we can do is continue to
work/live closely with them and exercise them properly.

I have lived with dogs literally since the day I was born (our dog had
puppies 3 days before) and have lived with companion dogs under many
different environmental circumstances (urban, suburban and rural).  I have
made the choice to live in an urban area, in large part because of my
dedication to the protection of the environment - but I also lived on 40
acres in Oregon and did wildlife rescue there, while volunteering for Earth
First (of course, I also lived with my rescued dogs during this time).

In San Francisco, where dogs are allowed off-leash exercise in some of our
many open spaces, it is the best situation for dogs to live in, hands-down.
Here, companion dogs are exercised off-leash 2-4 times a day with a
wide-variety of other dogs (different ages, breeds, temperaments, etc.),
become incredibly well-socialized (unlike any other dogs living in other
less dynamic and vibrant situations), and most importantly, they get to live
in close proximity with their people 24/7 - living indoors as part of the
family.  San Francisco's dogs are some of the most well-behaved, well-cared
for, and well-adjusted dogs on the planet.  To have these domesticated
animals live with people in a dense urban environment, not only reduces
sprawl (and living in "solitary confinement" in a yard - the worse case
scenario for dogs), but beautifully maintains the wonderful symbiotic
relationship we have had with dogs for more than 20,000 years.

Yet, with all these open spaces and all these dogs - dogs are only allowed
off-leash in LESS THAN 1% of the city and federal open space areas.  Please
understand that the areas we have taken our dogs to traditionally are the
parks that were previously unsafe (which we have now made safe), or
undesirable (windy, barren areas formerly used/abused by the military for
hundreds of years, with ordinances hiding in the sand).  We are not taking
over, we are not demanding exclusive use, and we are not making any larger
an impact on these areas than the thousands of humans who recreate in the
remaining 99%.

People walking with off-leash dogs are no more destructive, or have any more
of an impact than the other recreational activities taking place in these
areas and others.  Just a short-list of common recreational activities
taking place in these areas are: horse-back riding, mountain biking, hiking,
picnicking, beach party bon-fires on the beach, kids playing on the
dunes/sand skiing, barbequing, sailing, surfing, kite-flying, kite-boarding,
swimming, running, skate-boarding, roller-blading, etc.  These activities
happen all year long in 100% of these areas.  Less than 1% of these area
allow for off-leash dog walking.  Even if we doubled that percentage, we
would still be recreating in a very small percentage of the open space areas
available to us.  Remember too, that dogs are many people's introduction to
and connection with these opens spaces and the natural world; without their
dog(s), they may never explore or learn to appreciate or value these open
recreational areas.

Also, you should be aware that these areas are not "pristine ecosystems",
these are former military bases located within a dense urban area.  Yes,
they offer an oasis to those living here, they have their own
mini-ecosystems, and they allow for people to maintain a connection to
nature - but they are RECREATIONAL areas, not fragile ecosystems such as
Point Reyes or Ana Nuevo - these areas are critical wildlife habitat the
requires protection.  And the primary polluters and destroyers of any
ecosystem are never humans walking with their dogs - they are industry (oil,
timber, agricultural, mining, development, etc.)  That you want to "kick the
dog" rather than take on the real problem abusers and destroyers is
absolutely pathetic and seriously misguided.

That you would include these areas in your habitat protection action alerts
section and make these areas a target makes me, sadly, very suspect of your
other programs.  If you have not studied these areas enough to know what you
are talking about, that you say you are "protecting endangered species and
wild places through science..." and yet, seem to have never even visited
these areas in person, really applied any common sense, or reviewed the
scientific studies about these areas and the impact of dogs on them, proves
that this tagline may be a marketing falsity without any substance or
reality behind it.

I have been a vegan, animal right activist and environmentalist for over 22
years.  I have been an active member of Earth First, PETA, Natural Resources
Defense Council, Union of Concerned Scientists, and a vast number of other
environmental and humane organizations.  I was a Sierra Club and Audubon
member as a young child, but when I was still in elementary school I
withdrew my membership when I learned these organizations both condone
hunting.  My entire life has been dedicated to the heath and well-being of
animals (both wild and domestic), the environment and the protection and
support of these though everyday action.  Your group is one I would normally
contribute to and support, but with your mis-directed, under-educated and
inappropriate assault on off-leash recreation in this particular area, I
cannot.

But perhaps you are simply unaware of the statements your local
representative has been making, and unaware of the facts in this case.

Your local representative, Mr. Brent Plater, has been making outrageous
statements on behalf of your group at the San Francisco Police Commission
meetings
(http://majestic.ipolis.net/ops/tplgen.php?X=C1001&T=sfgtv&S=R4-1212).  At
last Wednesday's meeting, he claimed that your group has sued the federal
government to obtain rights the off-leash community have never even had.  A
couple years ago he wrote an editorial for Chronicle attacking off-leash
policy citing false statistics on sea mammals.  He has a small dog living
with a disability and does not like off-leash dogs because they approach his
dog and this activity concerns him - but this gives him no right to voice
his own opinion on something affecting him personally by using your group's
name, or to make these false claims and use your group's name to further his
personal dislike for off-leash recreation.

Also, because Mr. Plater has adopted a dog with a disability, it is up to
him to protect and exercise this dog is areas where it is safe to do so.
This can sometimes require some creativity on his part, but it is his
responsibility - not everyone's else's, and public policy should not revolve
around his own personal situation.  I have been the guardian of a very
fear-aggressive, under socialized giant breed dog in the past, and although
it was at times frustrating when off-leash dogs approached us, I recognized
the fact that it was MY dog who had the behavior problem, not theirs - and
so we altered our behavior to minimize these interactions by exercising in
areas that were less populated, or at times of day that were less busy with
other dogs and people.  If I were down at the Police Commission meetings
complaining about other people's dogs when mine was the one with the
problem, that would have been an incredibly selfish and imbalanced reaction
to the situation.

None of Mr. Plater's aggressive statements and actions against off-leash
recreation are based in science, none of his actions I have witnessed are
true environmentalism, and none of this activity furthers the environmental
protection of areas that require it.  I hope he is misrepresenting your
group and you will take action against his attacks on off-leash recreation
in San Francisco, but if he is not, then I can only say that the Center for
Biological Diversity is a sham.


Sincerely,

C.L.M.
San Francisco, CA
7:51 pm pdt

A Quick Review
A quick review of the Amicus Brief shows that they have used annecdotal incidents to create a very distorted scenario on off-leash dogs..including extensive quotes of incidents outside designated offleash areas...
 
On the snowy plover, the Hatch report quantifies number of observed interactions.. perhaps they are using additional comments by Audobohn  volunteers.. hard to say where he's getting information .. would love to see documents attached to his Declaration..
 
I think this underscores importance of getting citation information...
 
K.A.
12:01 pm pdt

2008.02.01 | 2008.01.01 | 2005.08.01 | 2005.04.01

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