South Coast nonprofit sues state over marsh habitat


By on Thu, November 11, 2010

Grassy Point
North Pond
San Francisco Garter snake

On Monday, November 8, a Pescadero-based non-profit, the Coastal Alliance for Species Enhancement (CASE) filed a lawsuit in San Mateo County Superior Court requesting that the Court order the Governor as well as the Resources Agency, State Parks, and the Department of Fish and Game to comply with and enforce the California Endangered Species Act in the mismanaged, state-owned Pescadero Marsh Nature Preserve located on the coast of San Mateo County.

“This is not a step we took lightly.  However, after reviewing e-mails received through Public Records Act requests, it is apparent that long-time, ongoing, violations of the laws protecting endangered species and public trust resources have been willfully ignored in order to protect the state agencies themselves,” said Steve Simms, President of CASE.  “State Parks should not be afforded special treatment by its sister state agencies, the Secretary of Resources, or the Governor.  If the agencies charged with protecting California’s species and ecosystems refuse to do their jobs, we must hold them accountable for the sake of the environment and all of California’s citizens.”

CASE names the Resources Agency, State Parks, and the Department of Fish and Game along with their Secretary and Directors for creating and then perpetuating the precipitous decline in San Francisco garter snake habitat and populations and the entire Marsh ecosystem.  Once they knowingly created this situation, they ignored the crisis to the point of eminent disaster.  The snake only exists within San Mateo County and is also a fully protected species under the Fish and Game Code.  CASE names the Governor under the Public Trust Doctrine as well as the California Constitution for failing to ensure that the laws of the state are enforced.

“This is a case where State Parks altered the marsh in the 1990’s and created an environmental calamity.  Perhaps more alarming is the fact Fish and Game, the agency charged with enforcing the laws for state listed species has known about these violations for years and, for political reasons, has failed to enforce the laws against State Parks who is a sister Agency under the Resources Department,” said Ronda Azevedo Lucas, CASE’s attorney.  “If a private citizen owned this marsh, they would likely be in jail.”

This Marsh belongs to the people of the State of California, and the Governor and the named agencies are responsible to hold this land and its species in trust for the people and for future generations.  The San Francisco garter snake is not the only endangered, threatened or protected species in peril. The California red-legged frog, Tidewater goby, Coho salmon, and the Steelhead trout are also at the critical state of collapse. “For nearly two decades we have tried to get someone, anyone, from the State to fix the Marsh.  Species should not be condemned to death.  The Snake and the entire Marsh ecosystem cannot afford any further delay,” Simms added.

CASE is a California non-profit, public benefit corporation, located in Pescadero, California.   More information is available on the organization’s website,