Judge Dismisses Sharp Park Golf Course Environmental Lawsuit

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A federal judge in San Francisco has dismissed a lawsuit filed by six environmental groups concerned about protection of two imperiled species at the Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston, in a decision issued last week, said a biological opinion released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in October made the lawsuit moot.

In that opinion, the federal agency said golf course maintenance and operations at the site are "not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the California red-legged frog or San Francisco garter snake."

The opinion also included a list of terms and conditions that the city of San Francisco, which owns and operates the park's 18-hole golf course, must follow in maintaining the site.

The California red-legged frog is federally listed as an endangered species and the San Francisco garter snake is listed as a threatened species.

The conservation groups claim that pumping water out of the park kills frog egg masses by exposing them to air and causing them to dry up, and that grass mowers and motorized golf carts run over snakes and frogs.

Illston wrote in her Dec. 6 decision that the lawsuit is now moot because the city is required to comply immediately with the conditions in the Fish and Wildlife Service's opinion.

Chris Carr, a lawyer for San Francisco Public Golf Alliance, said, "We're very pleased the judge's decision will allow this historic public locale to continue to serve golfers of all means and levels in the Bay Area."

The alliance was allowed to join the case to help the city defend against the lawsuit. Groups filing the lawsuit included the Wild Equity Institute, the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity.

Wild Equity Institute attorney Brent Plater said the groups' next step could be the filing of a new lawsuit, but said that who the plaintiffs and defendants would be "depends on a variety of factors and remains unsettled."

Plater said the underlying question in the dispute is "Do we want to continue to subsidize a suburban golf course in San Mateo County and jeopardize the most beautiful and imperiled serpent in North America?"

 

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