NH2020 report weakened by supervisors | SierraSun.com

NH2020 report weakened by supervisors

Scott Hess

In front of a more-than-capacity crowd, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 Aug. 12 to weaken the authority of the Natural Resources Report, which is a part of Nevada County’s Natural Heritage 2020 planning and conservation plan.

Supervisors Peter Van Zant and Sue Horne each had a resolution outlined, but it was Horne’s that came out on top. Her resolution called for the weakening of the highly controversial study, rather than using it as a main source or destroying it completely.

The report, adopted by the board of supervisors in July 2002, has had a short and controversial life so far. It has been sent to libraries, schools and is currently posted on the county’s Web site. According to the report, it was created to “provide a scientifically accurate account of the distribution and characteristics of Nevada County’s ecosystems and plant and animal species.”

Horne’s resolution called for seven main points and guiding factors for the use of the NRR. She aimed to weaken the power of the report, expressing concern that some data contained in the report are inaccurate.

Van Zant has a different view, however. “It was a professional report, prepared by professionals and had professional peer reviews,” he said. Although some scientists testified at the supervisors meeting that there were inaccuracies in the data, he said, none of them pointed out specific errors.

He said if there were errors, they should be corrected, but the report should not be cast aside.

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Horne’s resolution stated board members and the public were concerned about, “the cost of verifying the accuracy of some of the data in the report, especially maps and GIS layers relating to vegetation and habitat typing believed by many to be subjective and inaccurately applied.”

Her resolution mainly called for the demotion of the report as a main source when performing initial studies for a land use project, disclaimers about the validity of some of data in the NRR and Geographic Information System layers in the NRR and the disclosure of the NRR being used as a source for biological sections of an environmental impact report.

“There are some substantial concerns about not knowing the accuracy of the testing in the NRR,” Horne said. “There are direct concerns from (some of) the peer reviews.”

Van Zant and District 5 Supervisor Barbara Green provided the opposition to Horne’s resolution. Van Zant said, “It’s an embarrassment and a tragedy. It’s a book burning without the flames.”

With Horne’s resolution, Van Zant said, the NRR will not be maintained, and will therefore become obsolete.

However, Horne said the information in the NRR, if found to be inaccurate, will be corrected. She also asked that the peer review reports and the disclaimers be added to the NRR. “This fully discloses information about the report,” she said.

While Van Zant agreed the NRR cannot be used as a main source when preparing scientific documents for projects, he said it is a great general document. “No general document should be used as a main source,” he said.

Pat Davison, field agent for the California Association of Business, Property and Resource Owners said, “The county can’t make decisions based solely on the report.” She added, “Van Zant’s resolution…was silent on how to use that report. We (CABPRO) wanted some clarification.”

Davison also said she feels like there were steps left out to ensure the accuracy of the data.

“The source data was never checked,” she said. Although she said the data should be updated, she felt the county will update the report through other avenues like the general plan update. Spending money solely on updating the report would be a waste, she said.

Whatever one feels, the supervisors passed Horne’s resolution. While the power of the NRR is greatly weakened, the meeting summary states it will still be used by “Nevada County staff, private consultants, developers, State and Federal Agencies and others to make more informed decisions on the immediate and cumulative effects of various projects on the county’s natural resources.”

For more information on the Natural Resources Report, visit http://www.mynevadacounty.com/cda/planning/nh2020/. For more information on the Board of Supervisors’ ruling, visit http://ncbos.co.nevada.ca.us/.