Federal funds to help save endangered butterfly habitat: Indian shell mound site also falls under26 acres to be purchased with $860,000 grant

Publisher: San Mateo County Times
Reporter: Justin Jouvenal

The federal government has ponied up $860,000 to help purchase 26 acres on San Bruno Mountain to protect both major habitat for endangered butterflies and an archaeological site for local Indian tribes.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put up the money for the Ohlone Shell Mound site, which is the northern Peninsula's largest remaining tract of habitat for three endangered butterflies: the callipe silverspot, the mission blue and the San Bruno elfin.

The shell mound is also a major cultural site. It is one of the largest and oldest shell mounds in the Bay Area and was created by the Costanoan/Ohlone Indians beginning around 3,200 B.C.

"(This grant) is a victory for all those who work to protect our natural resources," said Congressman Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, in a written statement.

Lantos said he urged Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton to fund the grant last April.

The 26-acre parcel currently is owned by Meyers Development Co., which plans to sell the site to the County Department of Parks and Recreation for $1.28 million. Meyers already has begun clearing out invasive plants that threaten the butterflies' host plants.

The grant was awarded after the county Parks and Recreation Department received $325,000 from Caltrans toward a redraft of the 20-year-old San Bruno Mountain Habitat Conservation Plan. The plan was created to protect the mission blue and San Bruno elfin butterflies while also allowing development on the mountain.

Parks and Recreation Department Senior Planner Sam Herzberg said the federal grant money will go a long way toward helping plan the future of San Bruno Mountain.

"It's going to help us be more strategic about how we maintain the habitat," said Herzberg.

While the parks department received good news about the federal grant this week, Herzberg said state funds are in jeopardy because of the California budget stalemate in Sacramento.

The money expected to come from Caltrans could be eliminated, depending on which budget draft receives the final approval. But Trust for Public Land spokesman Tim Wirth said Friday other funds would be sought to replace any lost state money because the state funding makes the purchase proposal eligible for the federal grant, the money would need to be replaced for the County to keep the federal funds.

- wire services contributed to this report