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Kirby Canyon Landfill: Drafting and Implementation of the Conservation Plan for the Bay Checkerspot Butterfly; Planning and Permit Assistance with Wetlands and the California Red-legged Frog

San Jose, Santa Clara County, 1983 — Present

The Waste Management, Inc. owns Kirby Canyon Landfill which operates in the eastern hills of the Coyote Valley in southern San Jose, California. The project is located in occupied habitat of the Bay checkerspot butterfly. When the landfill was in the planning stage, the butterfly had protected status as a species “proposed for Federal listing” under the ESA. The landfill developer (Waste Management of North America) was required by the City of San Jose (as local land use authority) to establish a conservation plan for this butterfly colony before land use permits would be granted. The butterfly has since been Federally-listed as a Threatened species under the Act.

TRA, in coordination with Stanford University and attorneys representing Waste Management, prepared the Conservation Plan for the Bay checkerspot butterfly at Kirby Canyon (submitted to USFWS in 1985). A major portion of the Conservation Plan was a Ten Year Work Program that addressed four main tasks: monitoring the butterfly population, locating possible recolonization sites, restoring butterfly habitat in disturbed areas, and enhancing butterfly resources in adjoining offsite areas through grazing control and habitat manipulation.

TRA and the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University conducted monitoring and recolonization studies; TRA worked on restoration and enhancement of butterfly habitat. TRA established study plots at the project site and monitored revegetation techniques over a seven-year period in order to develop a methodology for the restoration of native serpentine habitat capable of supporting the Bay checkerspot butterfly.

TRA implemented the Ten Year Work Program for the Kirby Canyon Butterfly Trust in 1985. Under the Ten Year Work Program, TRA developed a means of successfully revegetating the inhospitable serpentine soil that will be used as final cover on the landfill. In 2002, TRA prepared the final Revegetation Plan which included a description of the proper soil type, soil depth, soil preparation methods, seed mix composition and long term management requirements needed to maintain Bay checkerspot habitat. The Revegetation Plan is designed to be automatically implemented throughout the 50-year life of the landfill, and can be amended as the understanding of this unique ecosystem increases. The plan also addressed the federally endangered plant Santa Clara Valley dudleya. Studies of revegetation methods for this plant have been ongoing for over 20 years.

In addition to the work under the Conservation Plan for Bay checkerspot butterfly, TRA assisted Waste Management with monitoring a mitigation wetland at the site and submitting annual reports to the USACE, updating a wetland delineation of the 827-acre site, and preparing an application to the USACE under Section 404, CDFG (1600), and the San Francisco Bay RWQCB (401 Water Quality Certification) for continued landfilling at the site. The additional permits were required due to impacts on wetlands and the California red-legged frog.

Part of this work involved developing an HCP for California red-legged frogs at Kirby Canyon. The HCP was eventually converted into a Section 7 consultation when the USACE took jurisdiction over the site. The permit obtained from USACE in consultation with the USFWS covers landfill development, operations, maintenance, and closure activities. The site contains both breeding and upland habitat for the frog. Mitigation includes establishment of new breeding habitat for the frog, restored upland serpentine habitat for the frog, butterfly and rare plants, and funding to provide long-term monitoring and adaptive management of permanent habitat easements.

Client: Waste Management, Inc.