From high on the Arrowhead Loop Trail at the Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve, the scene below is bucolic and still. Coyote Creek, lined with cottonwoods and sycamores, meanders north toward the bay; orchards and hayfields rustle in the prevailing northwest wind; remnant grasslands and oak woodlands persist on hillocks and in crevasses untouched by agriculture. Other than a few narrow ribbons of traffic, Coyote Valley presents a peaceful landscape of pastoral farmland and nature touched only lightly by the hand of man. All is quiet. Not much is happening.
Or is more there than meets the eye? The Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority’s recently released Coyote Valley Landscape Linkage report reveals a habitat buzzing with activity not readily apparent from our hilltop view. The report, a collaboration of 18 scientists, hydrologists, and planners, shows that Coyote Valley is a critical wildlife corridor linking 1.13 million acres of key core habitat that is rich with biological diversity, including a number of endangered and threatened species. “This report fundamentally changes the conversation about Coyote Valley,” says Committee for Green Foothills executive director Megan Medeiros. “This is the vision we have been waiting for that everyone should be able to support.”
As the Santa Cruz Mountains on the San Francisco peninsula and the Diablo Range in the East Bay trend south, they slowly converge until, in Coyote Valley, they are barely two miles apart. The close proximity of these mountain habitats across a still largely undeveloped region, makes Coyote Valley an ideal wildlife corridor linking the two ranges. Careful field-based observations confirm that the valley is a rich habitat for cougars, bobcats, badgers and other animals. Fisher Creek in particular is a busy wildlife pathway for animals traveling within and across the valley.
Coyote Valley is not only crucial for supporting wildlife; it also performs important services that support humans. We tend to take for granted the things that wild places provide, but the Coyote Valley Landscape Linkage report, released in June of this year, confirms that Coyote Valley is much more than a lovely sight. It preserves and purifies our drinking water, cleans our air, and provides flood protection to communities downstream.
The future of Coyote Valley—development versus preservation—has been debated for decades. The question was not whether or not industrial and residential development would sprawl south from San Jose, but when. The Coyote Valley Landscape Linkage Report has turned that conversation on its ear. More than saving Coyote Valley, the report proposes to restore much of the valley’s historic wetlands, oak woodlands and riparian corridors. When the plan is completed, Coyote Valley will be a better and safer wildlife corridor, and it will provide local residents important water resource benefits.
Reports have a way of being written, read, then filed away and forgotten. Not this one. The plan is backed by a commitment to raise 80 million dollars of private and foundation funds, and it is being driven by several highly motivated organizations with the resources and dedication to see it through.
Committee for Green Foothills (CGF) is a leader among the forces united to restore Coyote Valley. Self described as Local, Vocal and Effective, since 1962 CGF has won countless victories preserving open spaces, farmlands and the natural resources in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. The evidence is outside your car window as you travel up Interstate 280 and in many other hillsides, beaches, baylands, and farmlands still there to delight you on your daily travels.
Committee for Green Foothills has already been instrumental in the preservation of key habitat in Coyote Valley. It was CGF that caught wind a year ago of the proposal by Panattoni Development to build a 517,000-square-foot distribution center on a 30-acre site south of the Metcalf Energy Center in North Coyote Valley. This huge facility would have been able to load 90 semi trucks at once and would have poured hundreds of daily truckloads onto our already crowded highways.
Though the City of San Jose placed the project on a fast track, CGF insisted on the proper environmental reviews and launched a public outreach effort that brought hundreds of citizens to community meetings. Their persistent efforts resulted in the purchase of the 30-acre site by the Peninsula Open Space Trust. The site near Fisher Creek is now open space; preserved forever.
According to Medeiros, “The Panattoni project would have set the stage for future sprawling industrial development with low-paying jobs. Saving this key habitat has redirected the momentum in favor of preservation.” Committee for Green Foothills and the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority have served notice that the effort to save and restore Coyote Valley has teeth, and development proposals that damage this habitat will face intense scrutiny.
While Committee for Green Foothills will continue its work throughout San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, most of its resources in the near future will focus on advancing the preservation of Coyote Valley. To underscore the importance of restoring Coyote Valley, CGF has brought its annual Nature’s Inspiration celebration to south Santa Clara County.
On Sept. 24, at Coyote Ranch near Metcalf Road, Committee for Green Foothills will honor Joan Baez. Few people have spoken out on behalf of the environment and social justice with more courage than she has. While the event is not a concert, it is a rare opportunity to support the restoration of Coyote Valley and hear from a courageous and thoughtful person in an intimate outdoor setting.
Imagine walking the Arrowhead Loop Trail at Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve a generation or two generations from now. What will we see as we look across the valley? Rooftops and traffic or a living freshwater marsh, restored oak savanna, and wildlife friendly farmland? The plan is written and the organizations and resources are in place to secure a healthy Coyote Valley for the benefit of wildlife and people alike—forever.
Information and tickets for the “Nature’s Inspiration” event on Sept. 24 with Joan Baez are available at The Committee for Green Foothills website (greenfoothills.org). To read the complete Coyote Valley Landscape Linkage Report, visit the website for the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority at openspaceauthority.org.