SPRAWLDEF is the Sustainability, Parks, Recycling, and Wildlife Legal Defense Fund
SPRAWLDEF is a non-profit corporation created to take on environmental issues that others cannot or would not pursue. It is primarily focused on legal action. It has successfully sued agencies and cities over misguided landfill projects and development projects. A major focus of its work is on creating and protecting wildlife corridors in our urban environment to ensure wildlife can have access to the public park lands to survive and thrive. SPRAWLDEF seeks to redress the imbalance created by the massive human footprint on the environment and the fragile state of our wildlife and habitat caught under that footprint.
Sustainability is a key question in all environmental issues. In this age of climate crisis, there are voices who call the sustainability of human civilization into question. SPRAWLDEF works to apply the global concern with sustainability to the local context. For example, in its work on Parks, SPRAWLDEF challenges the suicidal notion of unlimited luxury development and calls for preservation of habitat where our children and their children can delight in nature. A major sustainability issue is Recycling. We humans dump most of our unused materials (“trash” or “waste”) into landfills. Too often these are located in wetland habitats that form some of the most important ecological sites for wildlife. SPRAWLDEF has filed litigation and supported environmental activists to limit landfill expansion and impose dumping fees that pay for the purchase of open space. The survival of wildlife is a key aspect of sustainability. SPRAWLDEF works to create natural corridors so that wildlife can have the geographic range that species need to feed themselves and reproduce. For details, read on.
On the Western shore of Richmond lies Point Molate, a gem of open space. SPRAWLDEF is fighting along with the Richmond community to save this land as a park with its hills filled with wildlife including hawks and cougars, open space for future sports fields, and other recreational opportunities. SPRAWLDEF has funded lawsuits to stop the back room deals that the city council has tried to engineer to allow for massive luxury housing development at the site which would create a huge traffic congestion at the Richmond San Rafael Bridge. The site should be a regional park and is in the East Bay Regional Park District’s master plan for a park.
SPRAWLDEF’s lead attorney Norman La Force is fighting for Pt. Molate in coalition with the Sierra Club, Citizens for East Shore Parks (CESP), the Native Plant Society, and Friends of Molate Park, among others.
A second campaign in which SPRAWLDEF is playing a role is a critical long-term effort to reduce the fire risk in the Oakland/Berkeley hills by abatement of eucalyptus and other highly flammable non-native species on the regional park interface with residential areas. SPRAWLDEF has launched litigation and public advocacy with UC Berkeley, the City of Oakland, the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD), the Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA), and others to achieve an ecologicall sound and cost-effective option for fire security in this area.
SPRAWLDEF’s engagement with recycling issues dates back to an important lawsuit, Tam vs. City of Fremont, in which SPRAWLDEF co-founder and long-time recycling activist David Tam sued the City of Fremont over deficiencies in its Environmental Impact Report for a new waste processing transfer station and contract that would have exported its garbage out of Alameda County, resulting in lost revenue for recycling and open space programs inside the county. Tam’s attorney in this matter was SPRAWLDEF co-founder Norman LaForce. Settlement funds won in this victory formed the initial funding for SPRAWLDEF in late 2004.
A second recycling campaign undertaken by SPRAWLDEF was the multi-year effort to stop the unnecessary expansion of the Potrero Hills landfill, which actually operates inside the boundaries of the Suisun Marsh in Solano County, the largest wetland in the entire state of California. After winning two major court victories proving a fatal flaw in the initial project Environmental Impact Report, and re-instating results of a citizen initiative limiting the importation of garbage to this county, SPRAWLDEF’s campaign to save Suisun Marsh was stopped cold by “designer legislation” authored by the current sitting Treasurer of the State of California. This last minute bill precluded our efforts to limit this landfill expansion, and effectively banned future efforts by other citizen groups.
One of SPRAWLDEF’s strategic aims is to create a wildlife corridor in the Diablo Range. A coalition to Save Tesla Park is a key building block in this projected corridor. Tesla Park is a historic former town site and home to rare species in the hills east of Livermore. In this work, SPRAWLDEF also works with the Altamont Landfill Open Space Committee (ALOSC) to fund a variety of open space projects in this area.
SPRAWLDEF has a very strong track record using litigation – or sometimes just the threat of legal action – to negate or correct actions that would harm the environment or negatively affect issues valued in the organization’s mission statement. Our frequent partner in many of these legal actions has been Kelly Smith, an environmental attorney working primarily out of Sacramento.
SPRAWLDEF is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. If you like what we are doing, please consider making a tax deductible donation to SPRAWLDEF today.