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Maps and mountain lions

November 22, 2021 — The Board of Supervisors adopted a map reconfiguring the county’s district boundaries at a special meeting last week. And wildlife organizations are offering to help, after a mountain lion killed two goats on an outdoor school campus in Anderson Valley.

The redistricting effort is a follow-up to the census. It’s meant to even out the population numbers so there is no more than a 10% variation in the number of voters in each district. That’s to ensure fair representation, as is another top criteria, to avoid splitting communities of interest.

Since the last census, the fourth district has lost population, while the third has gained. 

An early draft of the map proposed moving Laytonville from the third to the fourth district, but the community did not support that suggestion. The twelfth draft, which the board of supervisors adopted unanimously on Thursday afternoon, moves Bell Springs Road and part of Spyrock out of the third and into the fourth. In another adjustment, the Brooktrails boundary has shifted to the east. But the Russian Gulch boundary will stay where it is, and southern Caspar will remain in the fourth.

Some more complicated multi-district shifts took place in Hopland and southern Ukiah.

In an effort to make the fifth district more compact, the populated part of Hopland is now in the first district. 

Lief Farr, the county’s mapping specialist, explained some of the Tetris-like rearranging that went into redrawing the map. Sometimes two of the top criteria were at odds with one another, as in a brief consideration to add heavily populated areas on the northern and southern ends of Ukiah to the second district. This would have kept communities of interest together, but bloated the population of the city.

Supervisor Glenn McGourty noted that the new map consolidates an agricultural community of interest, while preserving a multi-party alliance in terms of water interests. “I’m glad that we have the Russian River villages all together,” in the first district, he said, “which are Hopland, Talmage, Calpella, Redwood Valley, and Potter Valley; and finally, I’m glad that the fifth district still comes down into the Russian River watershed, because I think having three supervisors together working on and aware of Russian River issues makes more of an impact to Mendocino County.”

McGourty serves with Supervisor John Haschak on an ad hoc committee to come up with non-lethal solutions to conflicts that humans and livestock have with wildlife. The Board has voted to terminate the contract with USDA Wildlife Services, out of concerns that too many wild animals were being killed. During public comment, Louise Simson, Superintendent of the Anderson Valley Unified School District, told the Board that she has a problem.

On Monday evening, she reported, two goats were killed by a mountain lion, and a third was injured. “I am super frustrated with this process for support,” she told the board. “I was able to get a hazing permit, which allows me to make loud noises at a mountain lion...this is a severe safety issue. The support I’ve been given on this is, build a bigger fence, a twelve foot fence, or build a bigger barn. Well, that’s not feasible. My school district is going to be operating at almost a $400,000 deficit next year. And I need some real time, real solutions to keep my students safe.”

Dr Quentin Martins of Living with Lions, a research and conservation group in the Mayacamas Mountains, called in to caution that killing a big cat could create a territorial vacuum that often results in more loss of livestock. Although the school is in a populated area, he said its location at the confluence of Mill Creek and Donnelly Creek also makes it a prime thoroughfare for mountain lions. He suggested involving students in an educational project to protect the livestock. 

Dr. Michelle Lute, the National Carnivore Conservation Manager for Project Coyote, said she is already working with Haschak and McGourty on the non-lethal program. She applauded Dr. Martins’ idea, sympathized with the superintendent, and offered to help.

“I hear the superintendent’s concerns about limited resources and how much she can change in the setup, but I just assure her that there are resources to help address the situation,” she said. “I like Dr. Martins’ idea about involving the kids in potentially a new project that would enhance the fencing, enhance the security in a number of different ways, so we can definitely talk about how we can all contribute and pool our resources and our expertise to address the situation.”


Audio version of "Maps and mountain lions"


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