By Fred Allebach
The City of Sonoma is proposing to amend the Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District Management Plan for the Montini Preserve to allow leashed dogs. According to the city’s own biological review, the impact of dogs on the preserve’s wildlife and habitat will be wide-ranging and significant. Two good reasons to oppose this amendment are based on land use ethics and failure of control issues.
The opportunity to enjoy and interact with nature, in and of itself, is a valuable resource in an increasingly dense urban area. Renowned naturalists Edward O. Wilson, Aldo Leopold, John Muir and Henry David Thoreau, provide a solid basis for values and philosophical precedents supporting a preservation-based land ethic for the Montini Preserve. Wilson notes we are in the midst of the human-caused Sixth Great Extinction. Is this not motivation enough to keep our human desires and effects out of a nature preserve? Enough is enough.
Plainly stated, domestic animals disturb and alter nature. The point of the preserve is to emphasize and highlight nature. The preserve’s ultimate controlling document, the conservation easement, is strong and meaningful and weighs in favor of preservation.
The arguments in favor of dogs are specious compared to Leopold’s land ethic. What we are seeing is an appeal to more tourism and a prior, private quid pro quo deal that 10,000 voters and taxpayers never agreed to. Must ethical land use be balanced by diminished stewardship practices? Dogs, mountain bikes, what next?