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Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Frog and Snake Claims Won’t Upend Golf Course

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A federal judge has dashed attempts to ban lawn mowers and golf carts from a golf course that is home to the Californian red-legged frog and the San Francisco garter snake, which are threatened and endangered species, respectively.

Wild Equity Institute led a team of nonprofit conservation groups in a lawsuit against the city and county of San Francisco, seeking a preliminary injunction under the Endangered Species Act to stop all water pumping at the Sharp Park Golf Course and to ban the use of golf carts on the ninth through 18th holes of the course. The conservationists claim that water management at the course has exposed frog eggs to the air, killing them, while lawn mowers and golf carts routinely run over adult frogs and snakes.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston found, however, that the conservation groups had failed to meet their burden of showing that tha animals faced irreparable harm.

"It is uncontroverted that the local frog population is increasing," the 15-page ruling states. "There have been no reported sightings of the snake in Sharp Park in three years. When there is a significant question as to whether a listed species even exists in an area, the plaintiffs have a high burden of showing that the species will be irreparably harmed absent an injunction."

San Francisco and Sharp Park officials have told the court that they constantly monitor the frog population and try to protect the snakes with measures such as a new "no-mow" zone. They also suspend golf play if a snake or frog is seen.

The conservationists could provide the court with evidence of only one vehicle-related snake death at the course, which occurred six years ago.

Activists and Sharp Park have been at odds for years, before the species were even listed on the Endangered Species List. Sharp Park is located in a residential area of Pacifica, south of San Francisco. The 417-acre park was built in 1930.

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