S.F. Sued for 'Killing' Endangered Species at Sharp Park Golf Course

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He has a family to look after, too
It came as no surprise to city leaders when conservation groups slapped them with a lawsuit today, accusing the Recreation and Park Department of perpetually killing endangered species at Sharp Park Golf Course.

The suit -- which was filed today in San Francisco Superior Court -- is just the latest turn in a tug-o-war between the city and environmentalists over the future of the financially-troubled golf course.

Environmental groups, including Wild Equity Institute and the Center for Biological Diversity, say there is extensive evidence that the city has not protected the California gartner snake and the red-legged frog -- the two endangered species at the golf course.

"It's clear that the city's plan to protect endangered species at Sharp Park has failed miserably," said Jeff Miller, conservation advocate for the Center of Biological Diversity.

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At the center of a custody battle
Documents show -- and city officials admit --  that the city's parks and rec department "missed" some frog egg masses while pumping wetland water - as recently as last week.

But just how many masses have gone unprotected? Well, that depends on who you ask.

Environmental groups say that the department has jeopardized as many as 100 egg masses this winter alone while rec and park officials say only "a handful have been missed over the last five years."

The city drains the wetlands so that golfers can enjoy the course. Yet that puts breeding at risk, the claim states.

"Just yesterday, we found another dead California red-legged frog egg mass at Sharp Park," said Brent Plater, executive director for Wild Equity Institute. "That was the last straw."

Park and rec officials said that the lawsuit was expected after last month's study was released showing the city would save millions of dollars if it restored the golf course as a protected wilderness area. The city released a plan to maintain 18 holes while expanding the habitat for the gartner snake. As we reported last year, the plan would be a money-suck for the city, costing it between $17 and $23 million.

Elton Pon, spokesman for Rec and Park, said the city has identified 159 egg masses for protection over the last year.

"That suggests our practices are working," he said. 

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