..........."We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect."

 .............respected biologist & philosopher - Aldo Leopold

least Bell's vireo....

least Bell's vireoThe Least Bell's Vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus), is a federally and state listed endangered subspecies. This bird was named by John Audubon for John Graham Bell, who accompanied him on his trip up the Missouri River in the 1840s. This small North American songbird is 4-3/4 to 5 inches (12–13 cm) in length, dull olive-gray above and whitish below. It has a faint white eye ring and faint wing bars. Consideration of the Least Bell's Vireo has been a factor in several land development projects, to protect the riparian habitat that it needs to survive. The decline of the Least Bell's Vireo is mostly due to a loss of this riparian habitat.

According to the Newport Banning Ranch DEIR, two solitary male Least Bell’s Vireos were observed in the willow riparian habitats of the lowland on the project site during the 2009 focused surveys. Two of these birds were also present in the same locations during previous focused surveys conducted in 2006 and 2007.

The proposed Newport Banning Ranch development project would impact approximately 2.74 acres (1.45 acres permanent, 1.29 acres temporary) of undisturbed and disturbed willow riparian scrub and willow riparian forest habitats. Activities associated with the project will impact riparian habitats used by this species.

Vehicular traffic on the proposed North Bluff Road (north of 17th Street) is expected to result in noise impacts within the lowland and upland open space areas. These areas contain coastal sage scrub and riparian scrub/forest vegetation types that provide suitable habitat for the Least Bell’s Vireo. Increased noise levels have been shown to affect some wildlife species when those species rely on sound to communicate, navigate, avoid danger, and find food. Vehicular traffic has been correlated with a reduction in the density of breeding bird populations adjacent to roads.

The North Bluff Road future traffic noise contours identified a worst-case Community Noise Equivalent Level (CNEL) contour of 60 A-weighted decibels (dBA) that extends approximately 220 feet from the road centerline in each direction. The habitats outside the roadway surface/shoulder but within the 60 dBA CNEL contour are expected to have a decreased biological value because of the long-term noise impacts from vehicular traffic on Bluff Road. While vireos/gnatcatchers can often continue to occupy areas subject to noise levels above 60 dBA, other studies have documented significantly reduced reproductive success. The Bluff Road future traffic noise impacts are considered significant. Short-term construction impacts to active Least Bell’s Vireo nests are also considered potentially significant.