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Group Pushes To Preserve South Bay's Coyote Valley

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) -- A huge open space in the South Bay between south San Jose and Morgan Hill is the focus a new $80 million plan to preserve the area.

Coyote Valley is referred to by some as the country cousin to Silicon Valley. It's a little wild and a bit rural, and there is a growing movement to try and keep it that way.

Andrea Mackenzie is the executive director of the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority, which has just released a 70-page report titled "Coyote Valley Landscape Linkage."

When asked what made her so confident that the organization will be able to pull the preservation project off, she said, "I don't know if we're so much as confident as we are hopeful and audacious."

It's a blueprint on how to link 1.1 million acres of open space between the Santa Cruz Mountains to the west and the Mount Diablo range to the east by focusing on the 2,000 acre swath right in the middle.

Officials have learned animals use this relatively narrow corridor to travel to and from each mountain range more than they thought.

In the past year, researchers have stepped up efforts to track the animals using GPS collars and wildlife cameras.

Tanya Diamond works with the group Pathways for Wildlife. She has counted up to 11 bobcats crammed into the area.

"They're great commuters," said Diamond. "They have their routes and pathways that they tend to use."

Along with the bobcats, there are also deer and the valley's namesake coyotes. But researchers found the winter's heavy rains have flooded some of the routes.

"If you're a coyote bobcat, or deer, you can't take this anymore and you're forced to cross over the road. And that's a problem," said Pathways for Wildlife's Ahiga Snyder.

The authority says up to 70 animals are hit and killed by cars every year. They will be pushing to build more animal crossings.

What's more, as winter rain collects in the northern Coyote Valley, it recharges the groundwater supply for much of Santa Clara County.

Altogether, the authority says it makes a compelling argument for conservation.

The Open Space Authority says the research that went into the new report has given officials something they didn't have before: the big picture.

Armed with data, they're ready to talk with the 15 or so families that own the critical 2,000 acres of private land.

"We have the full picture now that can inform our conversation with willing landowners and the city," said Mackenzie. "We feel like we can design a win-win for wildlife and our urban communities."

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