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Protecting the Biodiversity of Our Common Home

Photo courtesy of the USCCB

By Sister Donna Maria Moses, OP

Since the publication of Laudato Sí, the papal encyclical on caring for our common home, many parishes in the Diocese of San José have formed green teams and environmental justice committees to reflect on the ideas expressed in the document. Parish committees have developed action plans independently to counteract pollution, climate change, drought, loss of biodiversity and global inequality. This spring, the Diocese of San José convened Stewards of Our Common Home, a committee to coordinate actions across the Diocese, and inspire the faithful to become more engaged in caring for creation.

This past June, the California Conference of Catholic Bishops issued the pastoral statement, “God Calls All of Us to Care for Our Common Home,” describing the special features of California environment and critical environmental concern close to home. One of these concerns is the loss of native habitats and biodiversity. According to the California Biodiversity Initiative: A Roadmap for Protecting the State’s Natural Heritage, quoted in the bishops’ statement, “California is home to more species of plants and animals and highest number of species found nowhere else. This richness spans the entire state from the coast to the mountains…and throughout the valleys and deserts.” The need to protect the unique biodiversity of our region has prompted an increased interest in finding creative ways to conserving lands that otherwise would be paved over and developed for commercial or residential use.

Several land conservation projects are underway in Santa Clara Valley and the Santa Cruz Mountain regions. Religious congregations in the diocese are working with conservation groups to protect the biodiverse meadows, forests and gardens from development in the future. Last year, the Dominican Sisters of Mission San José conserved 190 acres of meadows and redwood forest in the Santa Cruz Mountains with the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County. With the University of California at Santa Cruz, the Dominican Sisters initiated the “Puma Project,” to provide “specially protected native species” like the California Mountain Lion, with a safe way to get across Highway 17 and prevent animal-related traffic accidents. Land conservation projects come in all sizes from hundreds of acres in rural areas, to smaller plots within city boundaries. This fall, the Sisters of the Holy Family conserved a 5-acre garden that is home to over two hundred horticultural species and historic native trees with the Garden Conservancy in San Francisco.

Funds like the Sempervirens Fund in Los Altos, provide resources to permanently preserve redwood forests, wildlife habitats, and watersheds that are important special features of our common home. Major projects currently underway in the Diocese of San José are being coordinated by the Silicon Valley Land Conservancy and Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority. God calls us all to care for our common home by supporting local parish initiatives to conserve an interconnected system of wildlands and natural areas throughout the valley, protect native habitats and species from destructive development, and work to restore precious water resources.

For more information on the Stewards of Our Common Home, please contact Marita Grudzen at maritagrudzen@gmail.com.