Developer James Tong pleads guilty to violating Endangered Species Act

Agrees to pay $1 million to state, county, nonprofit wildlife agencies, provide 107-acre conservation easement

An East Bay real estate developer James Tong, 70,has pleaded guilty in federal court in Oakland to violating the U.S. Endangered Species Act by grading a Dublin development in a way that harmed the habitat of a threatened species.

Tong entered the plea before U.S. District Jon Tigar on Jan. 8 and will be sentenced by Tigar on March 11.

The species harmed by the grading of Dublin Ranch North, a 157-acre project, was the California tiger salamander, an 8-inch amphibian listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Acting U.S. Attorney Brian Stretch said that a result of the federal plea and a separate plea in Alameda County Superior Court in

December, Tong will pay about $1 million to state, county and nonprofit wildlife agencies and provide a 107-acre conservation easement in Contra Costa County.

In the Alameda County case, Tong pleaded no contest in Superior Court on Dec. 18 to a charge of submitting fraudulent documents to the city of Dublin that purported to show he had paid $3.2 million to a conservation preserve to mitigate effects on wildlife caused by the ranch project.

Stetch said that in Tong's federal court plea, Tong admitted that he directed the grading activities at Dublin Ranch North without the city's required mitigation measures and without authorization from wildlife officials. The grading caused sediment to run off into a pond on the adjoining property that provided habitat for the salamander.

Tong's Dublin-based company, Wildlife Management LCC, pleaded guilty during the Jan. 8 federal court hearing to a charge of committing securities fraud by forging the two documents that showed the supposed $3.2 million payment to a Livermore Valley preserve known as the Ohlone Preserve Conservation Bank.

Stretch said that in the federal and state cases together, Tong has agreed to pay $350,000 to the Alameda County Fish and Game Commission, $175,000 to the Contra Costa County Fish and Wildlife Propagation Fund, and $300,000 to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Wildlife Management LLC will pay $175,000 to the nonprofit National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The conservation easement Tong will provide will prohibit future development on a property known as the Brown Ranch, which contains habitat for endangered species. Tong has also put $330,000 into an account for management of the site, Stretch said.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

— Bay City News Service

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16 people like this
Posted by Andrea
a resident of another community
on Jan 14, 2016 at 9:56 am

The fines are hardly relevant in deterring developers of multimillion dollar projects simply ignoring communities or environments that are secondary too their profit or whims. The results would probably be the same under communism.

7 people like this
Posted by Chauffeur
a resident of another community
on Jan 14, 2016 at 10:21 am

No disrespect for the tiger salamander intended, several of which may have died or at least inconvenienced because of this, but the environmental laws are generally unreasonable.

God said:
"God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and SUBDUE it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

Mankind says:
"Don't have children, but have abortions. The birds and the bugs have dominion over mankind. Worship the earth." (Pantheism)

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood

on Jan 14, 2016 at 1:37 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

18 people like this
Posted by McDouche
a resident of another community
on Jan 14, 2016 at 3:29 pm

@Chauffeur - I seem to recall that ruling over something typically meaning that you also have to protect it (thereby not killing it). We're finding so many cases where some obscure species holds a new key developing a new drug or cancer-fighting agent. Seemingly insignificant organisms may also have a cascading affect on their ecosystem that was previously unknown, thus, throwing all local wildlife into flux when all or part of it is removed. The planet took millions of years to reach its current state of equilibrium (between the environment and the flora/fauna), and yet someone wants to build something somewhere, so it's OK to destroy it in days/weeks/years, so long as it supports a profit or other personal gain.

The environmental laws and protective acts are not necessarily unreasonable - it just requires adequate thought, assessment, and planning. That's something that greedy people don't like doing. There's always a better solution than intentional and blatant destruction, it just takes some effort. And it may mean not completing your development in the end.

6 people like this
Posted by Robert Brown
a resident of another community
on Jan 14, 2016 at 5:39 pm

I lived in Berkeley and Oakland during the 60s and 70s. I often had occasion to spend time in Pleasanton which, at that time, was a simply stunning land of pastures and farms. Of course that's all gone, thanks to the developers. "Developer" is a strange word. Exploiter is more like it. They take a land of beauty, like Pleasanton, and replace the beauty with industrial, mass produced housing and shopping malls. If Dante were writing today, I believe he would reserve a ring of Hell for developers as a place for them to suffer God's punishment for their avuariousous destruction of His beautiful creation.

But at this time, in this place, the exploiter all too often becomes wealthy and moves up to the status of landed gentry in an unspoiled, protected wine growing district, where he deplores the ugliness he himself has caused, ridicules those who live in his crappy houses, and then, in his egotistical glory, produces a cult wine and gives interviews to fawning journalists.

Tong is entirely typical in his cavalier disregard of the law and the respectful attitudes toward God's creations that lie behind the law.

2 people like this
Posted by Nosy Neighbors
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Jan 15, 2016 at 8:56 am

Nosy Neighbors is a registered user.

...A Salamander. Really?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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