Coastal redwoods battle heats up along the Gualala River

by Will Parrish, Bohemian.com

The fight to save majestic coastal redwood groves in California has been waged for more than a century, starting with the campaign that created Big Basin State Park in 1902.

A RIVER TRICKLES THROUGH IT According to the EPA, the Gualala River has been “impaired” due to sediment caused by logging. - RORY MCNAMARAIn 1978, the Sierra Club dubbed its successful campaign to expand Redwood State and National Park the “last battle” of “the redwood war,” but the battles to protect this globally recognized icon of nature would only intensify.

In 1985, a junk-bond dealer named Charles Hurwitz engineered a hostile takeover of Humboldt County’s most respected logging company, Pacific Lumber, and folded it into Houston-based investment company Maxxam. Meanwhile, Louisiana-Pacific, a Georgia-Pacific spin-off, was cutting its more than 300,000 acres in Mendocino and Sonoma counties at roughly three times the forest’s rate of growth.

“We need everything that’s out there,” Louisiana-Pacific CEO Harry Merlot told the

Press Democrat in 1989 “We log to infinity. Because it’s out there and we need it all, now.”

This unruly phase of the story involves the birth of radical environmentalism on the North Coast, complete with tree sits and road blockades, and culminates in the campaign to save the largest remaining area of unprotected old-growth redwoods in California, and thus the world: the Headwaters forest, located between Fortuna and Eureka. President Bill Clinton made saving Headwaters an election pitch in 1996, and in 1999 the state and federal governments purchased 7,500 acres to establish the Headwaters Forest Reserve.

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Going dry fast – Part 2

by Will Parrish, Anderson Valley Advertiser

Voluntary Measures

For years, wine industry leaders have opposed regulation on the grounds that it is burdensome and of questionable value. California agribusiness representatives have consistently maintained that they can manage their properties in an environmentally responsible manner without the need for government oversight. In the case of the wine industry, the leading edge of this effort is a marketing and certification initiative called “fish friendly farming” which has certified 100,000 acres of vineyards, including a majority of those that suckle at the banks of the Russian River.

The initiative was developed by the California Land Stewardship Institute (CLSI), a nonprofit organization based in Guerneville.

“I’m not a big fan of regulations,” the group’s executive director, Laurel Marcus, said in an interview. “I think they lead to a lot of conflict.”

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Going dry fast – Part 1

by Will Parrish, Anderson Valley Advertiser

going-dry-fast-300x200In July, roughly 1,000 rural Sonoma County residents overflowed classrooms and small meeting chambers at five informational sessions convened by the State Water Resources Control Board.  It would be hard to exaggerate many attendees’ outrage.  At one meeting, two men got in a fistfight over whether to be “respectful” to the state and federal officials on hand.

The immediate source of their frustration is a drought-related “emergency order” in portions of four Russian River tributaries: Mill Creek, Mark West Creek, Green Valley Creek, and Dutch Bill Creek.  Its stated aim is to protect endangered coho salmon and threatened steelhead trout. Among other things, the 270-day regulation forbids watering of lawns. It places limits on car washing and watering residential gardens. It does not, however, restrict water use of the main contemporary cause of these watersheds’ decline: the wine industry.

“The State Water Resources Control Board is regulating lawns? I challenge you to find ornamental lawns in the Dutch Bill, Green Valley, and Atascadero Creek watersheds,” said Occidental resident Ann Maurice said in a statement to the water board, summing up many residents’ sentiments. “It is not grass that is causing the problem. It is irrigated vineyards.”

In what many see as a response to public pressure, the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, an industry trade group, announced last week that 68 of the 130 vineyards in the four watersheds have committed to a voluntary 25 percent reduction in water use relative to 2013 levels.  According to commission President Karissa Kruse, these 68 properties include about 2,000 acres of land.

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How trees calm us down

by Alex Hutchinson, The New Yorker

In 1984, a researcher named Roger Ulrich noticed a curious pattern among patients who were recovering from gallbladder surgery at a suburban hospital in Pennsylvania. Those who had been given rooms overlooking a small stand of deciduous trees were being discharged almost a day sooner, on average, than those in otherwise identical rooms whose windows faced a wall. The results seemed at once obvious—of course a leafy tableau is more therapeutic than a drab brick wall—and puzzling. Whatever curative property the trees possessed, how were they casting it through a pane of glass?

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That is the riddle that underlies a new study in the journal Scientific Reports by a team of researchers in the United States, Canada, and Australia, led by the University of Chicago psychology professor Marc Berman. The study compares two large data sets from the city of Toronto, both gathered on a block-by-block level; the first measures the distribution of green space, as determined from satellite imagery and a comprehensive list of all five hundred and thirty thousand trees planted on public land, and the second measures health, as assessed by a detailed survey of ninety-four thousand respondents. After controlling for income, education, and age, Berman and his colleagues showed that an additional ten trees on a given block corresponded to a one-per-cent increase in how healthy nearby residents felt. “To get an equivalent increase with money, you’d have to give each household in that neighborhood ten thousand dollars—or make people seven years younger,” Berman told me.

Read more at: How Trees Calm Us Down – The New Yorker