Tim McKay was a Voice for the Voiceless

August, 2016


From the cover of the North Coast Journal, August 3, 2006.Saturday, July 30, marked the tenth anniversary of the passing of Tim McKay, director of the Northcoast Environmental Center. For many years, Tim was possibly the most hated man in Northwest California, a mantle he carried willingly and proudly.

Timber companies hated Tim because he took offense to the widescale mowing down of the forests and the collateral damage that was visited upon wildlife habitat, water quality and soils. The pulp mill owners hated Tim because he took umbrage with their dumping of toxins into the ocean. Loggers and mill workers hated Tim because they saw him as a threat to their means of making a living and their way of life, a view the timber industry was all to happy to promulgate even as they were automating the majority of mill jobs and, consequently, eliminating those jobs. And he stood up to the barbs that were hurled at him.

The California Department of Forestry and the U.S. Forest Service hated Tim because he would frequently and persistently point out they were not following their own rules and laws. They hated they would actually have to do their job. They hated when he showed up at the public meetings they were required to hold—and Tim went to all the meetings—because he would ask questions they would have to answer. And if they didn’t, Tim called them on it. They didn’t like having to admit that what they said and what they did were not always one in the same. And despite what they said in public, they hurled the hate at him too.

Politicians hated Tim because he was always sticking his nose into their business, which was to keep the economy running smoothly. They did that by making sure there was an uninterrupted flow of processed resources out of the area and an uninterrupted flow of cash into the county treasury. More importantly, they made sure there was an equally uninterrupted influx of cash into their campaign coffers. Tim was a bump in that otherwise smooth road. He would take them to task for proclaiming how important resource extraction was, yet promote practices which led to the decline, if not outright destruction, of those selfsame resources. While many of them put a friendly face on when speaking about or to Tim, there were those who made no attempt to disguise their contempt for him.

The late Sid Dominitz, longtime editor of EcoNews, didn’t hate Tim. But he hated when Tim couldn’t get his monthly contributions to that august publication in on time, thereby delaying getting the newsletter to the printer. Sid also would become quite aggravated with Tim when he couldn’t remember what game was being played or what the bet was at Sid’s Wednesday night poker games. But they had a friendship that lasted longer than either of their respective marriages combined.

But those of us who appreciate the wonderful place we live in can love Tim for all he did for the bioregion, for steering the NEC for three decades, for trying to keep the greedheads and ne’er-do-wells honest. He was a voice for the voiceless. We can remember him every time we look at an old-growth redwood, taste unadulterated water gushing from a spring, surf in an unpolluted ocean, pull a steelhead or salmon from the river. Or gaze at a Cooper’s hawk, the last bird he saw before he keeled over from a massive coronary on July 30, 2006. And we can allow ourselves to hate that he’s gone.

This article was originally published by the Times-Standard.