Kin to the Earth: Diane Beck

August, 2016

Diane Beck has long been an inspiration as a member of the North Coast environmental community. Known for her fierce advocacy and reasoned approach to complex issues, her work (all of it volunteer) has had a profound positive impact on the lives of everyone who is privileged to call the North Coast home. 

Raised in North Hollywood, CA, Diane received her B.A. from UCLA in European History in 1957. She moved to Berkeley and then earned a Masters in French History in 1960. Diane’s pursuits were primarily literary, working with Bancroft Whitney as a copy editor for two years and then as a manuscript editor at the University of California Press for 10 years in Berkeley. Following a year in Europe, Diane returned to become a founding member and owner of a new bookstore, University Press Books in Berkeley. Always a champion for justice, Diane was active in the anti-Vietnam War movement. 

Along the way, she married and among other activities, she and her husband enjoyed camping in Mexico in a VW bus. Long before it became cool, Diane and her husband were riding motorcycles (her beloved husband passed away in 1972). The bikes Diane chose to ride—Ducatis—gives one an insight to her character. Ducatis are beautiful, mechanically and physically demanding, high-strung bikes that reward commitment, expertise and fearlessness and punish (often painfully) ham-handed, overly cautious riders. These are the very same traits that have made Diane so effective as an environmentalist; she is absolutely committed to a cause, up to the rigorous intellectual and physical demands of the work, is an expert in the field, and is absolutely fearless when it comes to protecting the environment. 

Her environmental activism started when Reagan was elected president and appointed James Watt (number six on Time magazine’s 10 worst cabinet members of all time) as Secretary of the Interior. In response Diane joined the Sierra Club in 1981. Her activism began when she moved to Humboldt Country in 1991. 

Through the 90s Diane worked in various ways (along with EPIC, Earth First!, and many others) to save the Headwaters Forest. For her efforts, she was arrested twice for civil disobedience and saw the Headwater’s Forest Preserve established in 1999.

As those familiar with Diane’s work know, most of her accomplishments have taken place under the aegis of the Sierra Club. In that capacity, for many years she traveled bimonthly to Willits and Santa Rosa for Redwood Chapter meetings and retreats, not to mention speaking at meetings including as far away as Southern California when the circumstances demanded. She also represented the Sierra Club as a member of the Board of Directors of the Northcoast Environmental Center (NEC) from 1996 to 2006. 

As a member of the Northwestern California Bureau of Land Management Resource Advisory Council from 1998 to 2010, she worked on a number of issues. Of particular note is her success in getting motor vehicles off Black Sands Beach, located on the Lost Coast just north of Shelter Cove. In order to accomplish this, she traveled widely, speaking at public meetings, where she was (in the beginning) one of the very few who were against motor vehicles on that beach. This was not a popular issue at the time. Similarly, she was a primary force—along with Sue Leskiw and the Redwood Region Audubon Society—in getting motor vehicles off of Clam Beach in 2006. This took years of documenting vehicle tracks, testifying at meetings, and enlisting others to speak and write about the dangers that speeding trucks, motorcycles, and ATVs posed to both people and wildlife (primarily, the endangered snowy plovers). 

Diane served as the Sierra Club’s North Group representative to the Redwood Chapter from 2000 to 2005 and was Redwood Chapter Conservation Chair from 2005 until 2016. As such she contributed to the successful campaign to stop logging in Bohemian Grove (opposed by some of the most powerful men in the US), was successful in preventing many forest-to-vineyard conversions, and contributed to protecting over 1700 acres of coastal forests on the Mendocino and Sonoma county lines. She also worked (along with many others) to help pass the Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act of 2006, which protects in perpetuity 42,585 acres of the King Range National Conservation Area. In addition, she found an attorney and money to fight the disastrous practice of salvage logging in the Big Bar area after the Big Bar Fire in 1999. She also worked diligently with other California Sierra Club Chapters to develop a position  paper of recommendations on Klamath dam removal.

Diane has worked closely with Elk River and Freshwater Creek residents in trying to get Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) limits for their rivers from the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. Among other things, this work requires exacting written comments made to public agencies. The task is unglamorous, unsung, and critically important. Despite this, Diane has always stepped forward when needed and has written numerous comments expressing the Sierra Club position on local environmental issues. When it comes to protecting the environment, Diane unflinchingly does what is required—from being dragged off in handcuffs to the lonely task of writing comments hunched in front of the computer late into the night.

Diane has fought and continues to fight for our local forests, streams, and wildlife. She fights not for herself, but for the generations to come. She has not, will not, and cannot be intimidated by those who would destroy our rural way of life and our children’s legacy because of greed and selfishness. She does it because she cares and has never received a single dime of compensation for her thousands of hours of work.  She does it because she loves this planet, the North Coast, and the plants, animals, and people who make it such a rare and special place to live. She is truly a Kin to the Earth.

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