Kin to the Earth: Dave Feral

October, 2016


Dave Feral entered the world in Sonoma County, growing up as the son of a single mother living in a trailer as a self-described “redneck” in and around Petaluma, California.  He played football in high school, and attended Sonoma State University in his twenties.  He came to Humboldt with his then-girlfriend (now wife) Autumn in the late 90s to work for Redwood Community Action Agency and, soon thereafter, attend HSU to complete his master’s degree in biology.

Dave began Mad River Alliance (MRA) around 2012 after living astride the river watershed in Blue Lake (“BlueCata”) for ten-odd years on small acreage and seeing firsthand the issues the river faced. His love and intimate association with the outdoors motivated his desire to act. MRA and the small like-minded army Dave recruited began to help restore the river through regular cleanup days, and Dave’s small neighborhood army partnered with governmental agencies to fill holes in data sets, establishing and maintaining multiple new water temperature and sediment testing stations up and down the river, and initiating seasonal fish counts with help from community residents.  From the beginning, MRA’s orientation always followed Dave’s own mien:  collaborative rather than confrontational, and solution-focused rather than adversarial. MRA reached out to the schools, bringing children and their parents to the river in kayaks for exploration from the mid-river to its mouth, literally taking local residents by the hand to their watershed to establish firsthand an up-close-and-personal connection.

In 2013, Dave founded Humboldt Steelhead Days (HSD), the original intention of which was to reach out to the local fishing community to bring them into his collaborative vision of a mutual, neighborhood-oriented stewardship of the Mad River.  Like the Oyster Festival, HSD grew organically to become an annual event, partnering with California Trout, Inc. in the Eel River watershed and Mountain Community & Culture in the Trinity River watershed to sponsor events that focused on bringing people to the three watersheds from both inside and outside the county.  Now in its fourth year, HSD has grown to become a three month series of events, far beyond its humble beginnings as a catch-and-release fishing derby. The central goal remains—enhancing the wild steelhead runs on each of its home watersheds.

In addition to his MRA project, for many years Dave has occupied a leadership role on the North Coast Co-op Board of Directors, helping to keep the original consumer-led, people-driven objectives alive and intact, and serving as its board president twice.  He can be seasonally found at the Saturday Farmer’s Market on the Arcata Plaza, fresh-pressing and selling his homegrown apple-strawberry juice, and weekdays making the rounds to local natural food stores as a key local wholesale supplier of fresh live wheatgrass.

The NEC salutes Dave Feral as Kin to the Earth for his tireless work on behalf of local natural and human communities to make our Humboldt County watersheds more vibrant, healthy places.