News From the Center - Dec 2014/Jan 2015
Winter, Water, Celebrations
After a long, dry spell, rain has returned to the North Coast—bringing much needed water to our rivers and providing relief for this fall’s salmon run. While grateful for what we have received, the rainfall so far has been just a drop in the bucket in terms of alleviating drought and replenishing water supplies. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the vast majority of California is still classified as being in a severe drought and reservoirs throughout the state are still declining. On top of it all, weather predictions for the months ahead are not too hopeful. Even as we celebrate the rain, we must stay focused on efforts to achieve a more reverential relationship with water. That is to say, we need to treat water as the essential, finite resource that it is and put an end to wasteful ways that seem to presume an infinite supply of Earth’s most vital substance.
Water was a major theme in the November 4 midterm elections with Proposition 1—California’s Water Bond—front and center on the ballot. Several months ago we reported our worry that the bond was moving in line with favoring population centers and desert-based agriculture in Southern California at the expense of Northern California’s rivers and residents. In looking at election results by county, it seems that most voters within what would be the State of Jefferson have the same concern. Although the majority of the voting populace in Northern California voted against the bond, the rest of the state (with the exception of Calaveras and Inyo County residents) decided otherwise with more than ample votes to pass the Proposition.
Although there will be some tangible benefits with funding specifically earmarked for watershed protection and restoration projects, the approved bond prioritizes funding for “storage projects” over water conservation, efficiency and access to safe drinking water for disadvantaged communities. Whether the bond will fund controversial surface dams and reservoirs remains to be seen—though it is likely that there are some big fights ahead. Regardless of the projects that are able to move forward, one thing is clear: the bond will not likely solve California’s deep-seated water woes any time soon. As such, it is even more imperative that we engage on a regional scale toward conservation action, stand together against the outdated era of dams and diversion, and keep on working towards a water-wise future for all.
Local Election Elation, National Electile Dysfunction
In terms of local, pro-conservation representatives and initiatives, the relatively scant crowd of Humboldt County voters who managed to turn out to the polls made a good show of it. Community advocate and general go-getter Natalie Arroyo resoundingly defeated tea-party-inclined incumbent Chet Albin in Eureka’s 5th Ward—an outcome that will help provide much-needed balance to a previously one-sided city council. NEC friends Sofia Pereira, Mark Wheetley, and Paul Pitino were the victors in the Arcata City Council race.
Supported by a smorgasbord of family farmers and anti-GMO activists, Humboldt County voters gave the thumbs up to Measure P—prohibiting the growing of transgenic crops. Props to Collin Fiske and the rest of Pro-P campaign for a great job rallying the masses!
The North Coast also faired fairly well with the election of Mike McGuire to represent the 2nd California Senate District and Jim Wood to represent the 2nd California Assembly District. Jim will be standing in for Humboldt’s own termed-out assemblymember (and former NEC director) Wesley Chesbro. Many thanks to Wes for his leadership on key conservation issues and for always being an upstanding voice for our region!
And in one of the few conservation-minded victories at the federal level, we are of course extremely pleased to see the unquestioned re-election of US Congressman Jared Huffman. We offer our support and wish him luck in the years ahead.
With the exception of California’s North Coast and a few other isolated areas, many key election victories throughout the rest of the United States went to climate change deniers drooling at the thought of pushing through even more fossil fuel extraction projects to line the corporate/political coffers (Check out the Eye on Washington on page 8 for more national election analysis). No doubt there is a huge amount of work ahead if we are ever going to achieve a meaningful change in our national political leadership and steer us away from impending climate disaster.
Collaborating to Combat Trespass Grows
In addition to our work addressing the environmental impacts of marijuana operations at the policy level, the NEC is working as part of a community coalition formed to clean up grow sites on public lands in northwestern California. As part of the Northern California Reclamation Coalition we are working with several other organizations throughout the state: High Sierra Volunteer Trail Crew, Integral Ecology Research Center, the Watershed Research and Training Center, Trinity County Resource Conservation District, and Redwood Community Action Agency.
Over the past several months, NEC staff joined up with other members of this dedicated crew remediating trespass marijuana grow-sites on public land. The environmental impact of these sites is severe: dammed up creeks diverted through countless miles of black poly pipe; swaths of trees and shrubs hacked to the ground; erosion-prone hillsides pockmarked with trenches; and extremely toxic pesticides dumped throughout the area—killing off wildlife and polluting water. There are hundreds of known sites out there and it is going to take a concerted effort with the help of agencies, organizations, and other individuals to clean up our public lands and prevent the establishment of new operations in the first place.
We believe that community action is key to not only clean up the sites, but to call attention to the issue and move the conversation to how we can solve this very complex and pervasive problem.
Mixer and Movie Night
Join the NEC and Backcountry Press for an end-of-year mixer and movie night at the Arcata Playhouse on Thursday, December 11. Join us for the premiere Humboldt County showing of Wrenched—a documentary exploring how Edward Abbey’s anarchistic spirit and riotous novels influenced the environmental movement of the 1970s and ‘80s. Mixer starts at 6:30 p.m., movie at 7:30 p.m. followed by a discussion.