News

Going dry fast – Part 1

by Will Parrish, Anderson Valley Advertiser

In 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.

Continue reading “Going dry fast – Part 1”

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

A brief history of the first Redwood Park

by Alicia K. Gonzales, Santa Clara Magazine

How Andrew P. Hill and Robert Kenna, S.J. helped preserve the California redwoods.

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Photo by Andrew P. Hill, courtesy of History San Jose.

Coast redwoods are among the wonders of the natural world. Alas, by the end of the 19th century, most of Sequoia sempervirens in the Santa Cruz Mountains had been felled for timber. But saws and axes spared some giants thanks in part to lifetime friends and Santa Clara classmates: photographer Andrew P. Hill and college president Robert Kenna, S.J.

Read the article at: Santa Clara Magazine – Sections

Colorful protest of tunnels under ancient trees

Forest Unlimited

Many friends of the ancient trees and their ecosystem visited Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve on Sunday, May 4 to protest the California Department of Parks and Recreation’s proposed water system developments there. After they learned of threats to the redwoods from new water wells, surface trenching, and underground tunneling among the trees in the natural reserve, local citizens joined together and visited the woods to express their concerns.

The weather was beautiful, the trees were majestic and the park employees were very helpful making sure everyone found the correct trails. Everyone was enthusiastic about having an opportunity to do something to protect the forest and people exchanged stories with each other about how the woods were part of their lives.

Guerneville resident, Linda Lucey stated, “The regulations posted at the entrance to this grove state, natural scenery, plants, and animal life are the principal attractions of most state parks. They are integral parts of the ecosystem and natural community. As such, they are protected by Federal, State and Park laws. Disturbance or destruction of these resources is strictly forbidden.”

“We respectfully refrain from disturbing even a twig in this reserve,”Lucey further stated. “Why doesn’t State Parks follow the same Federal, State, and Park laws that we follow? Do the benefits of more water for visitors outweigh the risks of harm to the old growth ecosystem the visitors come to see? How much is this project going to cost us taxpayers? Why won’t State Parks hold a scoping session so we can understand exactly what is going on?”

Protesters handed out informational flyers at the visitors center and then, walked quietly through the beautiful redwood grove, some dressed as large trees. Their object was to draw attention to what until recently some say have been the very closely held development plans of State Parks.

Many people from the local community, including members of Forest Unlimited, participated in the event. Everyone shared serious concerns about the impacts that State Park’s plans will have on this delicate and now rare ecosystem. All the park visitors encountered by the participants in the protest expressed interest in learning more about the state’s plans and were very supportive of protecting the Natural Reserve.

Continue reading “Colorful protest of tunnels under ancient trees”

California State Parks postpones Waterline Improvement Project at Armstrong Woods

Press release, California Department of Parks and Recreation

Guerneville, Calif.—California State Parks announces that the proposed Waterline Improvement Project at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve will be postponed. The department determined that a long-term planning document, referred to as a general plan, will be prepared and approved before moving forward with improving the existing antiquated and failing water system in a portion of the reserve, so as to ensure that the Reserve is properly planned.

This will allow public input and a cohesive vision assessing the framework for interpretation, resource stewardship, facilities, visitor use and operations of the Reserve.

Contract negotiations for consultant work on the General Plan are expected to be completed this month. Until the General Plan is completed and approved, California State Parks will continue maintaining the existing waterline system at the Reserve.

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