From EARL BROWN
April 27, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California
Healthy communities depend upon healthy natural environments. We cannot survive long without water and the systems that keep it fresh and flowing.
Rivers and streams are full of sediment from timber harvest, mining, agriculture, urban development, and mostly roads. It is essential that the public be educated in natural systems and what a healthy watershed is. In the past one hundred years human encroachment into our watersheds has created many negative conditions that are now the jobs of the future. The salmon (Coho and Chinook) are listed as either Threatened or Endangered, under the Endangered Species Act, in many watersheds and in some areas the steelhead trout is listed as well.
The polarity between agri-business and environmentalists, between politicians and environmentalists, between business and workers, resource exploitation and making a living is pulling at the fabric of our communities and stimulating division, fear and aggression.
A public access center where information regarding Mendocino County’s stream, rivers and watersheds would be kept and made available would be a valuable asset for the community is several ways. The collection, synthesis and dissemination of information to the public would increase voter awareness of environmental issues; The Center could be a training center for unemployed and displace workers; it could provide Summer Youth employment and entry level skills building jobs for those just starting in the working world; work closely with Employment Development Department, MPIC, and other job training and placement services; help create and test environmental curriculum for local schools and beyond; provide landowners with information and other services to meet their environmental needs; and provide civil leaders with current and meaningful information on environmental issues. Repairing the damage to our watersheds, streams and rivers is a source of many jobs in the near future.
There is a dearth of environmental training opportunities from qualified sources although some advancement has been made in grades K-8 for nature based curriculum. In his book Last Child in the Woods Richard Louv coins the term Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD), noting the trend of children spending less time in nature and an increase in behavioral problems. Jane Goodall’s program Roots to Shoots is being taught in many impoverished areas of the world and is now making its way into American schools. An example of good environmental curriculum, based in local watersheds is A Child’s Place in the Environment and can be found at Lake County Office of Education. Other curriculum such as Project Wet and Re-Leaf are good for urban areas where access to natural areas is limited to parks, urban streams, and field trip to “the country”. Even with programs such as school gardens and fish in the classroom it is not enough. There is a dire need for the development of additional curriculum for environmental education in our schools, more opportunities for children to be out in full sensory contact with nature and more support for teachers and administrators seeking to bring nature back into our schools.
Not only children, but adults, need environmental education and direct sensory connection with nature. Adults as decision makers regarding environmental issues are uninformed, disconnected and unaware of how natural “living” systems work and therefore are incapable of making correct choices. Raised to see the board feet in a tree rather than the tree itself has left people incapable to see the other services a tree has to offer. As the sensory connection with nature deepens within the individual the more they understand we are all connected in inexplicable ways, to each other and to nature. This increased awareness of the importance of naturally functioning ecosystems combined with their own direct experiences with nature gives our voters and civic leaders the information needed to make wise choices concerning development, water usage, pollution enforcement, resource extraction and law enforcement. Awareness of how natural systems work and our dependence upon them also leads to the realization that there is a lot of work that needs to be done to protect, enhance and rehabilitate our watersheds.
Repairing the damage done to our watersheds and natural systems will require the work of thousands, if not millions, of people trained to work in and with natural systems. In Mendocino County alone there are years of work, for hundreds, if not thousands of jobs for properly trained people, in ecosystem management and restoration. Between the years 2000 and 2004 the Mendocino County Department of Transportation, via the Board of Supervisors, participated in a revolutionary study with five other counties that ignored political boundaries and based a drainage survey of their county road systems (not state highways or freeways) for sediment delivery into watercourses. The project was grant funded and titled, “The 5 County Effort” involving Mendocino, Humboldt, Trinity, Siskiyou and Del Norte counties. The results for Mendocino County are complied in the “D.I.R.T. Database” and kept at Mendocino County, Department of Transportation. Over 8000 individual “sights”, or places where sediment was transported to a watercourse via the road drainage system, were identified/located, assessed for past, present and future sediment delivery with individual data forms, located with a Global Positioning System (GPS) for electronic mapping and given a specific treatment to eliminate, or minimize, the sediment delivery at each site. Material alone, to refit Mendocino County road drainage systems to meet, not exceed, environmental law is over fifty million dollars, not including labor and administration.
As large a number as eight thousand may seem, while conducting this surveyors (myself) witnessed tens of thousands of sediment delivering sites from private roads, residential and industrial alike. Much of the sediment from private property is conducted to watercourses by the county road drainage system. Dirt roads are responsible for up to 60 percent and more of the sediment reaching stream channels. Due to human impacts soil loss has become accelerated to the point of becoming an environmental hazard, as outlined in Section 303-d of the Clean Water Act. This sediment is filling in the pool habitat in streams, reducing flow capacity and increasing the frequency of flooding, removing deep cool water increasing water temperature, clogging spawning gravels and adversely affecting aquatic macro-invertebrates, which help form the base of the riparian food chain and necessary for healthy naturally functioning watersheds. Even if the County’s road system was hydrologically invisible (zero negative impact- no delivery) there would be no visible, or I believe measurable, difference in the quality of our rivers and streams; the magnitude of sediment from private property far exceeds that from the county roads.
This is not to support the County’s refusal to fix the road system but to identify a job source for the next one hundred year, or more. Soil loss due to timber practices, mining, construction sites, agri-business farming, fire fighting (fuel load management), and more contribute to the degradation of our watersheds and rivers. Many jobs in the future, if we choose healthy natural systems and communities, will be in healing the damage caused by short sighted plans and goals. In order to properly address the environmental health of Mendocino County and build a job base upon watershed protection and rehabilitation we need to change local governance. The old paradigm of growth and consumption as a way to economic health is quickly being shown to be the fraud it is. We cannot grow our way into the future and only a sustainable worldview will buy us the time to develop new methods and institutions that will preserve future generations. This also indicates a need to localize our economy and develop alternative currencies and barter systems. We need to demand local democracy and not be satisfied with the “for sale” pseudo-democracy we constantly have to watch-dog with the “I want to be somebody” politicians we try to hold accountable. We need leaders who have a long range vision, an appreciation for life and at least some connection to future generations.
A watershed center could gather, organize and disseminate reliable, non-biased, information to civic leaders, social groups, activist groups, schools, business leaders and interested public, leading to informed local management and purposeful voting on issues. It could be the hub of “green job” creation and coordinate with schools, local service agencies such as the Mendocino Private Industry Council (MPIC), the Arbor, and the Employment Development Department (EDD) to provide education programs, on-the-job training, work crews, summer youth, youth intern opportunities and much more. Work in our urban streams, the Russian River, county and regional parks could also be aided through the watershed center. It could be an attraction for visitors to the area wishing to learn about Mendocino County watersheds, eco-tourist destinations, and other ecological interests they may have.
A Potential Community Development Plan for the Masonite Site – Part 1→
Eco-Train, Rail and Depot – Part 2→
Ecologically-Oriented Tourism – Part 3→
Rail to Trail – Part 4→
Autonomous Waste Water Treatment System – Part 5→
Community Interpretive Watershed and Visitor’s Center – Part 6→
Food Processing Facility – Part 7→
Small Diameter Pole Processing Mill – Part 8→
Fiber Processing and Re-Manufacture Mill – Part 9→