Town Hall meeting on Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument

Secretary Sally Jewell splashing across Perkins Creek

Secretary Sally Jewell likes to see — and touch! — things for herself. Before the forum Congressman Thompson escorted her and Undersecretary Bonnie on a hike on the Redbud Trail into the Cache Creek Wilderness, where they forded Perkins Creek and — as Secretary Jewell reported during the meeting — saw a herd of tule elk and unmistakable evidence of recent mountain lion presence. photo courtesy San Francisco Chronicle

by Victoria Brandon, Redwood Chapter Chair
On Friday December 19 Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Undersecretary of Agriculture Robert Bonnie joined Congressman Mike Thompson, Congressman John Garamendi, and other community leaders in a Town Hall meeting at the Napa Community College to gather public input on the proposal for the permanent protection of the 350,000-acre Berryessa Snow Mountain region as a National Monument.

Legislation introduced by Representative Thompson and Senator Barbara Boxer to designate the area as a National Conservation Area appears to be hopelessly stalled in Congress, but President Obama can use his powers under the Antiquities Act to reach the same goal by creating a national monument, sidestepping congressional deadlock.

As was abundantly illustrated by the expert local panel assembled for the Napa event, the region is characterized by outstanding conservation values and a wealth of recreational opportunities. Just a short drive from both the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento metropolitan areas and stretching 100 miles from south of Lake Berryessa to north of Snow Mountain, it contains three federal Wilderness areas and a Wild & Scenic River. Black bear, tule elk, river otters, and bald eagles live there, as do such an extraordinary variety of native plants that it qualifies as a biodiversity hotspot of global importance. Hikers, hunters, kayakers, anglers, birdwatchers, equestrians, waterskiers, mountain bikers, hang gliders, and off-road enthusiasts all have a vested interest in its permanent preservation.

An economic report recently released by the Winters Chamber of Commerce indicates that special designation is also likely to result in increased tourism, providing economic benefits to surrounding communities estimated at $50 million over five years. The new monument will also be eligible for increased funding as part of the National Landscape Conservation System, and the federal agencies that manage it — the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Reclamation — will have the tools they need to work collaboratively.

Even though the Town Hall meeting took place on a rainy Friday less than a week before Christmas and with only a few days advance notice, a near-capacity crowd was in attendance, with the vast majority expressing support for permanent protection as either an NCA or a national monument. Not surprisingly, the Sierra Club was out in force, with a delegation that included national Deputy Director Bruce Hamilton, Sierra Club California Director Kathryn Phillips, Mother Lode Chapter Chair Barb Williams and national Wilderness chair Vicky Hoover among many others. Several of us were fortunate enough to have our cards drawn for a chance to speak at the meeting.

What next? First, let’s thank our visitors from Washington for making the time in their busy schedules to see this special place with their own eyes and to hear our voices: please take a moment to visit berryessasnowmountain.org to add your name to a card of appreciation. Second, let’s make sure the president knows about our support for national monument designation: that’s easy to do from the Redwood Chapter home page, redwood.sierraclub.org. Third, stay tuned for an exciting announcement! When the president decides to act, we’ll make sure you find out right away.

Action Alert: Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument

by Victoria Brandon, Redwood Chapter Chair

Permanent protection of the Berryessa Snow Mountain region has been a top Redwood Chapter priority for a number of years. Only a short drive north of the San Francisco Bay Area in the Inner Coast Range, these very special 350,000 acres of federal lands contain lush forests, wildflower meadows, three designated Wilderness areas, and a Wild and Scenic River. The region is home to tule elk, river otters, California’s second largest population of wintering bald eagles, and the rare Pacific fisher. Berryessa Snow Mountain is a biodiversity hotspot and also a fishing, hiking, camping, birding and horseback-riding paradise.

Under the leadership of Congressman Mike Thompson and with strong support from Congressman John Garamendi, whose district now includes most of the area proposed for protection, we’ve been working for more than five years to persuade Congress to designate the region as a National Conservation Area — but that legislation seems to be stalled in Washington gridlock. So now it’s time to look for another quicker, surer route to the same destination, by asking the President to use his powers under the Antiquities Act to create a Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument.

Stating that “permanent protection of Berryessa-Snow Mountain will ensure the preservation of this special place and will grow the local economy by bringing visitors and jobs to the region year-round,” the national Sierra Club has created an online petition urging President Obama and Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to designate Berryessa Snow Mountain as a National Monument. Almost all of the Monument would be right here in Redwood Chapter, including portions of four of the Chapter’s six local Groups: please take a moment to add your name to the petition to help protect it for the enjoyment of future generations.

By the way, please also take a minute to check out a recent Sacramento Bee op/ed authored jointly by Lake County Supervisor Denise Rushing, Yolo Supervisor Don Saylor, and Solano Supervisor Linda Seifert. These local elected leaders are also urging the President to protect the Berryessa Snow Mountain Region — as a National Monument!

Thanks so much for your help! It really does make a difference.

Celebrating the Point Arena-Stornetta National Monument

By Victoria Brandon, Redwood Chapter Chair

Image On March 11, 2014 President Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act to issue a proclamation adding the 1665-acre Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands to the California Coastal National Monument, allowing the Monument to “walk on shore” (in the words of California Bureau of Land Management Director Jim Kenna) for the first time.

Under the management of the BLM Ukiah field office since 2004, Point Arena-Stornetta is located on Mendocino County’s south coast adjacent to Manchester State Beach and the Point Arena Lighthouse. It includes more than two miles of Pacific coastline with natural bridges, tide pools, waterfalls, sinkholes and blowholes, as well as two miles of the Garcia River, the Garcia estuary, a quarter-mile of beach adjacent to Manchester State Park, and a five-acre island called Sea Island Rocks. The area is recognized not only for breathtaking scenic values, but also for outstanding natural resources that include riparian corridors, extensive coastal wetlands, wind-sculptured stands of cypress, wildflower-strewn meadows, and shifting sand dunes, a varied ecosystem which taken as a whole provides significant wildlife habitat. Otters and seals gambol in the surf, brown pelicans sail by in characteristic single file, and countless gulls and shorebirds call the area home. ImageOverwhelming public enthusiasm for adding this spectacular area to the Monument was obvious last November, when a standing-room-only crowd of at least 300 people crammed into the diminutive Point Arena city hall to welcome Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Congressman Jared Huffman, BLM Deputy Director Neil Kornze, and countless other federal, state, and local dignitaries.  When Secretary Jewell asked if she should recommend that the President give Point Arena-Stornetta Monument status, every hand in the room reached towards the sky (including her own).

On March 12, the day after the Presidential declaration, Secretary Jewell came back to the coast to join numerous other agency officials, representatives of Congressmen Mike Thompson and Jared Huffman, local tribal members, and many community activists in a day of rejoicing at the culmination of so many years of collaborative effort.

Hundreds of people gathered on a headland under a bright blue sky full of wheeling gulls and before a backdrop of crashing surf to hug, cheer, applaud, wave flags and listen to a succession of speakers marvel at the place, and to affirm the solidarity of the community in making this achievement possible.

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Members of the Point Arena/Manchester Band of Pomo Indians opened the gathering with a prayer and dances, and students from Pacific Community Charter School closed it by singing “This Land is Your Land.”

In between Secretary Jewell pointed out that “great places drive local economies” and “it takes a village to make a monument.” She also mentioned President Obama’s belief in our “moral obligation to leave these lands better than we found them,” and along with Mike Boots of the President’s Council on Environmental Quality referred to the President’s fulfillment of his State of the Union promise to “use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.”

This was a day of pure joy, a celebration of a spectacular landscape, of the communities that cherish its wonders, and of the most admirable attributes of this our nation.

TPP Town Hall February 11

Ghosts of NAFTA and the Future of Globalization: Learn about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

The most recent Redwood Needles features an article detailing the Club’s concerns about the TPP, a massive international trade deal that some people have called “NAFTA on steroids.” This agreement carries dangerous environmental consequences for the planet and for our own lives, at home and abroad, and to make things even more ominous, its proponents are trying to whisk it into law under special Congressional “fast track” rules that would eliminate the usual opportunities for debate and amendment.

The Sierra Club wants to stand up for balanced and responsible “fair trade” rather than corporate “free trade,” and to support working families, the environment, consumer safety and sustainable development.

So to spread the word about TPP, in collaboration with the North Bay Central Labor Council, Sonoma County Conservation Action, and other local organizations, we are hosting a free public Town Hall meeting in Santa Rosa on Tuesday February 11. The event will be held from 6:45-8:30PM at the Glaser Center Theater, 547 Mendocino Avenue. Please join us!

Congressman Mike Thompson is under tremendous pressure from the White House to facilitate passage of the TPP, and did not join Redwood Chapter Representatives Jared Huffman and John Garamendii when they and 170 other House members sent the President a letter expressing their grave concerns with the TPP “fast-track” process. Congressman Thompson needs our support to withstand this pressure, so please take a moment to call his district office at 707 226-9898 to let him know that you oppose fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

For more information about the February 11 Town Hall please download a flyer or contact Jesse Swanhuyser at 805 689 1469 — and see you there!

Victoria Brandon
Redwood Chapter Chair

Sonoma County celebrates Wilderness50

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Sonoma County celebrates Wilderness50

On January 28 Sierra Club members led by Sonoma Group chair Dan Kerbein and Redwood Chapter outings chair Carol Vellutini accepted a proclamation celebrating the 50th anniversary of the landmark federal Wilderness Act from Supervisor Shirlee Zane (right front). Sonoma County was one of the first local jurisdictions in the United States mark this occasion, with a resolution acknowledging the “50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act, upholding that proud tradition and resolving that future generations will trek forest paths, navigate winding rivers, and scale rocky peaks as visitors to the majesty of our great outdoors.”

After thanking the Board, Kerbein commented on the invaluable recreational opportunities offered by wilderness areas on the North Coast, as well as their important role in preserving wildlife habitat and protecting our watersheds. “The influence of wild places on our lives and our national identity has been profound,” he said. “During this year of celebration let us recommit to preserving them in perpetuity, for the sake of our children, our grandchildren, and all the generations to come.”

Court Rejects Plan to Clearcut California Redwoods for Vineyard

Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Elliot Daum has rejected a plan to clearcut 154 acres of Northern California redwoods to plant vineyards for a winery. The proposal in northwestern Sonoma County was challenged by the Sierra Club’s Redwood Chapter, the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Gualala River. In response, Judge Daum said the state’s “environmental impact report” for Artesa Winery’s forest-to-vineyard project violates the California Environmental Quality Act.

“The highest and best use of coastal forests is to remain in their natural condition so they can protect our coastal rivers, support fish and wildlife, and combat climate change by sequestering carbon,” said Victoria Brandon, chair of the Sierra Club Redwood Chapter.

The judge found that, in preparing the environmental review for the project, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) failed to properly analyze alternatives that would be less damaging to the environment, such as using an unforested area for the vineyard.The court also determined that the agency did not appropriately address the lost carbon sequestration that would result from destroying the redwood forest. Redwood forests are well known for their capacity to absorb massive amounts of greenhouse gases as they mature over time.

The judge also agreed with the conservation groups that the environmental report wrongly ignored California Board of Forestry policy regarding forest conversions. The board is charged with overseeing forest policy in California and opposes the conversion of prime timberland, like the project site. Finally, the court ruled that Cal Fire failed to properly address the project’s pesticide impacts as well as the noise impacts.

“Rather than be destroyed to make room for a vineyard, this redwood forest will continue to do what it does best – provide habitat for wildlife and remove harmful carbon emissions from the atmosphere,” said Justin Augustine, attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.

“Sonoma County has already experienced a large-scale conversion of natural oak woodlands and inland forests to agriculture. We have drawn a line to stop furtherdestruction of redwood forests and salmon streams for more acres of grapes,” said Chris Poehlmann, president of Friends of the Gualala River.

The project is funded by Spanish company Codorniu S.A., the owner of Napa Valley’s Artesa Winery, and was approved by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Contact:
Chris Poehlmann, Friends of the Gualala River, (707) 886-5182
Victoria Brandon, Sierra Club Redwood Chapter, (707) 994-1931
Justin Augustine, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 436-9682 x 302

  • The Sierra Club works to protect and restore wild places, public health and wildlife for future generations. The Redwood Chapter covers northwestern California. Redwood.SierraClub.org
  • The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 625,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. BiologicalDiversity.org
  • Friends of the Gualala River is a volunteer nonprofit group that advocates for preservation of the Gualala River watershed in Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. GualalaRiver.org

Good News on 10-Mile Dunes – Coastal Commission Rules “No Substantial Issue”

by Linda Perkins, Mendocino Group Conservation Chair

Breaking good news! on November 13th the Coastal Commission voted unanimously to uphold the 10-mile dunes project at MacKerricher State Park. This means that the funding is secure and we can all look forward to watching a recovering Dunes ecosystem. For more details, visit our website: redwood.sierraclub.org

The Chapter blog post on the 10-Mile Dunes last month left you with the news that the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to approve Parks’ Coastal Development Permit and to deny the appeal that brought it to the Supes. Good news!

After that approval, as expected, three individual appellants carried their opposition to the next level by filing an appeal with the Coastal Commission. The primary claim of the appeal is that Parks’ proposed removal of old haul road remnants will deny them access to the ocean and to the dunes systems.

Our position is that the minor recreational use made of the continually disintegrating haul road through the dunes pales in comparison to the benefits that will accrue to protected wildlife species as a result of the planned restoration project. All access points into the Preserve remain open, as do the dunes. And most people continue to use the preferred Coastal Trail along the hard-packed sand at the shoreline – within sight of the ocean. Of course!

Both the Mendocino Group and the Redwood Chapter studied the project and submitted comments to the Coastal Commission in support, as did Congressman Jared Huffman. State Parks’ focus on ecosystem restoration – that includes hand removal of invasive beach grass and ice plant and re-planting of native species – will create an additional 250 acres of critical wintering and nesting habitat for the Western Snowy Plover, restore rare native plants and dune vegetation, and, with the haul road gone, free two streams from the constriction of obstructive culverts. What’s not to like?

Coastal Commission staff reviewed the appeal and issued a 500-page report, 40 pages of which were their “Findings and Declarations”, including their analysis of the appellants’ contentions.

Their conclusion: “Therefore, Commission staff recommends that the Commission find the appeal raises no substantial issue with respect to the grounds on which it was filed.” That’s more good news!

Now that the Commission has agree with Staff’s findings, the permit is approved and Parks can go forward with restoration of this rare and precious piece of California’s natural heritage.

Thanks to all for your letters of support that led to the Dunes being declared the winner!