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.

Image

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

Image

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!

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell visits Stornetta

Aside

by Victoria Brandon, Redwood Chapter Chair

On November 8 the California coast put on a tremendous show to welcome Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell: the sun was shining, surf pounding, blowholes spouting, and humpback whales breaching.

Secretary Jewell came to Point Arena to hold a town hall meeting to discuss the community’s vision for the permanent protection of this outstandingly scenic area, and specifically to get their reactions to the proposal to add the Stornetta Public Lands to the California Coastal National Monument, a proposal that the Sierra Club strongly supports.  In July the House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 1411, Representative Jared Huffman’s bill enabling the Monument to “Expand onto the Land,” and S. 61, a companion bill sponsored by both of California’s Senators is under consideration in the other chamber.

Public enthusiasm for this idea was demonstrated by a standing-room-only crowd of at least 300 people who crammed into the diminutive Point Arena city hall to welcome the secretary, Congressman Huffman, and BLM Deputy Director Neil Kornze, and countless other federal, state, and local dignitaries. Members of the Point Arena/Manchester Band of Pomo Indians opened the gathering with a prayer and a dance, followed by students from Pacific Community Charter reading their own poetry and singing “This Land is Your Land.” In response, Secretary Jewell thanked the Stornetta family for their stewardship and vision, and went on to recognize that “communities know lands that are special, lands that have nurtured people for thousands of years. “ When she asked for a show of hands on recommending that the President use his powers under the Antiquities Act to add Stornetta to the Monument should Congress fail to act, the expression of support was instantaneous and unanimous — including that of the secretary herself, whose hand reached towards the sky.

Despite the remote location, several dozen Sierra Club representatives attended this inspiring event, including Redwood Chapter Conservation Chair Diane Beck, Mendocino coastal activist Linda Perkins, Deputy Program Director Michael Bosse, and national Wildlands Committee member Angel Martinez. I had the privilege of appearing at the podium on behalf of the Chapter to thank Secretary Jewell for visiting the North Coast, express the Club’s enthusiastic support for the permanent protection of the Point Arena-Stornetta area by including it in the monument, and present her with 1800 signatures on a support petition that the Club had circulated in an online campaign.

Next step: we’re all looking forward to making another journey to the Mendocino coast for the dedication ceremonies.