Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Environmentalist wakeup call

It seems to me there is an unsustainable element within the environmental movement here in Humboldt County. The notion that we should all just step back behind the fencing and signs to minimize our impact in order for nature to achieve an often anonymous and unchallenged concept of balance simply cannot work. We have and always will impact our environment, as do all living things. To live is to consume, whether you are an ameba or an eagle.

Walling off areas in a restorative effort seems often counterproductive to what should be a realistic expression of our place in nature. What we are going to have to do is continue to develop ourselves as competent participants.

Once we are excluded from participating in our community and its special places, we and the walled-in areas are isolated. Humans end up contained in smaller and smaller areas and the nature of which we are a part is also segregated from us.


There are many local examples of this type of meddling that from the start were bound to fail. One such example is the Clam Beach snowy plover recovery efforts. First, she had cages built around her. Well, that made a bull's-eye for the crows and ravens. Then the state spent most of its restoration budget the year it bulldozed the dunes and degraded the splendor of our beach and dunes with fences and signs. That hasn't help the plover, either.

Unless we as a community want to start killing the crows and ravens, there won't be any plover fledglings next year, either. Maybe some exploding ink eggs would identify the corvids making a living on plover eggs and chicks. They could then be killed. We would have to agree that the plovers have more of a right to be there than the other birds, who seem to have adapted better to the forever-changed environment. Blaming dogs or pedestrians, horses, cars or the economy while ignoring the main problems is not being a service to the plover or the community who enjoys our beaches and dunes.

The Friends of the Dunes has already restricted some of our traditional trails under the guise of restoring the dunes and protecting the Humboldt Bay wallflower. While pulling the European beach grass has proven to be very effective in aiding the resurgence of the wallflower, the radical increase in rat infestation of some of the bordering Manila residences has been a bit disconcerting. The grass removal has also destabilized the dunes and made some favorite trails more tenuous. The wallflower display this spring was indeed spectacular; yet there are hidden costs beyond the massive labor involved. According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, the risk to the Humboldt Bay wallflower appears decreased, so why close trails that keep us from seeing what we are saving?

What would make more sense to me is a comprehensive monitoring plan. Such a plan would produce measurable effects every five to 10 years that would be used to determine what, if any, changes need to be made in traditional uses. Such a passive adaptive management approach would be far less costly than preparing a plan, “building” trails when they exist already and alienating traditional user groups.

It is ironic, or dare I say hypocritical, that both the State Park at Little River and the Friends of the Dunes in Manila have active plans to pave some of our dunes for parking lots. I say our dunes because my money and yours has been and is spent acquiring and managing these special places.

Restricting community members from traditional trails, yet bringing in bulldozers and asphalt! Who authorizes this stuff?

Also, many of us have seen the ugly orange fence at the Manila Community Center to prevent children from playing on the small dune behind the mowed grassy area. I don't know about everyone, else but I would rather see kids laughing and playing on the dunes than this intrusive eyesore.

I am in no way advocating wanton destruction of our planet. I love my home and my community. I raise a small garden and hang birdhouses. I make sure the deer have a good place to hang out and I recycle. I have thought of myself as an environmentalist all these years, but am being forced to reconsider that alliance.

The conservationists that recognize the need for active human participation in managing the environment are also getting disgusted with the “keep everyone out” and other severe restriction policies that are running rampant.

The family ranchers and farmers, the timber men and conservationists have always been willing to commit to the ongoing work of true husbandry. It seems as though the “lock the gate” folks would rather not really do anything except take our money and often keep a key for themselves. It is just another form of greed.

A sad example of an exodus of support is the North Coast Environmental Center. Regardless as to whether you agree with them all the time or not, they had been a significant force in our community. But when an organization becomes so insular in its way of thinking, it suffocates itself and soon becomes irrelevant. The fact that they are not in the Klamath River talks would have been unthinkable four years ago.

Our home should not be a cage, whether we are looking into or out of it. The planet needs us here, and it needs us to do better, for sure. Walling us off from our local beautiful places keeps us from that possibility. We need to fill our eyes and nurture our souls with the ever-changing beauty any chance we get. We and our children need more chances, not fewer. That's how we do better. That is the symbiotic relationship that we require to be better as a community, as a planet. We are the community, we are the planet. And we are not done bettering ourselves.

Environmentalist wakeup call10/06/2009 Uri Driscoll is a trail advocate living in Arcata and can be reached at humboldthorse@yahoo.com

RESPONSE: ◼ NEC still at the table - Jay Wright - NEC Klamath Campaign Coordinator
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Fresh air - Letter To The Editor/Times Standard

Uri Driscoll's My Word column “Environmentalist wake up call” was a breath of fresh air. A voice of reason that points out the excesses of the professional environmental movement from a supportive standpoint. I'd like to see more of this.

David Callow
McKinleyville
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