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2018 Environmental Education Local Hero: Lisa Micheli

Nate Seltenrich, BAY NATURE

Perched on a ridgeline in the Mayacamas Mountains northeast of Santa Rosa, Pepperwood Preserve spans 3,200 acres, protecting the headwaters of three watersheds that feed the Russian River and offering refuge to more than 900 species of native plants and animals. President and CEO Lisa Micheli, who took the helm at Pepperwood in 2009, has led the private preserve’s transformation into “a field station of global significance” recognized by the National Science Foundation. More than a dozen research projects—studying anything from climate change and hydrology to grasslands and phenology—are underway at Pepperwood at any given time, while the preserve and its 9,400-square-foot Dwight Center for Conservation Science also serves as a lab and nature-education center for students and citizen scientists of all ages.

Research, teaching, and outreach have come together at the preserve under Micheli, who holds a civil engineering master’s in Environmental Water Resources and a Ph.D. in Energy and Resources, both from UC Berkeley. In recognition of Pepperwood’s commitment to world-class science, environmental education, and community involvement, Micheli has been named Bay Nature’s 2018 Local Hero for Environmental Education.

Read more at https://baynature.org/article/2018-environmental-education-local-hero-lisa-micheli/

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Threat to Gualala River Dogwood Forest logging ends with court decision

Peter Baye and Rick Coates, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE

“The real problem isn’t going to go away until the Board of Forestry and CAL FIRE follow their own rules, including CEQA. Until they do, we are not going away, either” said Charlie Ivor, president of Friends of Gualala River. “The Gualala River floodplain forest is going to be protected according to law, no exceptions.”

The lawsuit to stop logging the Gualala River floodplain redwood forest tract in the “Dogwood” timber harvest plan (THP) is over. CAL FIRE was ordered by Sonoma County Superior Court to vacate (revoke) the Gualala Redwood Timber Company timber harvest plan on April 18, 2017. CAL FIRE finally responded to the writ sending a “Notice of Director’s Decision Vacating Approval” to GRT’s forester Art Haschak on September 7, 2017, prohibiting any further logging in the Dogwood THP area. GRT must now file a new timber harvest plan if it seeks to log some or all of the floodplain redwood forest in the vacated “Dogwood” THP.

The Dogwood THP was shut down by the Court after logging on one tributary had begun. The five miles of riparian redwood forest along the main stem of the river in the Dogwood THP area has not been logged.In March, the court also ordered CAL FIRE to “reconsider” its approval of the Dogwood THP within 150 days. The Court entered judgment against CAL FIRE on March 23, 2017, based on the agency’s failure to assess any cumulative impacts of another floodplain timber harvest plan submitted by Gualala Redwood Timber during the Dogwood timber harvest plan review period, the “German South” THP.

While environmentalist plaintiffs are celebrating their victory, and the fact that the century-old floodplain redwood forest in the Dogwood THP area will be spared for now, they remain concerned CAL FIRE has not improved or reformed its environmental reviews of floodplain forest logging. The Court ordered CAL FIRE to “reconsider” approval of the Dogwood THP, including direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts to wetlands, rare plants, floodplain forest, and listed fish and wildlife species. But after being ordered to revoke the logging permit, CAL FIRE and GRT made a minimal, nominal effort to meet this order. Rather than substantially reconsider or correct the many basic environmental flaws of the timber plan, CAL FIRE and GRT minimally complied with Judge René Chouteau’s order to “reconsider” its approval by submitting only a single supplemental page, three paragraphs long, with minor changes.

Read more at: Threat to Gualala River Dogwood Forest logging ends with court decision

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California Coastal Cleanup Day coming Saturday, needs volunteers in Sonoma County

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma Coast Cleanup 2017: sonomabeachcleanup.org

Laguna de Santa Rosa and Sebastopol Laguna Wetlands Preserve 2017: lagunadesantarosa.org/volunteer_lagunastewards.html

Petaluma River Cleanup 2017: friendsofthepetalumariver.org/project/conserve

Russian River Watershed Cleanup 2017: russianrivercleanup.org

Santa Rosa Creek-to-Coast Cleanup: srcity.org/2290/Creek-to-Coast-Cleanup

Mendocino County Coastal Cleanup Day: mendocinolandtrust.org/connect/coastal-cleanup-day

Sonoma Ecology Center Cleanup 2017: brownpapertickets.com/event/3042967

Do you find yourself dismayed or even tormented by images of seabirds, marine mammals, fish and other sealife with their guts full of plastic and other trash?

Here’s your chance to help, and it only takes a few hours.

Saturday marks the 33rd annual California Coastal Cleanup Day, an opportunity to rise to the defense of the ocean and its inhabitants by removing litter from local beaches and watersheds before winter rains and storm surges can sweep it out to sea.

Dozens of sites around the North Coast, both inland and at the ocean’s edge, are among more than 870 locations chosen statewide for volunteer cleanup crews to go to work on Saturday.

Locally, they include state and county beaches along the Sonoma Coast, from Jenner to Bodega Bay, as well as public beaches up and down the Mendocino Coast.But in growing recognition of the volume of discarded litter that washes coastward from rivers and streams, dozens of inland cleanups are planned, as well. Targeted waterways include the Russian River from Ukiah to Monte Rio, the Petaluma River, Santa Rosa Creek, the Laguna de Santa Rosa and several Sonoma-area parks and preserves.

“Ideally, this is the day everybody gives back to clean waterways,” Russian Riverkeeper Executive Director Don McEnhill said.

Read more at: California Coastal Cleanup Day coming Saturday, needs volunteers in Sonoma County | The Press Democrat –

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Teri Shore of Greenbelt Alliance recognized as Environmentalist of the Year by SCCC

Teri Shore, a Sonoma Valley resident who spearheaded the 2016 drive to pass Measure K which tripled the amount of community separator open space protected by law, has been named Environmentalist of the Year by the Sonoma County Conservation Council.

She will receive the Ernestine I. Smith Award at the Sonoma County Conservation Action annual gala, on June 10, where Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom will be the featured speaker.

“It’s really moving to be being recognized by the environment community, which is my tribe,” said Shore, the North Bay Regional Director of the Greenbelt Alliance. Shore is also a former reporter for the Sonoma Index-Tribune, where she worked from 1988 to 1990.

But environmentalism has been her mission since 1996, says Shore, when she became “outraged” by a state initiative that would have allowed trophy hunting of mountain lions. “I did volunteer work to stop the initiative – I helped set up forums at the library, I wrote letters to the editor, I worked with the community on the initiative, and we defeated it,” she remembers with satisfaction. “I realized that’s what I wanted to do with my life, and I quit my job and decided to dedicate the rest of my life to working for the environment.”

She began her green education working as a canvasser for Greenpeace International, then directed oceans campaigns at Friends of the Earth, and served as program director at Turtle Island Restoration Network.

She became the regional director of the Greenbelt Alliance in 2015, and set to work codifying an increased amount of acreage to set aside as protected “community separators,” under a program the county supervisors had set up in the mid-1980s with first Sonoma County General Plan. “Sonoma County has been a leader for a long time in protecting open space,” said Shore.

The 2016 initiative that Shore worked to pass reaffirmed voter protection for the system, meaning it would take a majority vote to overturn protected status for any community separator – an area between the cities and towns that are preserved as agricultural land or open space. The initiative also increased the total size of community separators from some 17,000 acres to 53,576 acres of open space and farmlands, protected from subdivision and sprawl.

Read more at: Teri Shore of Greenbelt Alliance recognized with award | Sonoma Index-Tribune | Sonoma, CA

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Sonoma County moves to give rural residents greater voice in local government

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County supervisors Tuesday paved the way for creation of more regional citizens groups designed to give certain unincorporated areas a greater voice in local government and decision making.

The panels are meant to allow more neighborhood-level input and advice on such issues as roads and land-use planning, and result in recommendations to county supervisors, who are the only elected local representatives for many rural areas.

“This is really participatory democracy at its base level,” said Supervisor James Gore, pointing to his experience last year establishing a council for the Mark West area north of Santa Rosa.

While the community does not wish to incorporate, residents there do want to play a larger role in decisions shaping their community, Gore said.

Advisory councils will also help the county better manage small unincorporated communities, where supervisors become “the de facto mayor,” he said.

Supervisors Susan Gorin and Lynda Hopkins indicated they want to establish new councils along the Russian River, the Sonoma Coast and in The Springs area of Sonoma Valley. Some of the same areas — along the river and in Sonoma Valley — were once represented by appointed redevelopment committees, but those entities were dissolved in 2012 when the state eliminated redevelopment agencies.

Read more at: Sonoma County moves to give rural residents greater voice in local government | The Press Democrat

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Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom touts California’s green economy in Sonoma County event 

Martin Espinoza, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday took to a stage in Santa Rosa before a crowd of leading North Bay environmentalists to tout activism and government policies that have made California a global leader in the green economy.

“California is a climate of hope. If you don’t like the way the world looks when you’re standing up, stand on your head, because remarkable things are happening at the local level,” Newsom said.

The former San Francisco mayor is a leading contender among Democrats running to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown next year. He gave the keynote address at Sonoma County Conservation Action’s “Grassroots Gala,” an annual event that honors local environmental leaders.

His remarks came after a tumultuous couple of weeks for the United States on the global stage, punctuated by President Donald Trump’s announcement he would pull the country, the world’s largest historic emitter of climate warming gases, out of the landmark Paris agreement on climate change.

Newsom pushed back on Trump’s contention that pivoting toward a fossil fuel-free world would irretrievably harm the U.S. economy.

“What is so wrong about de-carbonizing your economy? What’s so wrong about what California’s done? Seven years, 2.7 million jobs, 2.9 percent GDP (growth),” he said. “You remember that Goldilocks budget that Trump announced two weeks ago? It’s predicated on 3 percent growth and everyone says that’s not achievable — I say hold on, come out to California. It’s absolutely achievable.”

For many in the room, Newsom’s comments reflected the emergence of a new generation of environmental leaders pushing a movement that seeks alliances with industry. The growth and success of the renewable energy sector, they say, shows the environmental movement can both save the planet and create jobs.

Read more at: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom touts California’s green economy in Sonoma County event | The Press Democrat

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Shamrock sold to Vulcan Materials

Jeff Quackenbush, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

Petaluma-based Shamrock Materials, started six decades ago and one of the largest suppliers of concrete and paving materials to North Bay contractors, has been sold to giant Alabama-based construction-materials company.

With Shamrock, Vulcan Materials (NYSE: VMC) picked up concrete, rock, sand and gravel facilities in Sonoma, Napa and Marin counties, company spokeswoman Atisthan Roach said. That includes ready-mix plants in San Rafael, Petaluma, Santa Rosa, Cloverdale and Napa; building-materials sites in Cotati and San Rafael; and a materials depot on Landing Way along the Petaluma River.

The Shamrock deal, signed March 20, was one of three acquisitions in California and Tennessee that Birmingham, Ala.-based Vulcan closed in the first quarter of this year for $185.1 million, according to Roach and regulatory filings. Further financial details weren’t disclosed.

“This acquisition has provided us a way to get into ready-mix right there in California,” Roach said about Shamrock.

Vulcan is the nation’s largest producer of aggregate rock for construction and California’s largest asphalt supplier. The company also is a major player in supplying ready-mixed concrete in Arizona, Georgia, Maryland, New Mexico, Texas, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and the Bahamas.

Read more at: Shamrock Materials sold to Vulcan | The North Bay Business Journal

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State launches Sonoma Developmental Center ‘site assessment’ 

Christian Kallen, SONOMA INDEX-TRIBUNE

See the Transform SDC website for community and nonprofit input on what should be done with the SDC site and this Sonoma Land Trust article on the importance of the wildlife corridor through the site.

After what has sometimes seemed like an interminable delay, the wheels are starting to turn on the rollout toward closure of the Sonoma Develomental Center.

At least that’s how it looks now that the state Department of General Services has announced that a $2 million contract has been signed with a Bay Area engineering firm to perform a “site assessment” of the 860-acre SDC campus for use after the closure of the facility, scheduled for the end of 2018.San Francisco-based Wallace Roberts & Todd (WRT) entered the contract with the state in mid-April. The first step will be a “kick-off meeting” and team introduction, with the goal to develop a project schedule and define areas of responsibility and research for WRT and its subcontractors.

That meeting was scheduled for Monday afternoon, May 15, at the Slater Building on the SDC property. A final report of the group’s assessments is due in late December, after a number of intermediary benchmarks.

1st District Supervisor Susan Gorin, who’s also on the leadership team of the Coalition to Preserve SDC, said she’s “anxious” to work with the site assessment team and help facilitate community meetings so “they can fully gauge the community’s concerns, interests in eventual reuse of the campus and constraints to development.”

Read more at: State launches Sonoma Developmental Center ‘site assessment’ | Sonoma Index-Tribune | Sonoma, CA

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Sonoma Clean Power, utilities face battle over energy costs

Robert Digitale, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The North Bay pioneered a new type of public energy program in California seven years ago that now appears poised to change who buys electricity for homes and businesses across large swaths of the state.The programs, of which Sonoma Clean Power was an early leader, have expanded dramatically over the past several years.

Their growth is leading experts to examine how well the programs are boosting the use of renewable electricity compared to the private utilities that formerly served the same communities.

The growth is also prompting a face-off between the public programs and California’s three biggest private utilities, including Pacific Gas & Electric. In the dispute, both sides have suggested their ratepayers are getting a bum deal in how the state has set the rules for this new era. For the public programs, the outcome has high-stakes implications because their customers could end up paying considerably more to offset the growing costs for excess power that the utilities contracted for but no longer need.

The public programs, typically known as Community Choice Aggregation, or CCA, agencies, have grown to control about 5 percent of the state’s electricity market, a new study reports. But both utilities and other experts say that number will increase markedly as other communities join the trend.

“I think everyone who’s watching this thinks that there is going to be very rapid growth in the coming years,” said Matthew Freedman, an attorney in San Francisco with the Utility Reform Network, a ratepayer advocacy group known as TURN. Some utilities, he said, have predicted that half their customers could switch to the public programs within a decade.

Read more at: Sonoma Clean Power, utilities face battle over energy costs | The Press Democrat

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Volunteers needed to clean up Santa Rosa Creek

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The all-volunteer Clean River Alliance, which has cleared hundreds of thousands of pounds of trash from the Russian River watershed over the past three years, is enlisting help for a monthlong blitz on Santa Rosa Creek.

Each Sunday in March the nonprofit group and associated volunteers plan to tackle a different stretch of the river tributary, where recent flooding has left garbage strewn in the trees and bushes, mixed in the water and scattered along the banks.

The alliance, founded by Forestville resident Chris Brokate and sponsored by the Russian Riverkeeper, is working in conjunction with the city of Santa Rosa to get as much trash as possible out of the watershed before it can become overgrown by summer foliage or be washed downstream by additional rain, spokeswoman Robin Factor said.

High school students can earn community service hours by participating, but all volunteers should keep in mind that conditions are often steep, muddy and slippery, and some lifting is required, Factor said.

The cleanups will run Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. as follows:

March 12, Santa Rosa Creek at Willowside Road. Meet at the bridge.

March 19, Santa Rosa Creek near Stony Point Road. Meet at a Place to Play city park, 2375 W. Third St. in Santa Rosa, near the pond.

March 26, Santa Rosa Creek near Pierson Street, downtown Santa Rosa. Meet at a Place to Play.

Details are available on Facebook (Clean River Alliance) or by calling Robin Factor, Clean River Alliance Santa Rosa, at 707- 293-8050.

Source: Volunteers needed to clean up Santa Rosa Creek | The Press Democrat