The Redwood Transect
Mike Fay, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence
$10 donation requested to benefit RBDA & Sempervirens
RBDA General Meeting
Tuesday March 2, 2010, 7:30 pm
Bonny Doon School Multipurpose Room
Ice Cream Grade & Pine Flat Road
NOTE: This is a Tuesday, not a Wednesday as is usual for our meetings, because of our speaker’s schedule.)
Famed Explorer Mike Fay Talks Redwoods
To call them trees is almost trivializing: particularly the older redwoods are an eco-system of their own, inhabited by unique creatures, some of which never deign to touch the ground. One of the most unique and impressive things about redwoods is that when a branch gets cut or breaks off, or the top is snapped in a storm or the trunk is severed by a lumberjack, a new branch or branches can grow rapidly from the wound. This is triggered by the exposure to light of the living tissue just under the bark, called the cambium. We are probably all familiar with the so-called “fairy rings,” the circle of second-generation trees that sprout from the base of a huge stump. All are genetically identical to the parent, with DNA that goes back thousands of years. In stark contrast to the giant size of the redwood tree, its cones are only the size of an olive, and seeds are seldom produced. This stump sprouting was the main means of the redwoods’ survival during the long decades when they were massively harvested for construction; locally, perhaps most notably to rebuild after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fires. Here in Bonny Doon and in Santa Cruz and Big Sur they were also frequently burned to process limestone for cement.
The value of redwood forests today is enhanced by the fact that they are the best of all forests at capturing atmospheric carbon dioxide and locking it away in their wood. Recent studies have also shown that the older a redwood gets, the more wood it produces each year, even when it is well over a thousand years old. The unique nature and importance of redwood forests will be the focus of the March 2 RBDA meeting, when famed National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and Wildlife Conservation Society conservationist Mike Fay will present a slide show and talk about his nearly yearlong, 1,800-mile trek through the redwood forests of California and Oregon in 2007-2008. Called the Redwood Transect, his journey and findings were presented in the October 2009 National Geographic cover story.
Mr. Fay is a world renowned explorer who is perhaps best known for his precedent-setting Megatransect, a 2,000-mile conservation trek across Africa, which led directly to influencing the country of Gabon to set aside large tracts of land in a national park system to preserve the unique fauna and flora of that western Africa nation. In 2004 Mr. Fay performed an eight month aerial survey of Africa, taking more than 100,000 images (many are available on Google Earth) of human impact on the ecosystems, as part of his decades-long commitment to preserving the continent’s jungles and forests.
Seeking to assess the state of the 700- mile range of the redwoods, he and Lindsey Holm, a self-taught naturalist who grew up in Northern California redwood country, recorded in photos and notes the redwood forests’ fauna and flora, and studied the condition of the forest and streams. They also engaged loggers, foresters, timber company executives, biologists, environmentalists, and local residents and business people whose livelihood depends on the forest.
This is a unique opportunity to hear and see a world renowned conservationist and scientist talk about the health and future of the redwood forests that are such a vital and important part of our Santa Cruz County environment and history.
Frans Lanting, outdoor photographer nonpareil and a National Geographic colleague of Mr. Fay’s, will introduce him.
$10 donation will be requested for the benefit
of the RBDA and the Sempervirens Fund, which has purchased so much of
redwood forest that is now preserved within the borders of Big Basin,
Portola and Butano state parks.
Cemex Plant Closure Opens Questions
In 1903, wealthy “cement king” William Dingee and his partner Irving Bachman recognized the potential of limestone and shale deposits near Ben Lomond Mountain. Cement plant construction began, and production boomed in response to the 1906 earthquake; but Dingee and Bachman, financially overextended, lost their plant to the Crocker Bank.
For decades Bonny Doon limestone has been an ingredient of projects from the Panama Canal to Bay Area landmarks and countless residential foundations. Now the blasts at the quarries and the rumbling Davenport plant are silent, train horns no longer startle railside residents and commuters notice Mission St. traffic flows more easily without the congestion caused by the daily stream of truck traffic to and from the plant.
On Feb. 2, Supervisor
Neal Coonerty asked the
Board of Supervisors to direct the County Administrator’s Office to
report on numerous questions and issues related to the plant closure.
letter identified issues affecting Davenport, as well as the future
Cemex properties, water rights and the closure of the quarries in Bonny
In accordance with the State’s Surface Mining and Reclamation Act, the
is the Lead Agency overseeing the quarry operations. The County Mining
requires Cemex to declare the quarry either “idle” or “abandoned” after
of inactivity, which commenced last March. While idle, an Interim
Plan is required which would have to be approved by Kathleen Previsich,
County’s new Planning Director.
Today, Cemex too, is
but we hope refinancing, not a natural disaster, will save this
corporation from bankruptcy and the company will fulfill its legal
to clean up and restore the quarries.
Process Begun to Increase Rural Fire Service Funding
On January 26, 2010, Cal Fire Chief John Ferreira, Deputy Chief Kathleen Lineberry, and County General Services Director Nancy Gordon, presented a report, tinyurl.com/y9paay6, to the County Board of Supervisors suggesting that County Fire funding be increased from the $2.85 million allocated in fiscal 2009- 2010 to as much as $4.64 million in 2011- 2012. The report set in motion a chain of events that may bring the issue of funding residential fire service in rural Santa Cruz County to the voters some time in the next year. Though that may seem a long way off, the issue has many complexities, so the time is now for Dooners to start educating themselves. We need to understand what is County Fire, how it is funded, how it spends its money, and to understand what fire protection we need.
What is County Fire?
County Fire is synonymous with CSA48 (County Service Area #48). CSA48 covers almost all of rural Santa Cruz County that is not served by a fire district. Nearly all of CSA48 is within State Responsibility Areas (SRAs) where Cal Fire is mandated and funded by the State to prevent and fight wildland fires, such as our Martin and Lockheed fires, all year.
County Fire was established to provide local fire, emergency, and medical response in CSA48. It has both Cal Fire employees under contract to the County and volunteer professionals. County Fire is governed by the Board of Supervisors and managed by the full-time Cal Fire chiefs of the Santa Cruz/San Mateo unit.
Locally, Bonny Doon Fire & Rescue, who continue to pursue the formation of a Fire District, houses 6 vehicles at two stations. County Fire’s new Fall Creek Station in Bonny Doon is an “Amador” station which provides an engine, under the County Fire contract with Cal Fire.
How Is County Fire Currently Funded?
County Fire can be funded from property taxes, from a ½% sales tax, and from service area parcel fees.
The parcel fees that help support County Fire are based on Fire Flow Units (FFUs). Undeveloped residential parcels are apportioned one unit and a residence is apportioned a second. Large commercial landowners are apportioned more units.
For a hypothetical home in Bonny Doon assessed at $400,000, County Fire receives $248 in property taxes, and $124.58 in current CSA48 fees.
County Fire expects to spend $3.80 million in fiscal 2009-2010, and take in $2.85 million in revenue; it has been running deficits for some years. In 2007, a proposal to increase the CSA48 fees by 84% in order to produce another $800,000 in revenues was rejected by voters.
The deficit has been covered from the County Fire Fund, whose surplus is projected to be exhausted by the end of 2010- 2011.
How County Fire Spends Its Money
The Supervisors chose to cope with the failed 2007 ballot by 1) reducing paid staffing at County Fire stations, and 2) vitiating the vehicle replacement program. After LAFCO’s 2008 rejection of the Bonny Doon Fire District Proposal, County Fire shifted staffing and added the station in Bonny Doon.
Slightly less than 2/3 of the current $3.8 million budget (and of the highest cost option among projected scenarios) is for professional services – the cost of the Cal Fire contract for County Fire. To raise the $4.6 million projected for the highest cost option in 2011-2012 would require raising an additional $1.8 million in revenue annually.
Where The Process Stands
What the Supervisors ended up approving was a $30,000 survey to ascertain what County Fire residents would be willing to pay for and to guide the choice between a ballot requiring approval by 2/3 of all CSA48 voters, or one requiring a simple majority of landowners, weighted by FFUs.
The earliest a vote would be possible is summer, and the latest, very early in 2011. Director Gordon hopes that County Fire will soon hold public education sessions.
All the options for County Fire are couched in terms of how it spends its money, omitting what “adequate rural fire protection” would look like to rural residents. Not only do Dooners need to zoom into the complexities suggested above, we must zoom out to the fundamental issue of what we would like fire protection to look like in Bonny Doon, and how best to achieve it.
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