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Mendocino County Today: February 15, 2013

THURSDAY MORNING'S PRESS DEMOCRAT contained a minor masterpiece of grammatical Stalinism followed by Nice Person Stalinism, Mendo style. Discussing the hiring of former Willits City Manager Paul Cayler to be Cloverdale's (interim) manager, Cloverdale's mayor, Joe Palla, said Cayler had not been fired by Willits. “Fired is not a correct verbiage,” said Palla. “It was more that he was released from his contract, based on the fact they wanted to move in a different direction. It's very common with city managers and in some cases, police chiefs.” The Willits City Council, however, conceded that Cayler had been fired after issuing a weasel-lipped press release that they'd “chosen to pursue a different direction with regard to the City Manager position.” Councilperson Holly Madrigal, a Very Nice Person, told the Press Democrat she couldn't say what that new direction was because “it's a personnel matter.” Which it isn't. A new direction, strictly speaking, is geography, even if Willits is headed in one without Cayler who wasn't fired but released from his contract, and to say he was fired is not correct verbiage.


A MADMAN’S DEFENCE (sic) August Strindberg. By Jeff Costello

“Women: Can’t Live with ‘em, Can’t Live without ‘em” might be all that needs to be said about this 19th century account of Strindberg’s marriage, the events leading up to it, and his conviction that his wife was consistently, deliberately, working to drive him insane.

I first read of Strindberg in one of Henry Miller’s “Tropic” books - I think - pages about his favorite writers, those who influenced him. But I’d never run across anything by S. until I found this one in a free pile at Gate 5 in Sausalito.

The author starts out by saying “This is a terrible book,” and that he regrets having written it. One eventually sees why he said these things, but not because it’s a terrible book. It’s true that the reader gets no satisfaction at the end but that’s because neither does the author. As movie critics sometimes say of film characters, there is nothing to like about this writer, or his wife for that matter. But the writing is great. You are dragged along with him, in and out of dark insanity and bright romantic love. His greatest enemy, besides maybe his wife, is his own nature.

Strindberg, already by this time a published writer and playwright of some repute, makes much of his own propriety, his public and self-image and manly pride, which of course he believes the woman is out to destroy. He meets her as the “Baroness,” the wife of a low-grade military hack with the nominal title of baron. He becomes close friends with them and nature takes its course as the baron has an affair with ... let’s say, a less difficult woman.

Some people think too much and a lot of them write it down, but very few have done it this well. It might take a reader a little courage to admit that yes, I have thought and done such things too. No spoilers here on the ending.


THREE PEOPLE have filed for election to fill the one open seat on the Fort Bragg City Council left vacant by Dan Gjerde, now serving as Fourth District Supervisor. Madeleine Melo, Heidi Kraut and Derek Hoyle. The special election, by mail, concludes May 7. Mrs. Melo, of course, is the widow of Jere Melo, a long-time member of the Fort Bragg City Council and former mayor. Ms. Kraut manages Coast Hospital's thrift store and is a notary public. Derek Hoyle served as an interim director at the now defunct Coast branch of Big Brothers and Sisters. He is a Fort Bragg Planning Commissioner and hosts a music show on KZYX.

Melo, Kraut, Hoyle
Melo, Kraut, Hoyle



DISGUSTING BUT TRUE that poachers are preying on the steelhead run in the Garcia, claiming that as Native Americans they have the hereditary right to nature's bounty. The fish runs in Mendocino County rivers have been precarious for years; a scooping up the few returning fish for whatever reason, and this one is completely bogus, negates all the efforts to help bring the fish back. Here in the Anderson Valley, steelhead in encouraging numbers are presently massed at the Greenwood Bridge where they're waiting for another big rain to get upstream to lay their eggs and back down stream and out to sea. But someone has been gill netting those fish, meaning that person or persons will largely destroy this season's steelhead reproduction if they aren't caught.

TEN YEARS AGO now I saw a two-foot steelhead trapped in a pool about a hundred yards from the headwaters of Jimmy Creek, which is darn near to the top of the Ukiah Road (Highway 253) on the Boonville side of the hill. That fish had made it all the way to its ancestral home from the Pacific Ocean at Navarro, a gauntlet of industrial wine draws much of the way, not to mention the array of natural obstacles she'd had to elude to survive to get home. That intrepid piscine traveler demonstrated to me that the in-County fisheries could be restored with a little more help from their friends, and a serious crackdown on their enemies.


THE WARBLER, WEEK 3. By Will Parrish

As of this writing, The Warbler has been nesting in her 4'x8' plywood perch overlooking Highway 101 south of Willits, at the southern interchange area of CalTrans' long-proposed freeway bypass, for 15 days. On Day 14, this past Monday, she got her first reported visit from an actual yellow warbler: the easily identifiable buttery-yellow or warm-yellow birds (the color tone depends on gender) who remain relatively abundant in the Willits Valley.

At least for now.

The yellow warbler perched for several minutes in a blue or black oak tree very near the tree sit. Warblers enjoy wet thickets, which the Southern Interchange area of the proposed bypass route certainly is. One of the Willits Valley's six primary creeks, Haehl Creek, mean­ders in a northerly direction past The Warbler's stately and increasingly well-known ponderosa pine, before curving to the west about 200 yards north.

The creek ultimately merges with Baechtel Creek slightly north of where CalTrans' proposed superhigh­way crosses East Valley Rd., not far from the Willits Post Office. Baechtel Creek drains into Little Lake on the north end of the valley, which then discharges into one of the largest remaining coho salmon runs in Cali­fornia: Outlet Creek, a mighty 116-mile tributary of the mainstem Eel River.

As I wrote in the AVA last month, construction of the CalTrans Bypass would require vast destruction of Little Lake, as well as the wildlife – including yellow warblers – that depend on it. The prospective killing of these wetlands, which have defined Little Lake Valley's iden­tity for millennia, followed by construction of a freeway over the wetlands' corpse, has outraged countless locals.

The destruction of Little Lake is the basis of a Clean Water Act lawsuit the Willits Environmental Center, Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club, and Environmental Protection Information Center filed in an effort to halt the project, with the suit slated to be heard in federal court in early-June.

Another charismatic animal that depends on these wetlands are an enigmatic herd of tule elk who recently moved down into Little Lake following migration through the Sherwood Mountains. Once abundant throughout Northern and Central California, the elk had not been seen in Willits in several decades. Nature pho­tographer Chris Hansen their reappearance in June. Around 10 of the elk are reported to be living in the wetlands as of this writing.

Tule elk are protected under separate federal and state laws, though they are not listed as endangered. Thus, CalTrans likely will not have to account for them in their mitigation schemes.

Recent days have also brought an increasing number of visits from a definitely non-native species, one who usually carry guns and are adorned in Navy Blue or beige rather than buttery-yellow. The California Highway Patrol has visited the site several times in recent days, most often apparently just to keep an eye on things. In one case, they snapped photos of member of the tree sit's ground support crew and removed a sign that pro­testers had affixed to CalTrans' No Trespassing sign.

The day before the CHP arrived to snap photos, at least three of their squad cars were observed in the parking lot of CalTrans' brand-new office headquarters at 300 East Hill Rd in the early-evening hours It is certain that CHP officers are consulting with CalTrans officials on how to police the tree sit most effectively, and also that they will take part in an eventual effort to extract The Warbler from the tree.

For the first two weeks of the tree sit, relations between the Mendocino County Sheriffs and the tree sit were exceptionally cordial. Yet, on the morning that this edition of the AVA was headed to deadline, Sheriffs Deputies visited the site and issued an ultimatum to a young woman and man who have been camping at the base of the tree that they will need to leave or be arrested. The Sheriffs, too, snapped pictures. Rumors are now flying that CalTrans and cops are gearing up for something bigger.

Meanwhile, the tree sit continues to galvanize considerable support and generate publicity. As more than a few long-time locals have commented, this is the greatest level of coordinated opposition to the Bypass in the half-century since CalTrans first proposed it.

On Sunday, roughly 50 people turned out at Little Lake Grange for a discussion about the Bypass with Javier Silva of Sherwood Valley Rancheria and the Potter Valley Tribe. Silva was the founding director of the Environmental Department at Sherwood Valley Rancheria, located east of Willits near Highway 20. He put the CalTrans Bypass into a context of colonialism and geno­cide, which has put into place a society addicted to speed and based on exploitation and destruction of the natural world.

Redwood Valley Pomo elder Barbara Graumann expressed that she took part in the event as a show up support for Silva. “As an elder, it’s my responsibility to stand behind our young people when they are out speaking the truth,” she explained. “By standing behind Javier, I’m showing that I endorse what he’s saying as being true.” Graumann offered a prayer song to conclude the event.

Graumann’s daughters, Corine Pearce and Nicole Graumann, also shared powerful words explaining their involvement in opposing the CalTrans Bypass. Corine has been a regular and steady presence at the tree sit, also representing the movement to Save Little Lake Valley as part of the regional. She led a prayer song circle on the morning the Warbler’s Tree Sit began.

One of the likely reasons the police have not dealt with the tree sit in a more heavy-handed way is that it enjoys broad support from people in Willits. Willits City Councilwoman Madge Strong, for instance, has been a regular presence at many of the organizing meetings and has drafted a coalition letter to regional political officials urging their intervention to stop the Bypass. Several years ago, roughly 90 percent of businesses in Willits signed on to a letter opposing the Bypass.

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat will publish a feature story on the tree sit in the next few days, though the story of the tree sit yet to be picked up by any of the other dominant Bay Area media sources.

The CHP allowed the sign they took down from CalTrans' No Trespassing sign to remain on-site. It reads:

“Property of the People of California

* No Cutting Trees

* No Destroying Wetlands

* Sustainable Farming, Forestry, and Ranching Encour­aged

* Responsible Hikers, Bikers, and Birders Welcome

* No Trespassing by Agents of State or National Corpo­rations or Bureaucracies

"Live Free or Die”

* * *

NEARLY THREE WEEKS after it began, news of the Willits Bypass tree-sit protest is being reported in the Bay Area media at the East Bay Express's news blog, Jed Diamond's blog at Huffington Post, KQED Radio News.

SOME LINKS to Bypass protest coverage in the outside world:

• Breaking news report at East Bay Express’s news blog

• Jed Diamond’s summary on Huffington Post:

* * *

On Wednesday, Feb. 13, CalTrans Resident Engineer Geoffrey T. Wright and several CalTrans employees began surveying and measuring areas for a barbed wire fence around The Warbler’s tree sit and a locked gate across the access road to the site. CalTans will try to starve out The Warbler!

We are hearing that Caltrans is prepared to make a move re: building a gate across public access road to cut off tree sit from support.

PLEASE BE ON ALERT! Within 24 hours of CalTrans’ construction of the fence and gate, we will mobilize a demonstration against their move toward cutting off The Warbler’s access to food, water, and other vital supplies. The rally will gather at Evergreen Shopping Center, and drivers will be organized to bring people to the treesit site.

If you would like to receive a phone call about the demonstration, please e-mail your name and number to We will also post the time and date of the demonstration here as soon as it is ready to be announced.

Although the access road to the tree sit is public land, Geoffrey Wright and company claim it must be cloed to the public. There have been no construction activities yet, but they claim it is an active construction zone, which, according to CalTrans, legally trumps the right of the public to assemble there.

In his brief conversation with members of the tree sit’s ground support crew, Wright also claimed that CalTrans has received approval from the Army Corps of Engineers to begin construction of the freeway. We have not yet independently verified Wright’s claim.

Ironically, as he turned left across Highway 101 onto the access road on the misty pre-Valentine’s Day morning, Wright nearly caused a deadly accident. According to multiple witnesses, Wright abruptly slowed down after having been driving 55-60 MPH, forcing the woman behind him to slam on her brakes and swerve around him, spinning out on the shoulder of the highway. She wound up with her car facing the opposite way. Witnesses reported the incident to the California Highway Patrol, but they failed so much as to take a report on it.



Tuesday, February 19, 2013
7:00 p.m. Ukiah Civic Center. Come see a live Peregrine Falcon on Tuesday, February 19, 7pm, Ukiah Civic Center. Peregrine Audubon is bringing local expert, Art Haschak, to talk about raptor identification, conservation and the art of falconry, including the equipment used to train and fly falcons.  Haschak will have his current bird, Sis-sis, a captive bred Rocky Mountain Anatum Peregrine, that he has flown on ducks, pheasants and sage grouse for the last six years. Starting at 16 he has spent the past 41 years working with raptors. We will learn about the various species that he has trained and bred. Most notably Haschak has made contributions to both the Harris Hawk and Peregrine Falcon breeding and reintroduction programs. There will be ample time to ask questions.  This Peregrine Audubon sponsored presentation is free to the public, though donations will be welcome. The Ukiah Civic Center is located at 300 Seminary Ave. To join Peregrine Audubon Society and receive a newsletter with regular announcements about programs and field trips, please send $20 to PAS, P.O. Box 311, Ukiah, CA 95482. For more information on a wide variety of topics related to birding in Mendocino County and to sign up for email notifications please go to

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