I offer this lifeline to all of you who care about Nature, understand the magic it holds, but feel overwhelmed by those who want to rip it all out. There’s hope. But first, some background.

You know the feeling when witnessing the destruction of habitat. Anger, frustration, helplessness. You stare into the abyss and it begins to stare right back, pulling you in, consuming you, darkening your heart.

We’ve all heard the encouraging platitudes. “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” “Behold the turtle; he only makes progress when sticking his neck out.” “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” That last one has never made much sense to me.

In the work I do – as many of us do – to protect other living things who share the earth with us, it is difficult at times not to be absorbed by the darkness and give up.

I’ve tried six times to look away, to give up the fight with the Four Horsemen of Nature Suppression – Burning, Mastication, Herbicide, and Hubris. The pain was just too great. But each time, I was pulled back in, tempted to take another sip by a devilish bartender, descending back into the inferno from which I sought escape. It was killing me.

Not anymore. I’ve finally found a successful rehab program, my seventh, to help me develop the skills, the temperament, to ignore the siren’s call when need be, smiling while turning away and enjoying the beauty of life that surrounds me everyday. The help I needed was all around me. I just didn’t see it. Although my recent counselors, Wren, Schwinn, and Marcus Aurelius, are local, the program they offer is available no matter where you live.

The basic foundation of the program is one the Stoics of Ancient Greece shared with the world long ago – we are responsible for our own sense of worth, we choose how we feel, and only the present moment is the relevant time period in our daily lives. Gnothi seauton, nothing new under the sun, and unconditional kindness fits in there too, but more on all that, and the counselors who helped me understand, later.

The wisdom learned: one can continue to care, to carry on the good fight, but that task must breathe only within a confined space, only when necessary, then locked away to prevent one’s heart from being enveloped by the darkness the task breeds. With the newly available mental space, new tasks emerge to quiet the mind. Gandhi spun cotton. Muir hiked. I began restoring my 1961 Schwinn bicycle, spent quiet hours discovering the lives of Roman emperors, and remembered how to listen to birds.

The male House Wren singing his song, securing his space.

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The little Wren landed on top of the wooden bird house. He’d been singing nonstop in the upper reaches of the oak tree since I’d arrived. It’s been maybe five minutes.

He continued his singing – short bursts, a buzz, then a rapid series of similar notes. Between each short speech, he’d slightly reposition himself on the tiny roof. My camera caught him winking a few times. Then he’d fly off to another high perch, sing some more.

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A beautiful native landscape above Santa Barbara targeted for clearance by Cal Fire.

This remarkable, old-growth ceanothus and manzanita chaparral stand decorates the mountain slopes above Santa Barbara, California. Such chaparral communities support the state’s rich biodiversity, biodiversity that Governor Newsom has claimed he treasures.

However, in action, the governor and Cal Cal Fire have decided it’s not so remarkable.

Beautiful, old-growth chaparral providing both watershed protection and a rich habitat for the region’s remarkable biodiversity.

Cal Fire has targeted this area for “treatment,” an Orwellian term that ignores the ecological damage their actions will cause. Some areas are being disturbed under the pretext that they pose a fire hazard (identified in olive in the Cal Fire habitat target map below). The nearest community is more than two miles away – the most effective fire risk reduction is directly within and around communities. In addition, Cal Fire has also deemed some of this area as needing “ecological restoration” (identified in light-red). Using fire, huge grinding machines, and/or herbicides to eliminate the old-growth stands of chaparral is not restoration, it’s destruction of native habitat.

The notion that a state agency considers increasingly rare, biodiverse old-growth chaparral as somehow needing “restoration” clearly demonstrates the state’s failure to not only understand the basics of ecology, but the deep disregard the Newsom administration has for Nature.

The Cal Fire “treatment” map of the beautiful habitat pictured in the prior photo. The direction of the black arrow shows the direction of the photo. Olive-colored areas are targeted for “treatment” for fire clearance purposes. Light-red areas are targeted for “ecological restoration” because Cal Fire has somehow deemed them to be unnatural an in need of mitigation.

To discover how Cal Fire intends to treat your favorite wild, open space, visit their habitat target map here.

Please support our lawsuit. Our best hope to stop Cal Fire from locking out the public and preventing objective oversight is our ongoing lawsuit. Please make a donation to help with our legal costs. We will take this to the State Supreme Court if necessary, so the costs will be significant.

Cal Fire is Out of Control

Last week (5/4), the California Senate discussed allocating $5 billion over 5 years to fund Cal Fire to log, clear, herbicide, or burn 500,000 acres of habitat per year throughout California.

Under the approved Vegetation Treatment Program, the public will not be able to comment or object to any habitat clearance projects Cal Fire decides to implement.Cal Fire will have free rein and billions of dollars to target every forest and native shrubland in the state.

There are three things you can do to help bring Cal Fire back under control.

1. Become informed. Please visit our website to explore the issue and the recommendations we have made to develop a rational fire risk reduction policy without destroying the natural environment.

2. Contact your state representatives (instructions below).

3. Support our lawsuit. Our best hope to stop Cal Fire from locking out the public and preventing objective oversight is our ongoing lawsuit. Please make a donation to help with our legal costs. We will take this to the State Supreme Court if necessary, so the costs will be significant.

How and What to Write to Your State Representatives

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