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BJ Blanchard: News from Glen Ellen, Nov. 22


Beavers! Who knew we had beavers in our creeks. Apparently so, according to Richard Dale of the Sonoma Ecology Center. They build little dams of stones and rubble, stay for a season and then move on. And have you noticed the river otters, those cheerful sort-of-furry creatures that dip and swim in our creeks?

Looking over the side of the bridge in town the other day, we spied salmon. Chinook salmon, on their way to spawning sites upstream. They’ll die after spawning, and the fry will swim along the same route back out to sea. Steelhead trout are closely related fish that spawn even further upstream. Now that the obstruction is gone along the Stuart Run paralleling Arnold Drive opposite Stone Farm, the chinook can make their way right up Stuart Creek from Sonoma Creek. Free at last, great god almighty, free at last.

So, do these creatures have a healthy environment? Richard Dale says he’d give our creeks a C-minus but improving. The water is clean and shaded with plenty of bushy material for creature habitat. But because we have built close on the banks to the creek, and because the torrents of winter rain race down the creeks cutting into the creek bed like a knife, the banks are eroding and filling the creek with silt and bank material. Those little freshwater shrimp, the ones Jim Berkland used to catch and sell from a bucket to tourists for a penny apiece 50 years ago, are now hard to find and endangered.

That’s not all, folks. Have you heard the great horned owl cooing outside your window at night? Heard a distant coyote calling at sunset? They are here with us too, along with a few mountain lions, lots of deer, and even a black bear with cubs was spotted by camera in the high regions.

Be careful driving through the Sonoma Developmental Center, as that’s the bottleneck wildlife corridor through which our friends navigate to get from one “island” of Sonoma Mountain habitat to another “island” of protection in the Mayacamas.

In other nature news...

Lance Morgan, from up on Warm Springs Road, recently returned from addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Morgan was a blond, tanned, cool beach kid growing up in San Diego and Hawaii before studying Marine Biology at UC Santa Cruz, and later at the Bodega Bay Marine Lab. All this research into coral and sea urchins and fish migration led him into ocean conservation and to becoming president of the Marine Conservation Institute with offices behind a red door in Jack London Village just off Yeti’s patio. The worthy goal of this national organization is to “protect special places in the ocean.” “Protecting” means managing commercial fisheries, controlling oil and gas extraction, and limiting the damage that trawling the delicate ocean seafloor causes.

Recently, the U.S. has made huge progress in this area by protecting the northwest Hawaiian Islands, now Papahãnaumokuãkea national monument. Other countries, too, have pursued the goal with greater or lesser success around the world. So what does this have to do with speaking to the United Nations? It seems the oceans beyond “territorial waters” are the “high seas,” and a vast realm that is virtually unprotected. So Morgan’s presentations to the world community were about working together to create an international agreement to communally protect the high seas. Important areas yet to protect are the Sargasso Sea, an important ecosystem off our east coast; the Costa Rica dome, a biodiverse tropical ocean spot off the western coast of Central America plus the Antarctic and Arctic oceans.

Did you hear? Just last week the Ross Sea/Antarctica – one of the last remaining stretches of ocean on Earth that has not been harmed by human activity – was protected. So for the Ross Sea, at least, there will be no pollution, no overfishing, no invasive species. Pretty good work, Morgan and colleagues.

Morgan lives with his wife, Angela, and their son Bodie, off a curve up Warm Springs Road. You never know when your unassuming young neighbor might have a most interesting story to tell.

Send news and notes to BJ@mabco.com.