We accomplished an incredible amount of work this year, thanks to the support and involvement of our members across the county. Following on months of hard labor protecting waterways after last year’s Firestorm and helping to coordinate rapid response funding for fire-impacted neighbors, here are some of our major accomplishments over the last 6 months:
In the November election, Sonoma County voters overwhelmingly supported providing money for the maintenance, repair and opening of parks in our cities and the county. SCCA played a big role in making this happen – we knocked on 10,000 doors and spoke with voters at their homes about the benefits of this funding measure. 72.6% of voters countywide supported the measure, giving a strong mandate to our elected officials to continue support for parks. The success of the measure will translate into a projected $12 million+ annually in dedicated parks funding to county and city parks. These funds will be used to beautify and maintain our precious parklands and provide the funding to keep them pristine for future generations.
When our members vote, we win! In this November’s election, 75% of the candidates endorsed by SCCA were elected into local office. This was even higher than our historic average of 71% over the last 28 years. By getting environmental champions elected to office, we help to ensure that the environment has a seat at the table, and that the community is heard in local decision making. These candidates enter into office knowing that we will support them, AND that we will also hold them accountable to their promises to our community.
SCCA does not stop once the election is won. We will be here with you over the years to hold their proverbial feet to the fire, ensuring that our City Councils and Board of Supervisors continue to protect our natural resources and protect the needs of our community.
We have succeeded in passing bans on glyphosate products (RoundUp, RangerPro, etc.) and other synthetic pesticides in several cities in the county so far, and we are are continuing forward to others to ensure that public spaces are safe for our children and residents to play, picnic, walk, and breathe. So far, Santa Rosa, Windsor and Sebastopol have adopted bans. Petaluma and Healdsburg are close to eliminated, with glyphosate in median strips currently. Next up, we will focus on Rohnert Park, Cotati, the County unincorporated areas, and neighborhoods in Cloverdale. As scientific concerns grow, the urgency of this campaign grows.
Over the years, SCCA has worked to pass Urban Growth Boundaries around 9 out of 9 cities in the county. We will continue to protect these lines as they come up for re-election, and defend the lands outside the line from development. Meanwhile in the wake of the Firestorm, we are actively engaging with cities to ensure that the Rebuild process is resilient and the construction of new housing focuses this development in downtown areas near to transit. This will create vibrant urban cores in our cities, while reducing cars on the road and the Greenhouse Gases that fuel climate change.
Measure M, Sonoma County Parks for All, won with over 72% of the vote! This was achieved through support of the SCCA canvass knocking on over 10,000 doors around the county. Also, SCCA-endorsed candidates for City Councils and SRJC Board of Trustees had a 75% success rate in the November election! Additionally, of our few candidates who lost, all but 2 lost to incumbents (which is a higher hurdle). We are very pleased with the local make-up of our Councils and expect stronger environmental action from them in the coming years.
After many weeks of reviewing applications, conducting interviews and research, SCCA is excited to announce our endorsements for the 2018 November election! The names below represent forward thinking leadership on conservation and broader environmental policy in Sonoma County. We hope that you will take our endorsement under consideration as you make your voting decisions this November, and vote for the environment and better communities. (more…)
On Wednesday night, September 5 2018 the Town Council of Windsor voted unanimously to ban the use of all synthetic pesticides, effective immediately. This decision is the result of over a year of work initiated by a local Windsor resident, Rosa Gray. Rosa noticed the Town spraying a walking trail across from her house and was worried about possible exposure to her small children. She reached out to Sonoma County Conservation Action for help in convincing Windsor to use a less toxic approach.
Pesticides including weed killers (herbicides) are commonly used in public spaces in Sonoma County for routine weed control. Synthetic or man-made pesticides are long-lasting toxicants in the environment, linked to many human health problems. Children are particularly vulnerable to toxicants like pesticides. Many are known carcinogens (cancer-causing) and endocrine disruptors, which affect development and reproductive health in both males and females.
Early support of this effort came from Council Member Deb Fudge. The first step Windsor Public Works took toward protecting residents from accidental exposure to the pesticides being used was to put up signs before and after spray events. The signs helped residents avoid recently treated areas and also spread awareness around pesticide use in the community.
This awareness created public support for a formal discussion at the September 5th council meeting. Conservation Action joined forces with many Windsor residents including members of the local Windsor Wellness Group, and representatives from a variety of local non-profit organizations including Daily Acts and Families Advocating for Chemical and Toxics Safety (FACTS). There were over a dozen testimonies from area residents, some scientific and fact-based, others emotional, all encouraging the Town to not only ban RoundUp (glyphosate) but to ban ALL synthetic pesticides.
We applaud the Town of Windsor for doing what they can to protect people, pets, and the environment.
Contact us if you want to learn more about how you can help your City or School become toxic free!
Conservation Action celebrated a victory last week when the City of Santa Rosa banned the use of synthetic pesticides like RoundUP in City public spaces. Volunteers for the Toxic Free Future campaign have been working with the City to adopt nontoxic landscape methods for several years.
The City’s decision came on the heels of an August 2018 San Francisco court verdict ordering Monsanto, the maker of RoundUp, to pay a school maintenance worker with terminal non-Hodgkins lymphoma $289.2 million for failure to warn consumers that exposure to RoundUp weedkiller can cause cancer.
Thank you to all of our volunteers and public officials who made this change possible. This work will better protect our children, pets, workers, and the environment from unnecessary toxic exposure.
Contact SCCA if you want to learn more about getting your favorite park or school to go toxic free!
by Chris Grabill, SCCA Board Member
More than 100,000 acres burned in the October wildfires, including hundreds of homes along Sonoma County’s streams and creeks. This scale of disaster has a sizable and devastating effect on our water sources.
As winter rains pick up, they add the serious danger of hazardous materials entering our waterways, soils, and groundwater.
The burn area includes 617 streams and creeks, each with numerous damaged home sites in water runoff zones. Clean up efforts are moving as quickly as possible, and we are grateful for Cal Fire’s efforts — but the enormous extent of the fire damage often means that high priority hazards can be overlooked.
For example, days before our first rain, electrical wires lay scattered in Mark West Creek, along with arsenic- and creosote-pressure treated wood debris from 38 different bridges.
Based on our local knowledge, relationships with landowners, and our direct link to state cleanup agencies, SCCA members helped to target and mobilize State Agencies to get the toxic debris removed in a matter of days, just before the rains hit.
This is difficult and intricately detailed work, beyond the capacity of any single agency or organization. Every single dwelling site needs our attention, compassion for the owners and our help to contain the most immediate threat from of toxic ash and rain runoff into waterways.
We have a narrow window to prevent mass contamination through this rainy season, and it will need us all to step up. This means closely coordinating all actions. Grassroots groups move nimbly, but government which tends to be slower, has the resources.
We need to communicate consistent best practices as a community and align our monitoring efforts. If we want to build community trust, and protect ourselves and natural ecosystems from toxins, we must not work in silos. We simply don’t have the time for it.
This is where grassroots shines. And we’ll need your help.
By Neal Fishman, SCCA Board President 12/2/17
In a matter of a week, over 15,000 family, friends and neighbors lost their homes to the largest wildfires in California history. And now, six weeks later, the second wave of impacts are hitting.
While fire survivors navigate a complex bureaucracy that regulates rebuilding, renters are displaced daily as rent prices soar in an already compromised housing market. Every day, Sonoma County Conservation Action takes regular calls from fire survivors who need help to mitigate toxic runoff and erosion around their property. Their anxiety over toxic exposure is palpable. Sadly, this disaster’s impact is not yet fully realized.
Part of Sonoma County’s beauty is the enormous amount of goodwill that springs up in the face of tragedy. As a grassroots organization built on people power, we know the capacity of our community when effectively mobilized.
But leveraging this outpouring of support requires channeling it, and quickly. So far, donated goods have sat in storage as families scrambled daily for basic necessities. Without effective needs management systems in place, these resources would be lost.
To bridge this clear gap, SCCA spear- headed the launch of Sonoma- County.Recovers.org. This is a locally- managed, people-powered disaster relief platform, used across the nation in communities like ours when they face enormous devastation from hurricanes, fires or other natural disasters.
We knew that the County and survivors would need a nimble, simple and bilingual tool to keep everyone in- formed, to quickly distribute donated goods and to communicate to volunteers. We foresaw the need to match requests to resources in real-time across dozens of organizations and agencies, through a shared platform.
Kerry Fugett, our ED, contributed her database background, and combined it with our SCCA network, to help guide the energized volunteer launch team of six as we kicked off the site’s implementation. Over a week of daily conference calls and never-ending texts passed before we even met in persons.
Through the SonomaCounty.Recovers. org website, we are able to offer personal support to displaced folks. With over 50 organizations sharing this platform, we’ve collectively helped over 1,200 people, received thousands of donations, and signed up over 2,800 volunteers seeking to contribute to our local recovery efforts.
Over 25 years of grassroots organizing prepared our response to this unique and tragic disaster — we have empowered our community by connecting people to action.
Normally we are pushing them to the polls to support good candidates, or to town halls to advocate for better policy; we used that same methodology to put them in touch with their ailing neighbors, our shared watershed recovery efforts, and the community that needs their attention, skills & goodwill.
We have impressive strength as individuals, but our power when we organize and work together is astounding. This recovery support system is stronger than any of us alone, and is the first step in helping retain our community while building a network needed for bouncing back. ◊
By Jane Nielson, SCCA Board Member, 12/2/17
“We live in an ecosystem which has evolved to burn,” notes Michael Gillogly, Pepperwood Preserve ranch manager, as he considers that much of the preserve’s 900 acres of grasslands were burned.
The October Tubbs wildfire is not a new phenomenon, it overlaps the 1964 Hanly fire, the 1996 Porter Creek fires, and north of Calistoga, the 1960 Morrison and 1982 Silverado fires. Outlines of the Pocket fire, north of Geyserville, and the Atlas fire in Napa and Solano Counties, replicate areas that had burned in 1960s, 1980s, 2008, and 2013 fires.
In Sonoma Valley, the huge Nuns fire covered more territory than older burns in that area, but only two 1960s–1990s fire zones lie outside its footprint. An exception is the great 2015 Valley fire, which burned from Cobb to south of Middletown, and largely affected lands that had gone untouched by fire for more than a half-century.
Similar conditions present for each of these fires over the last decade spotlight two clear elements: high temperature and high wind speed conditions. Early on October 9th, wind speeds up to 77 miles per hour were recorded on a hilltop in Napa County, close to the estimated origin of the Tubbs Fire.
These and other data suggest that hot fires are likely to sweep across areas of north-coast California on a semi-regular basis—perhaps with about a 30 or 40- year periodicity.
The lifestyles of indigenous people conformed better to this natural fire cycle: building smaller and simpler dwellings of lightweight materials, and moving village sites seasonally. Indigenous people also set fires in woodlands to keep forests open and accessible, and to encourage food and medicinal plant growth.
We now need to examine the likelihood that wildfire will always be a fact of life in Sonoma and neighboring Counties. Rising temperatures due to climate warming may increase the frequencies and the heat of cyclic fires.
Based on past fire frequencies and threats, fire researchers and local leaders need to study if and how American construction and living patterns might adapt to the natural cycle of fire in lands that may not be tamable. ◊
By Megan Kaun, Nichole Warwick, Lendri Purcell
California will restrict farmers’ use of certain pesticides near schools ac- cording to a new rule announced this November. Taking effect Jan. 1, farmers will no longer be allowed to spray certain pesticides within a quarter mile of public K-12 schools and li- censed daycares from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the school week.
While we are thrilled to see this statewide progress, locally we continue to experience the use of toxic pesticides in our public spaces and schoolyards. Sonoma County, now more than ever, needs to hold onto this vision of a toxic free future.
With contamination from ash and hazardous debris in runoff from burned areas, our watershed needs even more protection. This disaster reinforces the danger of depending on toxic materials in our everyday lives, because ultimately, they will end up in our environment.
Since SCCA launched the Toxic Free Future campaign in June, we have met with the department heads of key County departments responsible for public land management. These include the Agricultural Commissioner, Water Agency, Regional Parks, General Services and Public Works.
We’ve also met with multiple supervisors and continue to work directly with staff to move forward a County wide centralized pesticide management plan. We need to create transparent reporting, identify a reduction goal and outline a work plan to reduce synthetic pesticide use.
We also are working with the Assistant Superintendent of Santa Rosa City Schools, André Bell, to also reduce synthetic pesticide use at schools.
Over two hundred community members joined our panel discussion at Susan Moore’s No Name Women’s group in September. Erin Mullen from Landpaths proved that large scale land management with- out synthetic pesticides is possible. Mara Ventura from North Bay Jobs with Justice spotlighted the disproportionate impact of pesticides on low income landscapers and mi- grant workers. Nichole Warwick from Daily Acts shared her story of surviving environmentally caused cancer and the environmental health impacts affecting children in Sonoma County. Supervisor Lynda Hopkins offered her perspective as an organic farmer, and Megan Kaun ignited hope as a mom turned super activist.
In this month’s Made Local Magazine article, Supervisor Hopkins asked, “How do we make it normal not to spray chemicals into our ditches, which by the way runs straight into our creek, and from our creeks into our river where our kids play?”
We agree that we have to redefine “normal” and get these toxics out of our environment and homes, for our health and for the health of our planet.
Take an Action!
Go to our Toxic Free Future campaign page to learn more and email your elected officials today!
Volunteer by signing up on SonomaCounty.Recovers.org