She’s risking her life on limbs to draw attention to an environmentally destructive highway construction project, “The Willits Bypass.” That’s a 6-mile-long, 2-lane highway. It includes a 1-mile-long 30-foot-tall concrete viaduct. And it will cut right through a valley meadow criss-crossed with streams and a wetlands. Which means The Willits Bypass project will drain and fill in 86 acres of wetlands — the largest wetlands fill permit in Northern California in 50 years.
Also on the menu: killing hundreds upon hundreds of trees, and wreaking havoc on the watershed’s wildlife, streams and salmon populations. The CalTrans (California Dept. of Transportation) own estimate says it will cost $200 million of Californian’s tax dollars. Big construction jobs being what they are, I’d add 25%…but maybe that’s just me.
Oh, and it won’t fix most of the traffic congestion in the town of Willits which CalTrans uses as primary justification for the project. The rest of the claim is northwestern California needs to expand its current north-south trucking route. The more you learn, the more outrageous it is: http://www.wildcalifornia.org/action-issues/rein-in-caltrans/willits_bypass
CalTrans claims this is the only way to ease traffic in Willits and speed trucks through the north-south corridor. In short, The Willits Bypass is a classic example of what I call Old Paradigm thinking. Slow economy needs a boost? Let’s build a highway! “Build, baby, build!” And natural world, be stomped.
A lawsuit is challenging the project’s legality (and sanity): http://www.wildcalifornia.org/blog/court-will-not-stop-caltrans-from-cutting-trees-harming-salmon-streams-before-lawsuit-over-controversial-willits-bypass-project-can-be-heard/
In the 1950s, when big destruction/construction projects like this were commonplace, most of us knew not what we we did. Forgive us fathers. Today we know better. We know cutting down forests and filling in wetlands to build roads comes at a great price. If you believe global warming is man-made (along with the majority of scientists on Earth), environmental devastation and pollution and rapid climate change are killing us. And myriad animal species. And plants, and insects, and everything. As if we were all interconnected. And that we powerful humans do matters. What we build matters. What we preserve matters.
Touring the miles-long Willits Valley on Sunday, I encountered a man in his late 70s who could have been my father. He was visibly agitated, and it turned out at it was at us outsiders touring the area, complete with (my) camera equipment. He was angry when I spoke with him. He wanted fewer big trucks in town and believed CalTrans’ claim that building another highway around his town of Willits was the best (and only possible) fix. Six miles of new roadbed over meadows and wetlands was the price that had to be paid. And he didn’t think it was my business (even though I live in and pay taxes in the state of CA).
I wondered what he’d say if he read this article (among others): http://www.wildcalifornia.org/blog/court-will-not-stop-caltrans-from-cutting-trees-harming-salmon-streams-before-lawsuit-over-controversial-willits-bypass-project-can-be-heard/
He, and CalTrans, doesn’t see what I call New Paradigm thinking. You tree fans do: that what we pollute and harm is not separate from us; that the land is alive, and sustains us, and is of tremendous value in innumerable ways. The indigenous Pomo Indians knew this: our health is tied to the health of the land, the water, the air, all of which support life.
I could go on — but prefer, instead, to salute the 24-year-old “Warbler” who is moved enough, and courageous enough, to take dramatic, peaceful action to preserve what’s precious to us all. She’s got my attention, and my admiration. I hope she sparks yours.
She plans to stay in her perch, singing the gospel of tree and land and water love as long as it helps to raise awareness. The lawsuit challenging the project won’t be heard until June. The good news is the project is so big, so long, and so expensive, even if CalTrans begins cutting down forest, as threatens to do, an informed, outraged community can still halt the destruction before it expands into the valley.
If you live near Willits, Warbler is just a few hundred feet from (the perfectly adequate) Hwy 101, a few minutes south of town. Look for banners on the right (east) as you’re heading north. Stop by to cheer Warbler and her ground crew on.
Keep up with the latest news via the Little Lake Valley community’s own website: http://www.savelittlelakevalley.org
I’ll be updating this story in the weeks ahead. Please share (forward, email, Tweet) this blog to help spread the word and preserve what’s precious in our communities and in our lives.