Diggin' In

The Richard Gienger Report


Time moves fast, stalwarts in mirror reflections, and we anxiously wait—while trying to prepare—for what Winter and Spring will bring. I feel daunted, almost swept away, in the layers of complexity of “all the relations,” the history, and realities we face.

Remembering Influential Community Members

Along with the joy of life-returning rains in September has come grieving over recent sad losses. There have been three passings of persons this year with deep ties to this and broader communities: Nancy Peregrine (earlier this year), Fred “Coyote” Downey (in Sept.), and Lon Mulvaney (early Oct.). All three of them were direct defenders of the Sally Bell Grove.

I am hard pressed and feel unable to say what needs to be said—and also to respond to what is cascading all around us. Nancy, Coyote, and Lon all need deep, in-depth reflections on each of their lives. I can’t do this here, today. Maybe this can happen from many that have connected with their lives. The honoring of Nancy is well underway. Each of them has been so closely intertwined with my life and that of so many others.

Nancy Peregrine: The kind and indomitable will to do what is right for community, for individuals, for family, schools, and households. She was there on the spot, whether it meant responding to emergencies, loaning essential tools, stepping out to defend land, sharing advice and her multifaceted knowledge about health, stepping out to mentor and inspire generations for fire and emergency service. There will be a big celebration of her life in March of 2023.

Nancy Peregrine was an integral part of the Whale Gulch Volunteer Fire Company since its inception.
photo courtesy Jessica VanArsdale

We had an Elder from Round Valley by the name of Fred Downey also known by many as Coyote. Coyote was an Elder whom many sought out to talk with and get spiritual guidance. Coyote was active in the annual trail of tears march, also known as The Nome Cult Trail.

—Elizabeth RedFeather, Trees Foundation Board member

Fred “Coyote” Downey: Can’t remember exactly when we first crossed paths, but whenever it was, it was a real beginning. He had a full and complex life, only a small part that I know. He became a Wailaki Elder and advocate for Indigenous People, saying, “We know who we are.” He served in both the Marines and Army, survived Round Valley, Eureka, and choker-setting with Schusters during the logging “boom” in South Fork Eel tributaries. He was present at various times in both South and North America in support of Indigenous People. He led the way, with others like Bill Wahpepah, to bring the International Indian Treaty Council as co-plaintiffs with EPIC against Georgia-Pacific and CA Dept. of Forestry over the Sally Bell Grove. He was an individual plaintiff. He worked for years in many places to try to enforce that decision. He helped to catalyze the formation of the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council through Ricardo Tapia in 1985. He stressed the vital importance of Natural Law. He attended the first UN Conference on the Environment, as security for Oren Lyons, in 1972 in Stockholm. Too much to try and relate here. There was a real connection between him, many people, and communities. So many stories, he was Coyote. The yearly gathering of Youth and Elders was so precious to him. He was interviewed by Beth Bosk (NSI@mcn.org) of The New Settler Interview. Most if not all of his interviews with her can be found in The New Settler Interviews: Volume 1: Boogie on the Brink. The Willits Mendocino County Museum has a complete selection of the magazine. Coyote had a sharp sense of humor and irony—and you needed to listen carefully! I’ll always remember him saying that:  “First there were the Spanish, then the Russians, and then the Americans.”

Coyote giving instructions and perspectives on a tour of Redwood Forest Foundation’s Usal Redwood Forest in 2008. 
photo from Forest & River News, winter 2008

Lon Mulvaney: Always a staunch and stubborn brother standing by what he felt was right and deeply principled—from Ohio to The Farm in Tennessee to the fight against the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant in California to family raising and homesteading in the Mattole Valley. He was an inspiring and tireless defender of the Sinkyone Wilderness Coast, at great hazard, and loved direct-action watershed restoration. Always could rely on Lon, and pull together through thick and thin. He was thinking and reflecting and searching through whole realms of knowledge and experience pretty much all the time. He was a quite accomplished musician. He put intense care into living lightly and being responsive to detail. Lon and I were so happy helping with firewood and later this summer joining those visiting, listening, and honoring  Coyote as he continued his years-long unbowed battle with cancer. Within a week of Coyote’s passing, Lon got a terminal diagnosis and in several weeks was also gone, lovingly cared for by close family and friends. Shock on shock, and memories to recall and cherish.

A collage featuring Lon Mulnaey
By Karen Pickett

October 8th Celebrations

We try desperately to make sense that can free us to act amidst all the rancor that confuses and overwhelms.  That said, it was a very positive day on Saturday, October 8th:  Priscilla Hunter and Polly Girvin were honored with the Sempervirens Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual EPIC celebration, this year held at the Southern Humboldt Community Park. On that same afternoon local Wailakis held a gala Land Access Celebration on 5 acres of coast at Shelter Cove—celebrating a re-connection.

Priscilla has been the Chair of both the Coyote Valley Pomo and the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council. Her activism has been phenomenal—her steadfast persistence was essential for the realization of the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness. Her activism, joined with Polly’s for years, continues today in the Pomo Land-Back, Co-Management, and Protection issues with Jackson Demonstration State Forest—and in California.

Related to the people I am remembering here is a movement that is building and getting stronger regarding Land Back and co-management with tribes and Indigenous people. California even has laws, administrative proclamations, and policies that now specifically support this. Over half of the land wrested away from Georgia Pacific between Bear Harbor and Usal went to the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council (ITSWC); that came to fruition in the 1990s. Priscilla has been the head of the ITSWC since its beginning, 37 years ago. She, and her leadership, and many others are directly involved today in making things right with Jackson Demonstration State Forest.

Here’s a Partial Sketch of Actual and Potential Protections & Stewardship Along the Mendocino Coast Largely Thanks to Indigenous Leadership

160 acres at Four Corners, 523 acres from Indian/Anderson Creeks to Bear Harbor, 3,800+ acres between Bear Harbor and Usal (all ITSWC); 3,000 acres purchased by Save-the-Redwoods League between Usal and Rockport, which may be passed on to Tribes (Coast Yuki ancestral lands); and several hundred acres of CalTrans land at “Blues Beach,” a spectacular coastal area south of Westport where Chadbourne Gulch meets the ocean, now shared by Coyote Valley, Sherwood Valley, and Round Valley Tribes. Negotiations and issues are hot and heavy over the 50,000 acres of Jackson. [See pages 18 and 34 for more on Jackson.]

A Few Spontaneous Thoughts

A presenter at the recent 24th Coho Confab asked why the coho aren’t making serious recovery, given all the substantive restoration work we’ve been doing. The spontaneous answer was: The problem is cultural!

An explicit implied too-close regional reality: Confusion Hill—two bridges too far?!?

In these columns, much of the effort is carried out to inform myself and others of what are thought to be positive opportunities to work together to find some real measure of “right livelihood” and social/cultural/environmental recovery. Of course, the now-classic “Triple Bottom Line” seems to dominate, in the triple-E version currently used by all manner of organizations, with even the biggest corporations claiming that environment and equity have equal value as economy. Some of that claim may be valid in isolated examples, but it is so overwhelmed by a history of displacement, killing, and stripping the lands and waters in a mad conversion into money, wealth, and power that an intertwined path forward is only faintly discernable and is untenable given both public and private dominant paradigms of “compete and suffer.” Abatement in Humboldt County, ehh?

I distinctly recall once being in the glorious throes of multi-community joy, music, and achievement of a classic Reggae on the River and feeling strongly disturbed by the history deeply etched between the Coast and that South Fork Eel flood terrace where the festival was held. This is a history that, to me there at the time, we all really seemed quite oblivious to, despite any and all positive sentiments. But of course, we must not despair: 30+ million dollars and 3,000 coastal acres bought between Usal
and Rockport could potentially be part of  a conservation model and direction? Do you really suppose that could happen?

Read The Man Who Went Away, by Harold Bell Wright. This is a compelling 1941 novel set between the South Fork Eel River and Bear Harbor.

Haul road gouging, whether historical, or done recently, like a steep mid-slope road in Mill Creek (tributary of the South Fork Eel near Leggett), or a particularly vicious road cut on steep virgin prairies of the Mattole’s Rainbow Ridge set healing way back. There is great loss. Even the hard and earnestly won protections for the Sally Bell Grove have been violated by vandals cutting burls out of old-growth Redwood for depraved desperate dollars.

Don’t forget the “new” Berkeley Rausser College of Natural Resources, renamed for a 50-million-dollar donor, and the reminted and newly named California Natural Resources Agency Deputy Secretary for Forest and Wildland Resilience, ready to spin in a location near you (with a Zoom option, register now). Or gather them grants and get on the 30 X 30 road. Now how do we get “elemental” with 40 million people, way over carrying capacity in drought- and fire-ridden California?

Tom Leroy, long-time geologist for Pacific Watershed Associates, a key partner since 2007 in the Usal Redwood Forest and watershed instream restoration, with Tasha McKee. In center of photo is a remanent post that supported the railroad that went from Bear Harbor to South Fork Eel River.
photo by Ash Brookens

Off-the-Cuff: Quick Response to Proposition 30

Proposition 30—A measure to increase taxes by 1.75% on individuals and married couples to give boosts to and incentives for zero-emission vehicles (80%) and help wildfire response and prevention (20%) 

Yep. Heard of this a few days ago—was taken aback by an email from California Environmental Voters. I think this points directly to the need to actually set and act upon forest stewardship standards, and to separate the stewardship from the Emergency CAL FIRE functions. Maybe that’s not what the dominant industry has in mind with its opposition to Prop 30, but I think that’s the facts. Prop 30 gives the public the impression that forests are only a public hazard to be depleted and “tamed,” increasing fire prevention, fire fighting, and capacity throwing in the electric/climate-change caveat to appeal to high-end liberal ability to do their part (via Lyft). Outside of that, it’s a mega-boost for CAL FIRE to be even more of a hyper-dominant fire-centric paramilitary force with social license to do whatever they want “and not waste time arguing over forest management with the public.” That’s pretty close to a direct quote and concept attribution to former CAL FIRE Deputy Director for Resource Management, Helge Eng—new link: www.akbizmag.com/right-moves/eng-joins-dnr-as-new-state-forester-for-alaska/.

Prop 30 seems like a suddenly surfacing high-profile controversy being aired to the public and the voter. The tax increase for entities earning over 2 million dollars a year, as well as further government empowerment, may have something to do with Mendocino & Humboldt Redwoods Company, Red Emmerson’s Sierra Pacific Industries, and Green Diamond opposition. Governor Newsom seems to be backing those boys and opposing any “climate action” that isn’t his. Haven’t got the “inside skinny” about the whole Prop 30 history and “players.”

And don’t forget about the great PG&E ongoing battle, the low media coverage of the defeat of SB 396 (which would have made PG&E even more unaccountable, and failed on a no-vote in the California Senate), and what must be done now and in the coming year.

Jackson State Demonstration Forest Recommendations Ignored—Again

Here’s a small bit I submitted as input to the annual regulations and policy review of the Board of Forestry that folds in critical problems regarding CAL FIRE and Jackson Demonstration State Forest:

Dear Board of Forestry & Fire Protection, CAL FIRE, and CNRA [and the Governor and Legislature of California]
There is an essential need for you all, ASAP, to really give substance to “modernization” of management at Jackson Demonstration State Forest and implementation of
co-management. The decision to push forward business-as-usual, THP by THP—basically derailing the necessary respect and process to achieve that modernization and co-management—is wrong and must be changed. The latest example of this comes from a Jackson CAL FIRE letter of 26 September 2022 proposing negotiating piecemeal and inadequate co-management on a single THP rather than taking on essential broader reform. This is in the context of many, many past, present, and potential future THPs and applicable considerations for real stewardship on multiple levels.
The groundbreaking report and recommendations written by the Tribal Relations Subgroup of the Jackson Advisory Group (JAG) are being ignored. The process necessary to actually determine the standards for healthy forests as graphically described on page 19 of the LAO’s April 2019 “Watershed Management in California” document is being ignored. California certainly has the capability to settle existing contracts in Jackson to allow the chance for the realization of modernization and
co-management to start NOW.
Contrary to the rosy conflicted disingenuous picture painted at the August 19th JAG meeting and associated “visioning” statement and press release, the subsequent sordid press release restarting Jackson operations showed the grim reality of suppression and control. I would point out that the appeals court decision of 1985 in EPIC and International Indian Treaty Council v Johnson (CDF) & Georgia-Pacific has never been implemented and particularly as applied to Jackson: There still is no adequate consideration and response to cumulative effects, no adequate consultation with Tribes and Indian people, and no assurance that the Native American Cultural Heritage is being protected.
On top of that is the, should we say, uneven and inadequate policy reform and action over many years: from the modern era’s formation of the Native American Heritage Commission, through crude inadequate and late application of archaeological and cultural oversight processes for California forestlands, to the most current claimed reforms involving apologies, land-back, co-management, and 30 x 30.
It’s not a perfect example, but a version of the Scientific Review Panel report of the 1999 process applied to Jackson would be several steps up from what is obviously impossible with CAL FIRE/BoF. Link:
“The Scientific Review Panel (SRP) was created under the auspices of the Watershed Protection and Restoration Council, as required by the March 1998 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and The Resources Agency of California. Under this agreement the state agreed to organize an independent panel of scientists to undertake a comprehensive review of the California Forest Practice Rules (FPRs), with regard to their adequacy for the protection of salmonid species.”
Such a panel must be put together, with strong Tribal representation, for a comprehensive review of the pressing issues of Jackson with corrective measures, and that will apply in a broader scope to forests of California. The SRP team that went through a process that developed the 1999 Report was Frank Ligon, Alice Rich, PhD, Gary Rynearson, RPF Coordinator, Dale Thornburgh, PhD, RPF, and William Trush, PhD. This was a mix with a wide range of abilities that certainly included commercial forestry interests but was not controlled by CDF/CAL FIRE/Industrial Forestry.
Note that the most striking deficiency was determined to be the evaluation and response to cumulative impacts. Also note that JDSF was/is NOT the major factor in Forest Practice Rule improvements, as has been erroneously claimed. The forces that made any improvements possible were from a broad array of persons and organizations aware of both the unacceptable damage done and the need for protection and recovery.
With a similar and higher level of expertise and expanded “bandwidth” reflective of the policies and proclamations described in the Tribal Relations Report, including the unimplemented sections/intents of AB 1492 (forest and watershed recovery, ecological performance measures, public participation, and transparency), a credible process to achieve the obvious necessary reforms could actually be realized.
Sincerely, Richard Gienger
And on behalf of Forests Forever
On left of photo is an 8’ diameter broken lower section of an old-growth redwood tree covered with ferns and moss. This models the type of large-wood, instream habitat improvement that stream-restoration people are trying to emulate today with much smaller wood.
photo by Tasha McKee

To Close on a High Note

Twenty persons had a day-long tour of coho refugia streams during the recent 24th Annual Coho Confab sponsored by the Salmonid Restoration Federation. Many other good sessions were conducted also, but this was an incredible look at recovering habitat that had been adversely affected since the 19th century, especially between 1946 and 2007, and is now in recovery mode with significant instream and upslope restoration. Most of Anderson Creek is in RFFI’s Usal Redwood Forest. Adjacent and upstream is a recent acquisition of 523 acres by the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council enabled by the StRL that includes vital coho salmon habitat and prairies over Bear Harbor. Fourteen spawning coho were present during 2021 Christmas in Anderson Creek. There are actually some small remnants of old-growth redwood with burgeoning second growth riparian that are steadily improving, along with recovery efforts, high-quality coho & Chinook salmon and steelhead habitat.

Please help out where and when you can on all the issues before us. Check out the work of and other information for Sanctuary Forest, the Institute for Sustainable Forestry, EPIC, Forests Forever, and Redwood Forest Foundation, Inc. Thank you, Trees Foundation!

To Get Involved

Richard Gienger, [email protected], 707/223-6474

EPIC, wildcalifornia.org

Forests Forever, www.forestsforever.org

Mendocino Trails Stewards, mendocinotrailstewards.org

Pomo Land Back, www.pomolandback.com

Redwood Forest Foundation, Inc., www.rffi.org

Sanctuary Forest, sanctuaryforest.org

Save Jackson Coalition, savejackson.org


Since arriving in the Mattole Valley of Humboldt County in 1971, Richard Gienger has immersed himself in homesteading, forest activism, and watershed restoration. Richard’s column covers a range of issues including fisheries and watershed restoration and forestry, plus describes opportunities for the public to make positive contributions in the administrative and legislative arenas as well as in their own backyards.