Thoughts on Resilience in Winter

Manzanita blooming as the snow melts.  Photo by Will Emerson
Manzanita blooming as the snow melts. Photo by Will Emerson

Northern Mendocino Ecosystem Recovery Alliance

By Will Emerson

Winter Lessons

As I write this, we approach Spring Equinox, but you would not know it looking out my window. The four-plus feet of snow are slowly melting, pushed by the four-plus inches of rain in the last two days. The surface of the snow is littered with nature’s prunings—tree branches, needles, bark, lichen, feathers, cones, and pitch all brought down by the gales last week. Winter definitely wore her white dress this year.

We’re all dreaming of warm spring days with green grass and flowers blooming, as I’m sure the animals are who hunker down under the trees waiting for something edible to appear. We’ve all had a taste of survival this year when our intricate plans got disrupted by nature’s strong hand. It’s good for us to experience discomfort and hunger for a while, to be forced to slow down and yield control while nature has its way. This is how we find resilience within ourselves. We protect our core heat and energy and wait for a better day.

Likewise, we learn to work together to protect our tribe. We share what we have and gather resources to help others. If we work together, we can survive disasters and move on to brighter, easier days. What a wonderful metaphor for humanity’s plight. We have largely created our own problems, which nature harshly reveals while offering us redemption if we will just slow down, pay attention, and change our ways. Resilience is not tinsel on the tree, it’s shoveling the snow off your roof so your house doesn’t collapse.

What We are Up To

With that in mind, I’m writing to update you all on our nascent non-profit group, the Northern Mendocino Ecosystem Recovery Alliance. We celebrated our first year of existence, and here are some of the things we have accomplished and what we are working on as the year turns:

  • We became a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. Mostly, this validates our ability to jump through bureaucratic hoops. For our first year, we were fiscally sponsored by Trees Foundation. Thank you, Trees, for helping us get started and guiding our way!
  • We helped put together a Forest Health Work Crew with Elk Ridge Landscaping as contractor. The crew has been working on the Redwood Forest Foundation’s (RFFI) shaded fuel break on Highway 1 west of Leggett for over six months. They are available for future jobs, big or small.
  • Our members helped the Eel River Recovery Project craft a CAL FIRE Forest Health proposal to treat 800 acres in the Tenmile Creek watershed around Laytonville. If accepted, this project will create shaded fuel breaks, do prescribed burning, restore oak woodlands, and more on private property as well as on the Laytonville Rancheria in collaboration with the Cahto Tribe.
  • We received a Technical Assistance Grant from the North Coast Resource Partnership. This will get us professional help to create a master plan to develop Tan Oak Park south of Leggett as a Forest Health Training Center. There are many possibilities there to create a gathering place to train a forest health workforce and educate the public on land stewardship. This spot was a gathering and trading place for the Wailaki tribe, and we hope to return it to that function for everyone.
  • We helped the Bell Springs Fire Department get a Mendocino Community Foundation Disaster Relief Grant during the recent storms to get food, animal food, and supplies to people isolated by downed trees and snow. We staged supplies at Tan Oak Park and Blue Rock so they were available to Spy Rock, Bell Springs, and Leggett. Thanks to Ben O’Neill for spearheading that effort. We’re helping Leggett with Emergency Planning for future disasters so our communities can get the help we need when disaster strikes.
  • We’ll be hosting training events this year to help young people enter the forest health workforce as well as for land stewards who want to learn how to better care for their lands or learn new skills like making furniture from forest thinnings. Stay tuned.

Contact us through the website if you would like to help by joining one of our committees or to sign up for our newsletter.

If the storms of this winter have shown us anything, it’s the truth that we are all in this together.

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