Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Silent Summer 2016



My bird feeders are always busy. I always have Lesser Goldfinches* and House Finches at the feeder. You generally will see Titmice, Towhees and Nuthatches. In the summer, a few Black Headed Grosbeaks hang out---once I managed to catch some Evening Grosbeaks. I don't think there is a more beautiful bird around here other than the painfully beautiful Evening Grosbeaks.  In the early mornings, the Mourning Doves would feed on the ground.

In addition, there are three Squirrels who love to steal the sunflower seed that I serve the birds. They tease the dogs, an endless game between Squirrel and Canine.

For the last month, I have only seen a couple of the Black Headed Grosbeaks. Every other bird has been AWOL. In all the years I have lived here, I have always had at least Goldfinches and House Finches at the feeder. Not this year.

Why? Where have they gone?

One friend said they will disappear when it is hot. But this summer hasn't been very hot and every other year the birds were here even when the weather was scorchingly hot.

I miss them. This place isn't the same without them.

My trail camera broke, and I just got a new one. So far, nothing has wandered past its lens other than a jackrabbit.

So why the Silent Summer? Where are the birds? Where are the Squirrels?

I'm going to call Fish and Wildlife and ask them.

I have a theory though.

I am surrounded by Pot Growers. The number one problem they have been having is mites, which can consume the flowering parts of the plant, the part that gets you high, and cut the yield substantially. Most of the growers around me are kids in their 20's. My theory is that one or more of these growers have been using a miticide like Avid, which is very toxic to fish and birds. Avid is illegal to use on food crops---it is for ornamentals, but it is the "go to" miticide to deal with the mite that kills cannabis plants. If inhaled, Avid is carcinogenic. (don't put that in your pipe and smoke it).

I think one or more of the growers have been using large amounts of Avid, or something similar, on their plants and somehow it has gotten into the food chain. Hence the disappearance of Squirrels and my beloved winged friends.

* I understand it is customary to not use the upper case letter for wildlife unless there is a qualifier before it: Steller's jay as opposed to sparrows. It is my custom to always capitalize the names of wildlife: they deserve it.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Endings...




 
I guess that Stellar Jay that appeared all those years ago wasn't strong enough. Note to self: Use your head while following your heart. This is gonna hurt.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

5 Days on the Trail...


The plan was to spend 12 days on the trail. Turned out to be 5. Lack of preparation, being out of shape, altitude and, for the youngster amongst us, an unstable detox from electronics.

Sonora Pass starts at 9,600 feet. Just a month ago, it was very dangerous to hike here due to the snow on the shoots. Some snow remained for us, enough to give a sense of adventure. Yes, it was a little dangerous in places.

But that's what the trail is for. Danger! Adventure! The trail is the perfect antidote for all the absurdities of modern living. All those little and major crises: job, family, failure, success, stress---all problems recede when boot hits the trail. Worried about divorce? Hard to worry too much when you are hauling a 50 pound pack up a steep trail in altitude. Out of shape I am----at times reduced on the first climb to taking ten steps, stopping, resting, taking ten steps, stopping, resting, repeating the whole process for a few  hours.

"We can always hitch to town and spend our vacation driving", my son said as he watched me heave and breathe.

"No", I said, "This is what I live for".

And I do. No matter how out of shape. Or how much suffering is being endured. Of course, the trail is best enjoyed while in good physical conditioning. Been awhile since that's been the case with me.

We had planned to do eight to nine miles the first day. We settled for five when we found a really nice camp site. A pattern began then: First I'd lie on my pack for about an hour. Then I would set up my tent, get inside, and rest. It was five pm. Time for bed.

The altitude made me nauseous. No dinner. We tried to cook up one of those dehydrated meals but it was unpalatable and we flushed it down the stream. That started a five day pattern of no appetite.

Back to my tent. About six. My 30 year old son wasn't quite used to such hours. He is a computer programmer and spends more time in the unreal cyber world then the real world. The reality of breeze and sunlight, leaves and views takes a bit getting used to when you'd spent much of the last week chasing Pokémon.


He got used to seeing the stars though, something he doesn't get to experienced in the overly urbanized world of the megacities of the East Coast.

Ah, wilderness. Home on the PCT.



Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Butte County June Election Post Mortem





There are still some 11,000 votes to count so the numbers might change a little. But not much. The election is history. And although the cadaver is fresh, it is still worth looking at the numbers a bit.

First off, Bernie Sanders won Butte County. Of course, that makes sense since we have a University and our population is mostly white. Bernie won white counties; he lost Hispanic and African-American counties. I learned one thing: Don't suggest that that is the reason that he lost in a North Staters for Bernie Facebook page. It looks like the youth vote, that likes rallies and hacky sack games, didn't show up as much as expected and that Bernie didn't do well with Minority groups. Plus the nomination was called for Hillary the night before.

Local Berners, predictably, said it was all a conspiracy much like Florida in 2000. One guy mentioned that perhaps it was orchestrated by the same people. Really?  There were complaints that the No Party Preference people weren't given the Democratic ballot when asked. Some said that their Mail In ballot came with the wrong party (My spouse's ballot came with the Green Party choices). One of the Bernie Delegates, who will be going to Philadelphia, vows to change her party affiliation if Bernie isn't the nominee.

Zealots.

Do I think there was a conspiracy against Bernie by the Establishment? No. Not for a minute.

Jim Reed, Democrat candidate for Congress, took Butte County due to a split in the Republican vote where Joe Montes ran a great challenge against Doug LaMalfa. The Republicans around here argue with each other just as much as, if not more than, the Democrats do.

The Supervisor vote went pretty much according to plan, with Steve Lambert and Bill Connelly winning easily. Doug Teeter will have to be in a run-off against Big Mo Huffman (who is a Democrat). That could change as there are 11,000 votes to count, probably a couple thousand of them from the 5th District and third place finisher, Dianna Wright is only 112 votes behind Big Mo. Teeter had two challengers to his Right and one from his Left. He should win easily in November.

The abolition of Fracking in Butte County won with 71% of the vote. This is amazing as the Republican Party was opposed to it, although Joe Montes, a serious Republican candidate challenging Doug LaMalfa, was opposed to Fracking. It is quite evident that on this vote, people didn't vote much according to party line.

Joni got the Measure on the ballot single-handedly by taking on the Oil and Gas Companies in court. When the Measure passed, she only received one phone call of gratitude.

People obviously crossed party lines to vote Yes on the Cannabis Measures G and H. Both won easily, and to win with that margin, it is obvious that many Democrats crossed over to the dark side to vote for improved regulation of Cannabis. The Cannabis Taliban said that the voters "just didn't understand what they were voting for."  I think they did.

But the Cannabis Taliban True Believers will be back in November with yet another ballot measure. This time they want regulation and licensure in order to open the Butte County Wild Lands to more excessive pot grows. It is an ambitious ordinance that doesn't have a chance. Why? Because the majority in Butte County do not want a Commercial Cannabis Industry in our county. It is that simple.






Saturday, June 4, 2016

My Endorsements for the June 7 election:






1st District Supervisor: William Connelly.

It isn't so much that the careerist Connelly is good but, really, it is about just how bad his opponents are. Both Ron Stoker and Mark Warner give the impression that they have never set foot outside of Oroville. They both are uninformed and hopelessly naïve.
...
4th District Supervisor: Steve Lambert.

Mr. Lambert has been a leader on both the fracking issue and on the regulation of cannabis. He deserves re-election for his leadership.

5th District: Doug Teeter.

Doug can be a bit timid and tends to swerve towards the middle of the road. He avoids controversy and his recent conversion to the Republican Party doesn't help his reputation as being a non-partisan Independent. He should have remained an Independent. Yet Teeter has been a leader for the environmental protection of the rural areas of Butte County. Big Mo Huffman is running as a Democrat, and it would be nice to see a Democrat on the board. Unfortunately, Big Mo doesn't present a good enough of an argument as to why Teeter should be replaced. The same can be said for Dianna Wright and D.H. Grumbles.

4th District Assemblyman: Ed Ritchie.

Gallagher is just too much of the same lackluster leadership heading to Sacramento. This rural area could use a Democrat to voice our concerns.

1st District Assembly: Brian Dahle.

There is a reason why Dahle has no opposition: he is a well studied, and fair Assemblyman. Yes, he is wrong on more than a few issues, especially SB277, but on the whole, he expresses the needs of the 1st District better than anyone in recent memory.

Congress: Jim Reed.

Jim Reed is a bit of an oddball. But so is LaMalfa. Montes is putting forth a valiant effort against LaMalfa and we hope that he is successful in beating him. A third place finish for LaMalfa would be a fitting end for this Welfare Rancher.

Senate: Steve Stokes.

Steve endorsed Bernie Sanders. We need someone outside the Democratic Party establishment and a Progressive, to take Barbara Boxer's seat.

President: Bernie Sanders. 

We will support Hillary Clinton when she is chosen. But Bernie has established the Left Wing of the Democratic Party to be a real force for good. Hopefully, the Democratic Party will endorse his agenda in the coming years. Donald Trump is an unstable, dangerous person with nationalistic views that are frightening in its racism and xenophobia.

Measure E: Yes.

We need a fracking ban if, for anything, to be a precendent for the other counties in California and the nation. Butte county loves renewables, as you can tell by all the solar panels going up everywhere.

Measure G: Yes.

Cannabis is not an established crop. And the current Cannabis Industry is irresponsible and rude to neighbors, wildlife and the earth. We need to be able to complain about the negative sides of cannabis production.

Measure H: Yes.

The timely collection of fines will deter commercial production of cannabis in Butte County. We are all sick of the stench, the pit bulls, the substance abuse non-culture, and the real threat that cannabis abuse poses to our youth through the mental health effects (everything from amotivation to anxiety, to depression, to schizophrenia). Please vote Yes.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Some Notes on the June 7 Butte County Primary Election...Montes and Teeter



Joe Montes
 
                                                                     Doug Teeter

This primary election season has been much more interesting than normal here in Butte County, California. It should be noted that Democratic registration is way up. In fact, about 1,000 more mail-in ballots have been sent to Butte County Democrats than Republicans. Despite the hoopla regarding Donald Trump supposedly bringing in more Republican voters, so far it seems that Bernie Sanders has had more of an impact in Butte County.

The last time Butte County went blue was in 2008, which was a very special year. Might we see a repeat in November?

And there have been way more letters-to-the-editor in favor of Joe Montes over Doug LaMalfa. Democrat Jim Reed has been absent from the Opinion pages. Despite that, the increased registration of Democratic voters should assure Jim Reed a slot in the November election. Might Joe Montes be the new challenger? Or maybe we will all be surprised and it will be a Montes versus LaMalfa runoff in November. Stay tuned.

Neither the Chico ER nor the Paradise Post have made an endorsement. The CNR predictably endorsed Reed. This is a race that most of us thought would be pretty boring that has turned out to furnish some excitement, complete with the usual dirty tricks by LaMalfa.

The Republican Party seems split on the matter. Republican Chair, Mike Zuccollillo sent out a mailer where he endorsed Montes over LaMalfa. He also complained regarding the use of mailers by LaMalfa which implied that the Butte County Republican Party had endorsed him. This is all very interesting.

The other race that is interesting in Butte County is the 5th Supervisor District. The Incumbent, Doug Teeter, read the tea leaves and registered as a Republican. He used to be an Independent and, in fact, got the endorsement from the Paradise Democratic Club back in 2012. This year he has a couple of Republican challengers, the most aggressive from Dianna Wright who is a prolific letter writer and Republican Gadfly. The problem is that Dianna Wright might split the Republican vote that Teeter so desperately seeks, throwing the election to Big Mo Huffman.

Huffman is running as a Democrat and the Dems have actually done some work this year. They have opened an office in Paradise and they have been reinvigorated by a couple of rowdy locals. With the increased voter Registration of the Dems (almost even in Paradise in mail-in vote ballots sent), the BERNIE effect, along with Dianna Wright splitting the Republican Teeter vote, just might make Big MO' Huffman's election possible.

Of course, Doug Teeter has been a good supervisor. He has done his homework and he is especially interested in protecting (and providing access to) Butte County's wild lands. Losing Teeter would be a shame because he deserves re-election. He should have stuck it out as an Independent and given up aligning himself with Doug LaMalfa in a mailer.

 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Yes on G: Yes on H






Measure A changed Butte County's unincorporated areas for the better. It began the process of reigning in an out-of-control, unregulated Cannabis Industry where any Felon or Greedhead from Ohio, could find a piece of land and make a million dollars within one season. And they could do that tax-free with the blessing of the county.

When the Greedheads ruled the rural areas of Butte County, all sorts of abuses occurred. For those of us who live out in the remote hills where many of the Cannabis Growers chose to hide out, we noticed immediate changes when they moved in en masse. The first thing I noticed was that I saw fewer critter tracks on hikes. And then a local felon who was released from jail purchased a bit of land and started growing pot. The land rush was on! Then I noticed the herd of deer, which numbered in the dozens, were gone. Then I noticed that the Red tailed hawk that used to inhabit a meadow near my home was gone. He probably died from rodenticide that the growers use voraciously.

Gun shots would ring out at night--probably taking out deer that strayed too close to a grow.

A Fish and Wildlife person told me that the tributaries of Lake Oroville have been destroyed by the Cannabis Farming. On a hike one day, way out in the middle of no-where, a small trickle of a seep from a spring had a pipe attached, leading it to a grow. Almost all the water sources were tapped in the rural areas illegally, to the detriment of wildlife. The MJ grows were everywhere. Millions of dollars were to be made! Wells were put in for commercial purchases and the Commercial Growers don't pay a nickel for the water. Meanwhile, the Fish and Wildlife Service report that the local fauna suffered from the water that was stolen to raise pot.

Frankly, it was a rape of the land akin to the Gold Rush days. Call it the Green Rush. These foothills, which really are the last decent habitat for anything wild in California, was under full assault by an industry that cared nothing for its impact on the land.

Then the voters of Butte County got smart and passed Measure A; things instantly got better. Many of the growers reduced their grows and also put them under plastic. Many growers left for greener pastures in other counties.  Gun shots during the night were greatly reduced. The amount of young, stoned kids at the swimming hole was reduced by half. These kids move out here for the growing season; fewer workers means fewer grows. All in all, I'd guess the grows in my area were reduced by fifty percent.

Civility improved in my rural area due to the Growers having to be a bit more friendly to their neighbors or they could be turned in (the rules as to who could report a grow had changed). The Growers weren't near as cavalier with their attitudes as they were prior to the passage of Measure A.

Now the County is back with more reforms. The first, Measure G, wants to make sure Cannabis isn't listed as a protected agricultural product. Of course, THC isn't wheat. And if you are growing pot to be your Pharmacy---the equivalent of Norco or Percocet, well, Norco isn't a crop and neither is your Cannabis. You will still be able to report the stench of a pot grow as a public nuisance if Cannabis isn't a protected agricultural product.

Measure H streamlines the collection of fines. Last year, the first for Measure A, a couple million dollars in fines were written, and through stonewalling, only a couple hundred thousand dollars were collected. The Greedheads still managed to grow their crop and skedaddle out of there to enjoy their profits before their day in court came due. Streamlining a code matter just makes sense. And it will help deter those who want to grow commercially and, if they do grow commercially, the County will be able to collect the fines faster.

Justice should be quick.

And so I am voting for Measure G and H. I will vote for it because the wildlife of Butte County can't vote for it. Neither the Red tailed hawk, nor the Pacific fisher, nor the eagle, nor the osprey, nor the black tailed deer, nor the otter, nor the eagle, nor the opossum, nor the jackrabbit, nor the bear, nor the skunk, nor the raccoon, nor the mountain lion, nor the martens, nor the salmon, nor the trout, nor the raccoon, nor the coyote, nor the fox----none of these animals that have been impacted by the Greedheads can vote. We have to be the voice of wildlife. Vote yes on G and H.