Fishing for Information

Hi Jane,

Aaaah! The havoc being wreaked on our poor river! I think my last report painted  to rosy  a picture.

I haven’t wanted to visit the devastated area. So much was being cut! I tried to imagine how I would feel if an alien species suddenly began mowing down my living room, my bedroom, my kitchen.   That is the sad story that the SONG SPARROWS, KILLDEER, COMMON  YELLOWTHROAT, CALIFORNIA TOWHEES,BLACK PHOEBES and many other songbirds would tell us if they could.


I guess I have become a little obsessed with making sure that every single inch of vegetation that is legally protected as wildlife habitat is left alone. I decided to buy 10-foot bamboo pole to measure exactly what the City was cutting down.

Me  with 10-foot bamboo  pole.  Here the  operation left the  required 15 feet along the wetted edge of the  river.

You can see that I attached a red flag at the end.   It makes it easy to measure. I am hoping that the City will see me coming with my red-headed pole and at least know I am watching.



Since my last post, I have been getting the sense that there is controversy behind the scenes about what to cut and what not to cut.   I was told by one of the workers that they had been instructed to leave only 15-feet total on BOTH sides of the river. I went rushing over to check this with Jonathan, the crew chief and son of the original owner who used to clear the levee using a couple of draft horses.  I like both these guys. They care about the river.  Jonathan reassured me that the law was 15 feet on each side. But the next day when I ran into him he told me he was no longer allowed to talk to me. What’s up?

Yesterday I submitted a letter to the Public Works Commission where I cut to the quick. In the letter I said,

“My confusion centers around the problematic role of law enforcement agencies in the determination of vegetation removal. Because the levee banks attract illegal campers, law enforcement has always had an interest in removing as much vegetation as possible, a factor that is at odds with the governing document.”

I frankly don’t see any other explanation. Why else would Public Works want to cut more than is legally allowed by the Army Corps of Engineers. I think some of our efforts must focus on bringing the role of law enforcement into the light.

Here’s a photo of the demolished homes of our riverside bird friends,all  bundled and ready to be thrown  in the chipper.   May they forgive us.

cut & bound
For the first time this year, the cut down  willows are bundled and hauled by hand up  the banks of the river and run through  a chipper, to be disposed of  elsewhere.

Here is a photo of my friend  Batya discovering a raccoon track on the Riverwalk.  How  has this nocturnal creature’s  life  been affected by  the loss  of the thick cover along  the river?

The Monterey Birding Festival is taking place this Saturday, September 23. It is too late to register online, but people can register onsite during the day.

Quote of the Week by Grey  Hayes:

“Wildlife conservation is a public priority, but Santa Cruz citizens sleep while politicians and business leaders threaten to deprive future generations of opportunities for the wildlife experiences we have today.”

GreyHayes has taught at UCSC and is an active advisor to the California Native Plant Society. He has co-authored management plans for protected natual areas and published work in scientific and popular jounals. His focus is on restoration ecology and invasion biology. See his website at

Keep on  flying, Jane!




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