(Editor’s note: This letter to the editor was instigated by an exchange Randy Smith had in passing with a man on the river trail who took exception to – and disputed the need for the removal of non-native vegetation.)
A recent unpleasant verbal encounter along the North Sacramento River Trail prompts this writing. Public understanding of efforts to control non native vegetation needs improvement.
Over the last several years various volunteer organizations have endeavored in several locations to return public properties to the riparian savanna, native trees, shrubs and grass, which existed along the Sacramento River before Shasta Dam, before the smelter Smoke Wars, before the introduction of Asian Arundo, Himalayan blackberry, Spanish broom, Chinese tree of Heaven, European Oleander, eastern black locust and other invasive, exotic plant species.
This work is granted permission by the California Departments of Fish and Wildlife, Food and Agriculture, Pesticide Regulation, County of Shasta and City of Redding. Those who believe fire danger abatement, access improvement, ecological health restoration, removal of poisonous plants and return of historical flora are harmful and improper activity; simply do not apprehend that our species has created a nightmare which needs attention and atonement. Leaving Nature “alone” worked for millennia until our kind interfered with vital processes, imported noxious plants, upset important ancient balances and ignored eons of evolution.
Non native plants will not be defeated; sadly, they are here to stay. However, they can be, should be, controlled. An example on public land can be given so that residents and visitors gain appreciation for how things once looked and performed.
Returning wild species like the California gray fox, valley quail, red shouldered hawk, California tree frog and others are testimony to the recovering health and vigor of these public riparian properties. They proclaim quiet volumes about what has occurred during the last fifteen years in Redding. Native azalea, penstemon, California poppy, bunch grass, Santa Barbara sedge, Equisetum and dozens of other native plants are returning from hidden places where they retreated waiting help against powerful adversaries they did not evolve to fight.
People of Redding are rightfully proud, possessive and protective of wonderful surroundings which have been provided by farsighted investment and fortunate natural circumstances. Change is difficult for some to countenance or embrace, even comprehend. But there are many who support and labor to make possible a better tomorrow in keeping with advice from a long ago leader who speaks to us across the canyons of time, “We must handle the water, the wood, the grasses so that we will hand them on to our children and our children’s children in better and not worse shape than we got them.” Theodore Roosevelt, White House Conference May 1908
Randall R. Smith