- Author: Mike Hsu
Climate Stewards course instructor inspires change in Butte County
Growing up in Butte County, Rose Brazil-Few has watched climate change devastate communities and ecosystems in the form of severe drought and deadly wildfire, including the 2018 Camp Fire that swept through Paradise. Through the University of California Climate Stewards program, Brazil-Few is taking action in her home county – and inspiring others to help.
“Seeing the environmental situation firsthand in California, every day I find a reason to work on climate action projects,” she explained. “It's the most fulfilling work that I could possibly be doing right now.”
As a California Climate Action Corps Fellow (a workforce development program affiliated with California Volunteers), Brazil-Few is working at the Butte Environmental Council as community sustainability coordinator. She said the UC Climate Stewards course she completed last fall – administered by the UC California Naturalist program – taught her crucial lessons she applies every day, especially on framing and conveying the climate crisis.
“One of the biggest takeaways is how to communicate about climate change while we're doing climate action work,” she said. “Sometimes you encounter community members who don't necessarily like the term ‘climate change,' but they still believe in cleaning up parks and planting trees for shade – so focusing on positive action will still accomplish your bigger goals.”
Brazil-Few will further amplify those locally rooted solutions and climate stewardship opportunities when she starts teaching her own UC Climate Stewards course this summer, through Butte Environmental Council.
“Rose is the first CCAC fellow to become a certified Climate Stewards course instructor as part of the Pathway to Leadership we co-developed with CCAC,” said Sarah-Mae Nelson, UC Climate Stewards academic coordinator. “This pathway is an opportunity for fellows to continue fostering community and ecosystem resilience in their communities as active Climate Stewards, once their official fellowship has ended.”
Since launching in fall 2020, nearly 500 people have completed the UC Climate Stewards course, which is delivered by 17 partner organizations throughout the state. Nelson noted that, in addition to the CCAC collaboration, UC Climate Stewards is also working with Sustainability Service Corps and SEI (Strategic Energy Innovations) Climate Corps – and looking into bringing the course to other states.
A 2021 graduate of Humboldt State University with a bachelor's degree in environmental studies, Brazil-Few said she appreciates that the UC Climate Stewards course instills a sense of hope and empowerment and possibility.
“I know some people who feel hopeless because there's such a focus on the doom of climate change – when in reality you can find so many programs and people in your local community making positive change,” she said.
In her community, Brazil-Few highlights the partnership efforts between the Butte County Local Food Network and area growers, the Traditional Ecological Knowledge sharing at Verbena Fields in Chico, and the continued growth of the community composting program – among many other projects.
They all illustrate a key point that Brazil-Few will emphasize as she designs her UC Climate Stewards course: a meaningful climate project need not take place at a large scale – action can happen, literally, in one's own backyard.
“It can be easily attainable and accessible,” she said. “And just talking about it with people and getting your community excited is the very first step in creating a series of events that eventually leads to a bigger impact on climate change and positive environmentalism.”/h3>
- Author: Donovan Hill
- Author: Kathleen Mowdy
Disturbance. In ecological terms, when a wildfire rages across wild lands, there is a disturbance - a change in the environmental conditions that disrupts the functioning of an ecosystem. The process by which an ecosystem changes over time following a disruption is known as ecological succession, and it takes a very long time. Too long.
Last year, I wrote an article about our fire recovery efforts in Butte County. We worked hard and accomplished a lot in three fire zones, but restoration is not “one and done.” It takes persistence. Many of the “wildlings” (small wild seedlings) that we transplanted in the Ponderosa Fire zone did not survive the hot summer months. We knew we would need to go back the following spring and plant again, and we were determined.
Then, in November 2018, the Camp Fire raged through 153,000 acres in Butte County. After the most destructive wildfire in California history, it is hard not to feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of recovery work, knowing it would be a long time before the Camp Fire zone would even be ready for replanting. But we had our plan to follow up on our work in the Ponderosa Fire zone. This time, we had fir, pine and cedar seedlings donated by Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI). We knew these seedlings would have a better chance of survival.
Two foresters from SPI delivered the seedlings, provided instruction on optimal planting techniques, and worked with our crews. Many Feather Falls residents also helped with the planting, including members of the Concow-Maidu of Mooretown Rancheria, whose lands were burned in the Ponderosa Fire.
After the planting was completed, we gathered for a tasty picnic lunch provided by Mooretown Rancheria. Everyone enjoyed the beautiful spring weather and feeling of accomplishment.
Since we completed the planting, we have had frequent rain that will give the seedlings a good chance to survive. Building on this success, Oroville Foothill 4-H Fire Recovery Project is already making plans for next year. We hope to arrange for donations of fruit, nut, and ornamental trees for the families who are rebuilding in the Camp Fire communities of Paradise, Magalia, Concow, and Pulga.
As we wrap up our Fire Recovery Project this year and enter another fire season, we are hoping there will be no more “disturbances” to our wild lands. But we will be here with the help of our community, persisting in the best kind of collaboration - caring for our world!
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
Between the Camp Fire in Butte County and the Woolsey Fire in Southern California in November, most ANR members have been affected in some way by the devastating wildfires. Several have experienced major personal losses that they are still dealing with.
While the Camp Fire was still raging on Nov. 14, Emily Symmes, director of UCCE in Butte County, wrote:
“As you can imagine, due to the destruction of nearly the entire town of Paradise and other ridge communities, all of our employees have numerous friends, family, and loved ones who have lost their homes and all of their belongings, as evacuations were so sudden and urgent that most left with only what they could grab in minutes. As such, all have been affected to varying degrees. We have two direct staff members, Alexandra Falk (nutrition education specialist) and John Klepps (Honey Bee Tech Transfer Team) who lived in Paradise. Both have received confirmation that their homes were among those destroyed. They and their families and pets are now safe and have found temporary housing. Many in our extended network of 4-H and Master Gardener program participants and volunteers resided in Paradise have also been heavily impacted, losing everything.”
Among the Master Gardener volunteers in Paradise who lost their houses is Bob DiPietro and his wife, parents of Damon DiPetro of ANR's IT team. Damon's sister and her family also lost their house.
Colleagues have asked how to help.
Emergency resources for UC employees
In response to queries, the Staff Assembly has posted information on their website about the impact of the Camp Fire on our ANR employees and their families at http://staffassembly.ucanr.edu/Resources_/Emergency_Resources_/. Earlier in the year, they posted similar information for those impacted by the Mendocino fires and have committed to maintain Emergency Services information on their website whenever any UC ANR employees are impacted.
Emergency support is also available to UC employees from the university's benefit plans https://ucnet.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/2018/11/emergency-support-from-ucs-benefit-plans.html.
UC ANR assists Camp Fire survivors
In the midst of their own losses, UCCE staff in Butte County and neighboring counties have been reaching out to assist community members. For example, Ryan Cleland, 4-H representative, has been working with the 4-H community since Nov. 8, the day the Camp Fire erupted, to coordinate assistance and volunteerism. He is providing vetted and frequently updated information on where evacuated and displaced people can find help and how other community members can volunteer, donate and contribute.
The UCCE nutrition education team has been assisting with meal preparation at shelters, and also with volunteering at indoor youth activities available through the shelters and the local area recreation district.
Other UCCE staff and advisors have been volunteering where needed – helping gather and deliver supplies, volunteering at human shelters and animal shelters, helping out at the numerous meal centers that have popped up.
UC Master Gardener volunteers have been reaching out to fellow Master Gardeners who have lost their homes or remain evacuated to offer housing and other support.
Tracy Schohr, UCCE livestock and natural resource advisor in Plumas and Sierra counties, has been helping care for large animals in the evacuation zone.
The forestry, fire and natural resource advisors have ongoing fire safety research and education programs, coordinating with fire safe councils, and working with other agencies to assist in recovery and become better prepared for natural disasters.
By Brent McGhie, UC Master Gardener of Butte County, September 21, 2018
As members of the mint family, all Salvia flowers are two lipped (bilabiate) and commonly arranged in dense spikes. Salvia leaves are usually found in pairs opposite one another on square stems, but the leaves may also be arranged singly on the stems of shrub species of Salvia. Salvia foliage is aromatic, giving off a mint-like odor when crushed. Sages of the genus Salvia should not be confused with sagebrush (Artemesia), which has none of these characteristics and is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae).
The characteristic of the genus Salvia that sets it apart from the rest of the mint family is the structure of its flowers. The stamens of these flowers form a lever and when a pollinator enters the flower, the lever causes the stamens to move and deposit pollen on the pollinator. When that pollinator enters another flower of the same species, the stigma of the flower is situated so that it brushes against the pollen on the pollinator's body, virtually guaranteeing pollination!
Several Salvia species are on display at the Master Gardeners Demonstration Garden at the Patrick Ranch Museum (located at 10381 Midway between Chico and Durham). Popular Salvias found at the Demonstration Garden include: Black and Blue Sage (Salvia guarnitica), Creeping Sage (S. sonomensis), Hummingbird Sage (S. spathacea), Autumn Sage (S. greggii) and Cleveland Sage (S. clevelandii).
Creeping Sage and ‘Bee's Bliss' Salvia are similar groundcovers. Both are found in the California Native section of the Demonstration Garden. These evergreen perennials reach a height of four to six inches, and a single plant can spread 12 feet or more. Their foliage is a pleasing silver-green. They produce a profusion of blue-violet flower spikes from spring to early summer. These plants are moderately drought tolerant and will grow in full or partial sun.
Autumn Sage may be one of the few plants that is best known by its scientific name, Salvia greggii. This plant blooms from early summer through fall and flowers of S. greggii are usually some form of red, but can also be bicolor, white, pink, rose, purple and or orange. It is an evergreen perennial, but can be winter dormant in colder areas. It grows two to three feet tall and as wide. Like many Salvias, Autumn Sage thrives in full sun and requires very little water. There are several examples of S. greggii in the Demonstration Garden.
If you decide to include Salvias in your garden, they do best if they are planted in early fall. This gives the plants time to establish a healthy root system before they have to contend with the hot days of summer. They can also be planted in spring, but will need more attention & watering during the summer months. If you want more information about Salvias or any other garden topic, contact the UC Master Gardeners of Butte County by phoning our Hotline (530-538-720l), or visit our web page at: http://ucanr.edu/sites/bcmg/
By Laura Lukes, UC Master Gardener of Butte County, September 7, 2018
The beauty of evolution is its reliance on trial and error, or adaptation. What works, works very well, and allows life in many forms to exist in some of Earth's harshest environments. The climatic conditions of the planet's seven Mediterranean Zones include between five and seven months of zero precipitation, and many days in a row with high temperatures of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. These are challenging circumstances for any living thing. Yet a wide variety of plants have evolved clever strategies to survive these long, dry, hot periods.
Generally speaking, there are three major strategies employed by plants to survive annual drought conditions: desiccation tolerance; drought avoidance; and drought tolerance. These strategies evolved through millions of years of adaptation, and are endlessly fascinating in their ingenuity. (Please note that the survival tactics described below, the result of complex chemical and molecular biological processes, are simplified for this article.)
Desiccation Tolerance: To desiccate something is to thoroughly dry it. Tolerance of desiccation gives a plant the remarkable ability to survive almost total dehydration. This strategy is employed by mosses and ferns. Briefly, plants in this category have developed the ability to enter into, and recover from, anhydrobiosis, the cessation of metabolic activity as a result of low intracellular water content. Next time you are hiking in Upper Park or the foothills during the dry months, you can see this phenomenon for yourself. Find a patch of rust colored, crunchy dry moss on a rock, and gently pour a small amount of water on it. In seconds, what appeared to be completely dead vegetation will turn green and supple.
Another form of drought avoidance is early leaf drop. A good example of this is the buckeye (Aesculus), which occupies a unique ecological niche by being one of the first shrubs to leaf out and flower in early spring, and also one of the first to lose its leaves, well before the onslaught of summer heat and drought. Leaves demand precious nutrients and energy, and without them the buckeye can conserve these resources. During years of drought, and during sustained periods of high temperatures, our valley oaks and blue oaks lighten their metabolic load by dropping some leaves earlier than usual.
Drought Tolerance: Lastly, there is this catch-all phrase. Plants in this category are just better at functioning during annual drought conditions, due to a number of creative adaptations. Such plants are also called xerophytes; literally “dry plants.” They remain green all year round, but manage to save or store water, often through structural (usually leaf) morphology. Common structural adaptations for water conservation are:
- Thick, leathery leaves with waxy cuticles, which perform dual functions of cutting down on water loss and reflecting heat away from the plant. Our native Ceanothus (California Lilac) is a prime example of this.
- Small, thin leaves, which effectively reduce the surface area from which water loss can occur. The tiny yet highly fragrant leaves of Santolina typify this adaptation.
- Sunken stomata pits, which trap moist air and reduce water loss rates. Pine needles employ this strategy (as well as being small and thin).
- Hairy leaves, like those found on Cyprus ironwort (Sideritis cypria) or Lamb's Ears (Stachys byzantina), which shade the stomata and reduce contact from hot air, protecting plants from extremes of light and temperature.
Redundancy is a hallmark strategy for species survival (think two kidneys in human beings); and most plants employ more than one method of beating the hot dry summers of the Mediterranean climate. Now that you know what to look for, see how many of these ingenious biological adaptations you can spot.