Tonight, we celebrate. Coyote Valley, a last-chance frontier, a critical, habitat corridor of 1,000 acres between the Santa Cruz mountains of the San Francisco peninsula and the Diablo Range will remain protected from development thanks to the efforts of the Peninsula Open Space Trust and the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority. This victory represents the way forward on so many fronts. This victory represents a triumph at the confluence of good science and good policy that generated a good strategy and coalesced into a story that fueled a community-driven, grassroots efforts to not waste the preciousness of what has been given, the preciousness of our natural world. Coyote Valley is a symbol of stewardship that the Bay Area can be proud of. Not only do we all own this victory, but so too do our grandchildren of tomorrow.
Coyote Valley is a discreet physical place, it is not an abstract, hyper-object, like clean water or the fire threat, and because of it, represents an inroad to how we might address those other, more existential threats. Keep your promise to the land, manage its ability to take care of itself, defend its biotic richness, value biodiversity, and the land will heal itself and our community will be stronger and more resilient to whatever the future may tell.
California so often seems like a microcosm for the whole world. A tumbling mass of humanity doing its best to manage the growth of its swelling human populace. Two things happened this week: one, For the second year in a row, the CDFW (the California Department of Fish and Wildlife) in its annual fall midwater trawl survey of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, in 2019 found zero Delta smelt during the months of September, October, November, and December. Two, the Board of Forestry approved and certified the Environmental Impact Report of the state’s Habitat Clearance program plan — this Proposed Vegetation Treatment Program proposed by Governor Newsom and Cal Fire call for the destruction of 20 million acres of native habitat by burning, grinding, and spraying herbicides. Both of these stories, one of water, one of fire, represent misalignments that yield missteps in our bigger vision of keeping all the pieces on the table — the biodiversity that holds the secret patterns of our human ecology and its resiliency. These two unfolding debacles represent failings in connectivity between science, policy and the popular culture that they both serve. These two unfolding disasters represent bad story. Extant smelt are indicators of good water, letting them go means cascading effects we can’t predict. Destroying natural woodland and chaparral habitat in California is not good silviculture and will only work to make the larger, endemic forest-ecologies more vulnerable to future catastrophe.
Models of climate breakdown are all replete with tipping points and negotiating the moment the bomb goes off does not focus on the solvable crisis. It leads to condemning species to extinction before they are even gone. It leads to despair. What the protection of Coyote Valley represents chiefly, in addition to the preservation of space, is the preservation of time. If there is time and if there is habitat-space, then there is hope.
What do we need hope for? We need hope that the work that we have done will snowball into a better story, a story that leaves California at the end of the twenty-first century in better shape than we left it at the end of the twentieth. A story by which we instill our practices of good governance with a scientific standard that hold common principles of growth tempered within systems of resiliency. This growing story of communal resiliency will yield policy-systems where replenishment is the priority before extraction. This growing story, embodied in the triumph at Coyote Valley, is the way forward for California and it is the way forward for the world.