12.06.2007

'Restoration ideal' leads to job creation

'Restoration ideal' leads to job creation
by Greg King, 12/4/2007

Humboldt County Supervisor Roger Rodoni calls me a “Luddite” whose favorite tool is “litigation” because the Northcoast Environmental Center asked the California Department of Transportation to provide an environmental impact report before widening U.S. Highway 101 through Richardson Grove State Park (The Eureka Reporter, Nov. 28).

Rodoni doesn’t get it. Luddites don’t litigate, and requesting an EIR is not the same as a lawsuit. While the NEC may occasionally sue to correct serious wrongs, it would much rather find common ground on the issues — environmental and economic — that affect us all.

Rodoni’s comment was preceded on Nov. 23 by an acidic Eureka Reporter opinion article by John Campbell, who, like Rodoni, is an economic beneficiary of Maxxam Corp. Campbell dedicated himself to laying at my feet all the ruin, real and imagined, he sees surrounding him in Humboldt County. It’s no wonder the former Pacific Lumber Co. president, now Fortuna mayor, is currently under investigation by the California Fair Political Practices Commission for failing to disclose his ongoing financial obligations to PALCO, even while he votes on issues that would benefit his former employer.

While the two Maxxam loyalists waste words on a polarization campaign, many of us — left, right and center — are building alliances and working together to develop workable programs and visions for our ever-changing communities. Rodoni and Campbell fear these alliances and have set out to destroy them. In the process, their own worth as elected officials has been greatly diminished.

Campbell sees “living-wage” jobs disappearing in Humboldt County; however, with the exception of the timber industry, which has cut itself out of inventory, and the fishing industry, which suffers primarily from habitat degradation caused by industrial logging, several sectors of the Humboldt County economy are thriving.

The Humboldt County Workforce Investment Board reports that rapid job growth is occurring in several sectors — including health care, building and systems construction, specialty foods and beverages, investment support services and niche marketing.

Looking for work in the woods? The Mattole Restoration Council is now the largest employer in the Mattole River watershed, providing more than 100 good-paying seasonal and full-time jobs, with an annual budget approaching $3 million. As Big Timber cuts its way out of existence and prepares to sell off land to maintain profits, the restoration economy thrives and suggests an alternative to hillside subdivisions.

According to the 2004 study, “Socioeconomic Characteristics of the Natural Resources Restoration System in Humboldt County, California,” the county “is at the leading edge of restoration practices and serves as a model for how restoration work can be accomplished. … Restoration generates significant employment and has the potential to generate much more. The revenue it currently generates rivals and in some instances exceeds the value of other resource-based sectors of the regional economy.”

It would be refreshing to see Campbell and Rodoni embracing the restoration ideal for our region and otherwise promoting infrastructure improvements that will serve the small but healthy regional economy of scale that we enjoy. This won’t happen. Both men have repeatedly failed their constituents and should resign.

The NEC understands that many small, high-quality businesses in our area would like to see Highway 101 widened through Richardson Grove to allow larger trucks into Humboldt County. The NEC supports these businesses, we’re sensitive to their concerns and we appreciate the solidity they offer our region. Nevertheless, we must protect the old-growth redwood trees at Richardson Grove, and we must ensure that box stores and strip malls don’t mushroom here at the expense of the small, locally owned businesses that keep our economy strong.

In some ways it is our isolation that protects the economy and ecology of the North Coast. The NEC’s Sustainable Communities program is designed to promote and support an economy based on small- and medium-sized local businesses that are dedicated to strengthening and protecting values such as clean air and water, healthy habitats, and adequately funded schools, hospitals and government services. We’re doing the important and sometimes unpopular advance work to ensure that long-term and permanent changes occur in our region only if they truly benefit our people, our land and water, and our economy.

(Greg King is executive director of the Northcoast Environmental Center.)

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