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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus

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   Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | chapter wide
Destruction on the Pajaro (June 2002)

  Trees spaced every 75 feet
  Trees spaced every 75 feet below Mrphy's Crossing stand in mute testimony to the destruction of the riparian canopy in 1995.
In 1995, when portions of the east levee failed and high water claimed a life, then-governor Pete Wilson declared an emergency, exempting Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties from the Endangered Species Act. The counties cut down seven and a half miles of riparian forest under the firmly-held but hotly-debated belief that doing so would increase carrying capacity for the river channel. One documented result was a precipitous drop in bird populations. Other wildlife species declined, too. Many believe the deforestation also contributed to levee failure in 1998.

Six months later the „emergencyš declaration was found to be illegal, but the shade and habitat provided by thousands of trees were gone. Subsequent management efforts have removed all saplings and left only solitary trees every 75 feet on the east levee. The west levee still stands bare.

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