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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus
Justins Blog

Nitrate Contamination Video
May 2013

Through my internship with the Ventana Chapter of the Sierra Club, I examine nitrate contamination in the Salinas Valley, and how it has effected a community, both financially and medically. Click on the link below to a 5 minute video I narrated, wrote and directed to bring attention to this important and escalating economic justice issue:

Happy Birthday, Fort Ord National Monument!

Wow, I can't believe it was twelve months ago that President Obama signed legislation to make Fort Ord a national monument. To celebrate, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) hosted educational and beautiful hikes along trails that are normally prohibited.

Like any BLM event, the route to get there was an adventure in itself. After biking along Gigling Road for a few miles, I found myself at the BLM headquarters, where I joined dozens of eager hikers who stood patiently while they were briefed on safety. Behind us were posters showcasing the Army explosives, reading "Danger! Keep out!" I signed the release form, and began the Army Area Impact hike with the majority of participants.

The walk began on Watkins Gate, named after a private who was killed during an oil fire in the early 1900's. Typically closed for the public, this trail enters Seaside jurisdiction and overlooks several explosive and soil clean ups.

We received sheets to identify native species in the Ord to accompany the hike. A trail leader identified the Yellow Bush Lupine, a phenomenal flower on the Ord. The side of the flower that faces the ocean is blue, while the other side is yellow. We also viewed the White Globe Lily, aptly nicknamed Fairy Lantern.

Pausing at a vernal pool, we learned the wetland is a breeding habitat of the California Tiger Salamander, another species protected under the BLM. During the walk, I spoke with a few participants to find out why they attended. "I used to work in the Army, BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure Commission) office to clear property of ordinance," said Rob Robinson of Caramel. "All my friends are here and it's a good day for a walk."

Nancy Thomas of Pacific Grove decided to celebrate Mother's Day early by taking her mother out for a hike.

I also spoke with Jim Ryan and Donna Stidolp of Bike Equestrian Trail Assistance, a volunteer organization in association with the BLM. "We organized around the time FORA (Fort Ord Reuse Authority) took over. Through our memberships, we gain access to the back country where patrol on horse, bike, or foot and report findings back to the BLM," explained Ryan. "If we find any ammunition or problems with the trails, we let the public know."

Our chats paused when the group halted to witness the magnificent Army vehicles that are gathered for historical documentation. Aside the trail, an M60 battle tank, Gama Goats, and personnel carriers stood oxidizing on the land. A BLM official explained how loose pieces of metal are extrapolated for recycling.

With the cacophony of Laguna Seca Raceway nearby, the leaders exclaimed the process of burning and clearing land for native habitat restoration. We stood at site 3A, near the infamous "Impossible City" to learn about munitions extrapolation. Contaminated soil has to be reviewed for munitions and carefully burnt to detonate any potential explosives. After this, sub-surface munitions are extrapolated and the soil has to be burnt yet again. The BLM clears about 400-600 acres per year, and there are approximately 3,000 more acres left in the Ord to be cleared for restoration.

We convened back at the BLM headquarters, and then drove to the picnic grounds where celebratory birthday cupcakes were devoured. After chatting with some folks and petting search and rescue dogs, I began my bike ride back home.

The next BLM event is July 13, where participants can take a free 90 minute guided bus tour through the Fort Ord Impact Area. More information can be found at

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