[env-trinity] Siskiyou Daily News: Bonham meets with locals

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Thu Feb 7 08:09:16 PST 2013

By John Bowman

February 05. 2013 9:15AM

Bonham meets with locals

Siskiyou County residents had the chance to air some of their most pressing fish and wildlife concerns on Jan. 30 when the head of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) visited Yreka.

CDFW Director Charlton Bonham visited Yreka on Jan. 30. He held private meetings with county supervisors and met with a group of 25 local stakeholders to hear their questions and concerns about his agency's actions and goals in Siskiyou County.

Siskiyou County residents had the chance to air some of their most pressing fish and wildlife concerns on Jan. 30 when the head of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) visited Yreka to hold a series of meetings with Siskiyou County supervisors, property rights activists and other concerned citizens.

CDFW Director Charlton Bonham travelled from Sacramento to spend the first part of the day meeting individually with county supervisors, followed by an afternoon meeting with 25 people, including representatives of the group Scott Valley Protect Our Water (POW), local agriculturalists, Native Americans, Sheriff Jon Lopey and representatives of Congressman Doug LaMalfa and Senator Jim Nielsen.

 Discusssions during the meetings touched on controversial issues such as coho salmon, wolves, stream flow studies, the ban on dredge mining and private property rights, to name a few.

Reports from POW representatives have indicated that some participants were disappointed with the one-hour time limit on the meeting. They have also reported that Bonham “did not provide any answers to the hot-button issues plaguing Siskiyou County. But, we do appreciate that he came up to Siskiyou ...”

Sheriff Lopey told the Daily News, “In essence, I think the meeting with Director Bonham was productive. He was willing to travel to Siskiyou County to talk to county officials, and the citizens gathered to express concerns they have ...” Lopey explained that many of the citizens he has talked to “believe many policies promulgated at the state level, and being enforced or enacted locally in concert with a few other federal and state agencies, have or may potentially be damaging to the Siskiyou economy, lifestyle, traditions and way of life enjoyed by our residents since the mid-1800s.” However, Lopey sounded optimistic after the meeting, saying “I think the open dialogue, while too short, was productive and will lead to further discussions at a high level for all stakeholders.”

Bonham concurred with Lopey’s assessment after the meeting. He told the Daily News that he feels improving communication, personal access and transparency are some of his top priorities as CDFW director. “That’s what these kinds of meetings are all about. There needs to be a level of access to me so we can have these conversations,” said Bonham.
Sheriff Lopey was instrumental in arranging the meeting between Bonham and local residents. Bonham said he visited the area last year for meetings with local government and, at that time, made a commitment to continue a regular in-person dialogue in Siskiyou County. He said in late 2012 he and Lopey began discussing another visit and the plan finally came to fruition with last week’s visit.

In light of the past stuggles in Siskiyou County, Bonham said he understands that there is a lack of local trust for his department. “These are challenging times,” he said. “Jobs are scarce. The economic woes are severe and real. If you add to that the fear that the department’s overall goal is to take something from people. That makes it hard to trust. But it all hinges on communication,” he said.

Bonham says CDFW’s goal is not to “take something away” from people. He said the department’s goal is to create healthy, self-sustaining populations of coho so that, eventually, regulations are not required. On the other hand, Bonham believes that CDFW’s relationship with Siskiyou County “is not defined by coho salmon.” He said the agency actively works with landowners and local government on a whole host of less contentious issues such as deer, elk and bear management.

Siskiyou County Supervisor Marcia Armstrong said much of what she discussed with the director could not be shared, but said she did explain the importance of the legal coordination process. According to Armstrong, “I told him that it is an opportunity for government-to-government conversation on an equal basis where there is joint jurisdiction. This way, the full board [of supervisors] can participate, there is a pre-established agenda and the public and press can observe and comment to the supervisors following the session.”

When asked what he learned from his meeting with Siskiyou County residents, Bonham listed three lessons that he has taken back to Sacramento with him. Those lessons were:

• “The department needs to do a better job of consistently providing the public with information about their activities and goals. He said the recent rumors that CDFW is planting wolves in California is an example of an information failure he hopes to avoid in the future. “We are absolutely not planting wolves anywhere in California,” he said.

• “Siskiyou citizens are passionate about their land and water and we need to work to foster better relationships with them.”

• “We can do this but it’s going to be a long, hard road. We can find ways to ensure regulatory business certainty and bring back the coho,” he insisted. “It’s important to be hopeful and remain optimistic. We have a lot of conversations ahead of us, but we’re all Californians and we’re all in this together.”

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