Wilderness! Quite a Party

Lake County environmental leaders turned out in numbers on February 11 for a very festive celebration of the passage of the Wilderness Bill (officially, the Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act) hosted by Congressman Mike Thompson and the California Wilderness Coalition at the Saintsbury Winery in Napa.

When the Sierra Club Lake Group was formed in 2001 we selected the passage of this measure as our number one conservation priority, and it stayed number one until the bill was finally signed into law on October 17, 2006. Activities during those five years included petition and letter-writing campaigns aimed at national, state, and local officials, lobbying trips to Washington, informational tabling at a host of events, and participation in several tumultuous public meetings that culminated in Board of Supervisors endorsement on April 26, 2005.


At the celebratory party, food, drink, and convivial mutual congratulations played a more noticeable role than did statistics. Besides Representative Thompson, participants included former Congressman and Earth Day founder Pete McCloskey, Mendocino County Supervisor Jim Wattenburger, Willits Mayor Tami Jorgensen, Boxer aide Tom Bohigian, regional wilderness advocates Ryan Henson, Mary Wells, and Lynn Ryan, and from Lake County, Supervisors Ed Robey and Denise Rushing, equestrian Bill Knispel, Lake Group founders Peter Windrem, Steve Devoto, and Nina Marino, all three past and present Group Chairs, as well as other members of the Executive Committee, Land Trust and Redwood Audubon leaders, and assorted companions. Speeches-- including remarks by both Robey and Knispel, both of whom lobbied for the bill in Washington--were mostly brief and often funny, concentrating on the long, slow, patient, determined effort that ultimately led to success.

Congressman Thompson closed the formal portion of the event very appropriately with recollections of the tumultuous Kelseyville meeting of April 2002 when the Wilderness Bill was first discussed in Town Hall format in Lake County, culminating in a final round of applause and cheers. Then guests went back to the hors d'oeuvres and wine, and to discussion of plans for enjoying and preserving the wild heritage that is among our community's most precious assets.