Ceremony to Protect Wetlands Brings Together Environmentalists, Indigenous People

Priscilla Hunter leading a similar ceremony in the wetlands last October.

Priscilla Hunter leading a similar ceremony in the wetlands last October.

Although it was perhaps the hottest day in Willits so far this year, the Ceremony to Protect the Wetlands drew nearly 100 people yesterday, June 8th, to the parched wetlands that CalTrans has been clearing, draining, and filling to construct its Willits Bypass.

The event was marked by a show of unity between Save Our Little Lake Valley and the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians, one of three federally-recognized Pomo bands with lineal descendants in Little Lake Valley, who recently passed a resolution calling for the Bypass northern interchange and mitigation plan to be downsized.  Coyote Valley elder Priscilla Hunter led a ceremony in the wetlands, accompanied by American Indian Movement drummers.  Coyote Valley Chairman Michael Hunter was among the rally speakers.

The event came as the fate of CalTrans’ northern interchange, which would destroy 25-30 acres of wetlands, remains politically charged.  CalTrans will run out of soil to haul to the wetlands from its current site south of Willits around June 18th.  Meanwhile, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board has not yet authorized CalTrans to begin hauling fill from any other area because CalTrans still has not completed an acceptable mitigation plan, more than two years after its original deadline to do so.

There are other political stirrings.  For example, Mendocino Council of Governments Chairman Dan Gjerde, a member of the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, has sent a letter to the State Water Board and other agencies requesting that the northern interchange be downsized.

Other rally speakers included poet Mary Norbert Korte and journalist/activist Will Parrish.