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Davis environmental awards have a rich history

By From page A1 | February 11, 2014

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A row of broccoli waits to be harvested Friday morning at Harper Junior High. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

Davis has a long history of environmentalism, and a look at the list of recipients of the city’s annual Environmental Recognition Award is proof of that.

Nominations for the 20th annual awards will be accepted through Friday, Feb. 14. Categories include individual/group, nonprofit organization and businesses. Award recipients are selected by the city’s Natural Resources Commission and will be honored publicly by the City Council on April 22.

Criteria include: actions or achievements addressing a current environmental concern, established a record of achievements or actions benefiting the environment and showing a commitment to continued long-term effort and creative implementation or development of an innovative project.

Individual category winner Dorothy Peterson recalls winning in 2004 for her work with Davis Farm to School, part of the nonprofit organization Yolo Farm to Fork.

That year, she began the school recycling program DavisRISE, which stands for “recycling is simply elementary.”

“We’re trying to encourage all schools to recycle to cut their solid waste that goes into the garbage, and then this can be an automatic practice in the schools that can become a life skill,” Peterson said. “Whenever you pick a tomato and eat it, some people don’t eat the skin. That skin could be composted.”

Peterson said she would not have received the environmental award were it not for previous work beginning in 1999 though the group’s gardening program, which she began while she was employed as a Davis teacher.

“What kids grow in the garden they are more willing to eat, and environmentally this all makes sense because everyone can have a garden,” she said, “even inside — sprouts in the fridge, herbs on your window sill. All in all, the environmental program is hoping to show that you can compost or recycle so that your carbon footprint diminishes.”

The day Peterson retired she went “right back to work” volunteering, and she hasn’t stopped since.

On Friday morning, Peterson helped harvest 2,400 heads of broccoli at Harper Junior High School’s garden.

“People just do things to enjoy them; the award was a complete surprise,” she added.

Putah Creek Council was a winner in 1997 in the nonprofit category for its cooperative efforts to bring water back to Putah Creek below the Monticello Dam on Lake Berryessa.

The council was urged by local environmentalists — including youths at the city of Davis’ summer camp, Camp Putah — to bring water, aquatic life and riparian habitat back to Putah Creek, and the council listened, said Libby Earthman, executive director of Putah Creek Council, who was not employed with organization during that time.

The Putah Creek Council led a lawsuit versus the Solano County Water Agency, which ultimately it won to allow water to flow into Lake Solano and onward to the Yolo Bypass.

“The legacy was that it allowed a lot of habitat restoration on Putah Creek,” Earthman said. “It paved the way for a lot of positive things to happen. In 2009, the Solano County Water Agency ended up winning for embracing that habitat restoration. They are now seen as creek champions and without their help, the restoration couldn’t have happened. They are amazing partners.”

Award winners since the first year’s recipient in 1995 have had very large shoes to fill.

That year, the award went to Robin Kulakow, executive director of the Yolo Basin Foundation.

Beginning in 1989, the foundation sought a way to restore a vast tract of unused farmland owned by an insurance company to allow a flyway for migratory birds as well as wetlands habitat for many animals. That property is now the Vic Fazio Yolo Wildlife Area east of Davis.

The project was fully underway by 1994 and was made possible through the cooperation of the community, elected officials, farmers, state and federal agencies, land owners, Davis City Council, county supervisors, and state lawmakers, among others.

“For many years it was mostly wetlands, and in the late ’80s and early ’90s, there was a big effort nationwide to restore wetlands along the flyways — migratory bird highways between Northern and Central America — (with) birds traveling north and south for breeding,” Kulakow said.

“Shorebirds, songbirds, and hawks winter here, but we’re best known for the large flocks of waterfowl. Ducks, tundra swans and geese are in the thousands right now.”

More information about criteria for award nominees can be found at http://public-works.cityofdavis.org/general-notices/20th-annual-environmental-recognition-award.

— Reach Jason McAlister at [email protected] or 530-747-8052.

Jason McAlister

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