Give the university a chance

People on both sides of the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve issue ["Question of balance,” cover story, Jan. 17] may be less than perfectly motivated, but I’m willing to bet that all concerned get up in the morning and set out to do what they believe to be right and good. That said, we need to look at the facts impinging on the management of this preserve.

The public money that went into buying this preserve was from the “preservation” part of Proposition 12, not “recreation.” The strings attached to it insist that this land be managed as a preserve; that is, maintaining the ecological balance that still exists there. The stewards of this land, as administrators of the grant, have no choice but to protect that balance.

The University Research Foundation bears this responsibility, not the city and not Michael Jones. If local government were willing to administer the reserve under the terms tied to the grant money and pay to manage it as a “public"-access area, then it would have an axe to grind. But it’s not, and so it doesn’t. Let’s give the folks at the foundation some time to evolve a management plan before we jump all over them. They put in charge people who understand ecology, which is appropriate for the grant they are administering. They have involved more citizen input than they had to.

Permits for use of sensitive areas serve as a middle ground between total lockout and total access. If they aren’t granted in a reasonable manner, then we can complain. I don’t like hunting or fishing, but many do, and their licenses pay for a lot of wildlife preservation. The state Fish and Game Commission closed the area to fishing at the request of private landowners above the preserve, who were apparently concerned about trespassing.

Most important, there is precious little wilderness left, and some people think we have the right to invade even this. When a mother mountain lion, acting to protect her young, attacks an encroaching human, occasionally the human ends up dead, but the mother animal is almost always shot. Can’t we leave them even a little space?

Volumes could be filled with what we don’t know about animals and plants being destroyed in the Northstate. It makes sense to care for the future by allowing our young to study a functioning ecological system without outside disturbance. Once more is known about the area and its system, perhaps less-restricted use could be allowed.

Last fall, we removed 7.29 tons of garbage from the publicly accessed areas of parks and creeks. It doesn’t seem a great idea to open this area up to unsupervised use, if we want it to stay a preserve. If we want those who bear the responsibility of maintaining this delicate ecological system to trust us in there, perhaps we should earn that trust by taking better care of the areas we already have public access to. See you at the next cleanup!