The illogical ecological reserve

The Butte Environmental Council and Janie Teague-Urbach’s Guest Comment, “Give the university a chance,” in the Jan. 31 News & Review regarding the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve is a prime example of the confusion and misleading information that has surrounded these newly acquired lands.

Ms. Teague-Urbach explains the lands were purchased with the “preservation” part of Prop. 12 and not the “recreation” part, thereby justifying severely restricted public access. I don’t recall ever hearing that definition used when those who orchestrated the deal were soliciting public funds. Excuse me for not reading the fine print. Obviously, those who orchestrated this deal did not understand the complexities of using public money to purchase 4,000 acres next to the busiest park in Butte County. Their narrow thinking and poor planning are haunting them now.

Ms. Teague-Urbach begins her comments stating that people on both sides of the reserve issue are sincere in their actions. This couldn’t be further from the truth in regard to fishing and hunting. Those behind this acquisition used funding that was tied to, among other things, fishing and hunting. However, once the money was obtained, they seemed to change their tune. They fought the implementation of a hunting program on the lands, forcing it into an almost-secret society, with little publicized permit applications and hidden entry procedures.

In addition, it is obvious they have very little understanding of hunting and wildlife management, as indicated by Suzanne Gibbs’ statements in the Jan. 17 News & Review story, “Question of Balance.” Her assertion that hunting would scare the wildlife away from the preserve is absurd. Isn’t she aware that hunting has occurred on these lands for more than 100 years? Why is there such abundant wildlife still in the area?

Her suggestion of people being shot is even more ridiculous. Check the statistics: How many people have ever been shot up there? It’s amazing that someone so unknowledgeable of hunting and wildlife management has such an influential role in the decision making process.

And then there’s fishing. Ms. Teague-Urbach points out that private landowners in the area requested that the California Fish and Game Commission close the area to fishing due to trespassing concerns. However, she does not point out that these landowners asked the commission to close the stream on the basis of protecting salmon and steelhead in the creek; they never mentioned anything about trespassing. The state Fish and Game Commission would likely have had a different ruling on the matter had they known the true intent of the request. Closing the stream to protect the fish was unnecessary because protective regulations (catch and release, barb-less hooks) were already in place. In fact, the closure extends beyond the private lands and includes the Ecological Preserve and a section of Bidwell Park.

Where were those who orchestrated the deal on this issue? Isn’t fishing supposed to be one of the activities tied to the funds they obtained? This kind of insincere, elitist activity that continues to flow out of Big Chico Creek Canyon needs to end.