Zoning wrong for canyon

Help protect local jewel from overdevelopment

Mr. Harthorn is executive director of Friends of Butte Creek.

Butte Creek is known throughout Butte County. This jewel is featured on almost every piece of travel or promotional material that is produced to highlight the splendor of our county. Thousands of commuters enjoy the beauty of the canyon every day as they travel between Paradise and Chico on the Skyway. The Friends of Butte Creek have championed and raised awareness across the state for the “last best run of spring-run salmon.”

For all the beauty and wonder of Butte Creek we humans enjoy, it is important to remember that Butte Creek also supports the most dynamic and biodiverse riparian ecosystem in the North State. UC Davis researchers are finding ocean-based nutrients, courtesy of the salmon, in almost every organism they have tested.

Across the food chain, this ecosystem is tightly woven together due in part to the fact that the dam builders never successfully built a large ecosystem-busting reservoir on Butte Creek. The creek and canyon are likely among the most important recharge elements of our aquifers; provide a corridor between the valley and the mountains for multitudes of animal species, including the migratory Tehama deer herd; and show off the most majestic buttes of the county.

Although human beings have increasingly discovered the solitude and tranquil nature of living in rural Butte Creek Canyon, the citizens of Butte County have spoken in the past that we don’t want to overdevelop this jewel. High-density housing is inappropriate for this ecosystem. True, there is a mobile-home park in the canyon, as well as areas of one- to five-acre parcels with relatively high-density developments. These are vestiges of a time when we didn’t fully realize the impacts of too many humans in sensitive areas.

The Butte County Board of Supervisors will be hearing from concerned county residents on April 13, beginning at 1 p.m., in supervisors’ chambers in Oroville, about their recent decision made to reject county staff recommendations to limit development by designating many areas of the canyon as agricultural with 20-acre-minimum lots. An out-of-town developer has convinced the supervisors that his property—which includes many significant springs supporting Butte Creek, rolling hills supporting migratory deer, and spectacular bluffs supporting eagles, falcons and hawks—should be designated foothill-residential with a 5-acre-minimum lot size.

Please help us protect Butte Creek Canyon for all. Come to the meeting or write the supervisors. More information is available on the Friends of Butte Creek Web site, www.buttecreek.org.