By Trudy Wischemann
“You can’t stop progress,” I’ve been warned my whole life as I worked against the predictable devastation I saw coming in progress’s wake. Maybe that’s true, but the news this past week suggests that progress can be redirected.
Saturday’s front page article in the Fresno Bee showed fingerling Chinook salmon from the San Joaquin River. Last fall, spring-run salmon made it to the foot of Friant Dam and reproduced for the first time in 60 years, restarting the cycle many thought was lost forever. Like the migrating birds returning to Tulare Lake’s man-made wetlands, the salmon run appears to be more resilient than most of our imaginations. What we thought was lost to “progress,” Mother Nature resupplied once we committed ourselves to restoring the conditions we’d stripped from her plan.
Even more pertinent for those of us in Tulare County who dream of a more sustainable future was the news that the Boswell Corp. withdrew its plan to build Yokohl Ranch. “You’re kidding,” said one friend I called; “No way,” said another. Ten years ago the dream of saving Yokohl Valley from this plan was ridiculed by many, even those of us who were infected by the dream, made cynical by the King of California’s power. One of my Tulare County heroes whose cinch straps had worn thin fighting for another, much smaller valley, said it wasn’t worth fighting. Whatever Boswell wants is inevitable.
And I don’t kid myself about that power dynamic. That company has decided that it doesn’t want to spend its resources this way, that’s all. Whether that decision was affected (at least in part) by the costs of deflating opposition to their project, we may never know. But there are some positive lessons I get from this news.
The most important one is that sacrifices count. Mine were small: time spent writing, worrying, talking, more writing. Others’ were larger: members of the Tulare County Citizens for Responsible Growth worked for years to document facts, then use them to lobby for and enlighten the general public and its governmental officials. They also searched for ways to fill the void in public awareness about our valuable, beloved human environment here, producing the web site www.tularecountytreasures.org.
There were larger sacrifices, too. One longtime Yokohl family rancher, Tom Daly, who died in 2014 while working calves for a friend, refused to sell his land to Boswell although the offered price was 5 to 10 times higher than the going rate. And all of these people made their sacrifices according to deep beliefs, which they held and acted upon despite the widely held notion that Boswell’s proposed 10,000-unit development, described as self-contained, self-sufficient (i.e., “sustainable,”) would be good for this county. Those sacrifices, large and small, were made because we believe Yokohl Ranch would be bad for this county, not just Yokohl Valley.
The real progress I see is that we appear to have an opening to have that discussion. What kind of development would be good for those of us who live here in the center of a small, fertile universe? Let’s get talking.
Trudy Wischemann is a land reformer who writes. You can send her your ideas of progress c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.