Welcome to our Quarterly Newsletter. With this first edition we look back at the history of the Western Shasta Resource Conservation District. In future editions we will tell you more about our projects that are ongoing or recently completed.
The Western Shasta Resource Conservation District has a long history in Shasta County; over 60 years, 600 projects and 60 million dollars’ worth of history. The District was founded in 1957 by a local group of farmers and ranchers as the Western Shasta Soil Conservation District. Its mission was to serve the agricultural interests of the county. In the District’s early years the Directors focused on conserving soil and water for farms and ranches and protecting water quality.
As it continues today, the District is led by an all-volunteer Board of Directors appointed by the County Supervisors. In the early 1990s the Board raised enough funds to hire staff. Under the direction of two of their first employees, Jeff Souza and Mary Mitchell, funding streams and programs expanded substantially. At one point the RCD employed over 30 people, many of which are now leaders in agriculture and resource conservation throughout the area.
What conservation projects the RCD tackles is determined by our Directors and include complex issues such as water, crops, fish, wildlife, wetlands, rangelands timber, game, healthy forests, safe forests, flood mitigation and flood benefits.
We are wholly a non-political, non-regulatory, non-advocacy entity that provides a balancing act between the various entities in the region that have an interest in our area’s vast wealth of natural resources. This is a function that Conservation Districts in the U.S. have been executing for a long time.
As early as 1935 managers with the US Department of Agriculture began the search for ways to extend conservation assistance from the federal government to more farmers. They believed the solution was to establish democratically organized soil conservation districts to lead the conservation planning effort at the local level. Then, Franklin Delano Roosevelt wrote a letter in 1937 urging the governors of each state to form legislation that would allow local landowners to form Soil Conservation Districts. In 1938, Soil Conservation Districts were formed to better serve local needs and to manage soil and water resources. Their creation, and the creation of the Soil Conservation Service in 1934, was in response to the Dust Bowl that had dirtied the thirties.
The Western Shasta RCD was formed on November 19, 1956 as the Western Shasta County Soil Conservation District, after the Shasta County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution proposing the formation in April of 1954. It was established to serve as a local liaison to the Soil Conservation Service, later NRCS.
The first meeting of the newly established district was held two months later on January 17, 1957. It was at this time that the first Board of Directors was identified. The Board included Melvin Hawes, first President; George Schoefer, father to current Director Phil Schoefer; Raymond Duncan, District’s longest running Director having served for 32 years; along with E.E. Day and Leonard Stayer. Leland Harris joined them as the first District Secretary. They would later be accompanied by Ken Croeni and Fred Walthers. During the early years of the District, the focus was on pasture seeding, stock pond construction, land leveling, and stream channel improvement.
Shortly after the district’s formation, the Lone Tree School House was deeded to the Western Shasta Soil Conservation District in 1959. A delegation went before the County Supervisors on June 8th, to see if they would give the schoolhouse to the Soil Conservation District. It was deeded by the Farm Bureau for a public meeting place and transferred from the Shasta Cascade Elementary School District, after the farm center and community residents approached the Western Shasta RCD about taking ownership upon the school district deciding to sell the property. This historic landmark remained in the District’s possession for 50 years. The Lone Tree School Community Center Committee (LTSCCC) was formed out of this time and oversaw the preservation of the building and erecting an historic monument plaque.
Name Change – Soil Conservation District to Resource Conservation District
In September 1971, it was determined that the district would adopt the name of the Western Shasta Resource Conservation District, as it remains today. This lined up with the eventual change of the Soil Conservation Service to the Natural Resource Conservation Service and the broadening of both organizations beyond soil conservation.
A greater number of projects were taken on with the arrival of the nineties. John McCullah was taken on as a Project Manager in 1991 and the relationship lasted for a few years. McCullah volunteered his time until projects were developed. Efforts to annex the City led to the RCD developing an Erosion Control BMP Manual for the City and County. McCullah was also PM for Trinity RCD, so he was able to share staff for repair/research projects on Buckhorn. The first genuine grant was a 319 j from RWQCB/EPA to develop and implement an erosion control strategy for Middle Creek Watershed and help the County develop a Hillside ordinance. McCullah directed the creation of the Middle Creek Watershed Coordinated Management Planning (CRMP) group. The grant of nearly $350K morphed into “fire safe” work and provided the District actual earned income. The CRMP was successful and expanded to include Clear Creek. Dennis Heiman, RWQCB/now current District President and Bob Bailey, NRCS were particularly helpful in directing the District to Grant-funded projects early on.
Jeff Souza was hired in 1995, as the district’s second Project Manager and the number of grants increased. In 1999, Mary (Schroeder) Mitchell, was hired as the Administrative Manager to serve alongside Jeff Souza. It was during this time that the District moved across the street from the NRCS to their own office on Bechelli. District employees would also rise from 1 in 1995 to 14 in 2000. Annual budget also rose from approximately $50K in 1995 to approximately $2 million in 2000. It was during this time that the Western Shasta RCD was named District of the Year by CARCD in 1999.
2000s, Move to Anderson
In 2001, Jeff Souza departed from the District, leaving Mary Mitchell to assume the role as District Manager. Mary worked for the district for 13 years and it was during this time that the District underwent a rapid growth.
The Shasta Conservation Fund (SCF) was first established in early 2002, as Friends of the RCD. Original Board of Directors included Tom Engstrom, Phil Schoefer, David Soho, Bruce Wendt, Stuart Gray, Steve Jolley, and Richard Baumann. The Shasta Conservation Fund name was quickly adopted later that year. Initial projects of the SCF included a community-wide salmon derby and a mini-store which held bird nesting boxes and native grasses.The Shasta Conservation Fund (SCF) was first established in early 2002, as Friends of the RCD. Original Board of Directors included Tom Engstrom, Phil Schoefer, David Soho, Bruce Wendt, Stuart Gray, Steve Jolley, and Richard Baumann. The Shasta Conservation Fund name was quickly adopted later that year. Initial projects of the SCF included a community-wide salmon derby and a mini-store which held bird nesting boxes and native grasses.
For this newsletter edition, Sean wrote the article on the History of the Western Shasta Resource Conservation District. He gladly volunteered for this task because of his keen interest in history and his experience working for the Shasta Historical Society.
Sean, home-grown in Shasta County, was active as a cross country runner and captain of the high school team at Enterprise High School in Redding. He then graciously took his skills to elementary schools in the region and helped coach younger kids in cross country racing. He moved on from Redding to graduate from Sacramento State with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and a minor in History and then back to Redding to work for the Shasta Historical Society.
Sean began at the WSRCD May, 2016 and has been invaluable as our administrative support and Board Clerk. He is never afraid to take on any task that he is given. Outside of work, Sean spends his time publishing his writings, drumming, and enjoying life.
Welcome to the Western Shasta Resource Conservation District’s (WSRCD) first quarterly newsletter since 2010. As a brief introduction, I joined the WSRCD in 2013 after 35 years with the State Water Resources Control Board and Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board. Realizing that it would not be possible (or wise) to hunt and fish every day in my post-retirement, volunteering for the RCD seemed like an appropriate follow-up to the work I had much enjoyed at the Regional Board’s Redding office. For a number of years I had had the privilege and good fortune of working with many RCD’s and non-profit watershed groups throughout the north Sacramento Valley area and in the Pit River and Upper Feather River watersheds. In 2010, when I co-authored ‘The Sacramento River Basin – A Roadmap to Watershed Management’, there were locally directed, non-profit organizations working in virtually every individual sub-watershed in the basin, developing management plans and implementing projects to improve water quality, aquatic habitat, and general watershed health. As state and federal funding to support this activity substantially declined in recent years, most of these organizations are now inactive or have ceased to exist. This situation presents an opportunity and challenge for RCDs to fill that void.
Here at the WSRCD, we are, of sorts, beginning a new era. With the exception of Phil Schoefer, a 29 year RCD veteran, our other six Directors (myself included) have been on the Board for less than four years. The same applies to our District Manager and most of our staff, so together we are learning on the job. We have an active and varied program here at the WSRCD and I believe this is an overall reflection of Shasta County with its mix of urban, rural residential, forests and timber operations, diverse agriculture, and a wealth of recreational and environmental attributes. Our list of priority resource conservation issues includes fire and fuels management, forest health, fisheries enhancement (particularly anadromous salmon and steelhead), habitat improvement (aquatic and upland), soil and rangeland health, water quality protection/enhancement, and water use efficiency.
I hope you will find this newsletter helpful in better understanding our organization, who we are and what we do.
There are 98 RCDs scattered throughout the state. They provide a strong network of expertise that is available to address the latest conservation issues. The Districts work closely with the federal Natural Resource Conservation Service as well as with many other federal and state agencies. Most significantly, though, the Western Shasta Resource Conservation District engages closely with the county, with all the towns in the area, with private businesses and with all landowners to address and prioritize conservation needs.
Our staff of 20 plus dedicated conservationists and field crew include many who have grown up in the region. We work closely with the SMART Business Center, Shasta College and local agencies to employ and give people the skills they need so they may realize their dreams and help preserve the wise-use of our natural resources.
Welcome to the Western Shasta Resource Conservation District.
This was also the year that the Western Shasta Resource Conservation District moved to Anderson, occupying what was known as the Sunset Plastics Building and the structure in which the District is located today. It was on August 21st that the board held their first meeting in the new building. Two days later, the staff made the official move and the new office space became operational on Monday, August 26th 2002. Stuart Gray was also named Director of the Year by the CARCD.
Not everything has been smooth sailing with the District, however. In 2004/2005, the RCD attempted to create a parking lot along Parallel Road and purchase the building from the landlord, but due to difficulties, neither came to pass. Furthermore, the historic landmark that had been in the possession of the District since 1959, Lone Tree School House, burned down in 2009 due to arson fire. Still, the Western Shasta Resource Conservation District remains the largest RCD in the state today and continues to grow. In 2006, the District, as part of Clear Creek Restoration Team, received the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award, which is “the State of California’s highest and most prestigious environmental honor” according to the Governor’s office. While in 2010, Phil Schoefer was named Director of the Year and the Western Shasta RCD was again named District of the Year by the CARCD.
There have been numerous people that cut their teeth in conservation through the WSRCD and have now moved on to work for a number of entities throughout the region. Some of them include:
Whether living in an urban, suburban, or a rural setting, he finds the beauty of the location in which he resides and as a support staff is pleased to aid the District in carrying out their conservation projects
Other tidbits about Sean: He likes hot dogs and drums. He does not like like ketchup or lemons. He likes our office cat, Kit, though he’s more of a dog person.
Chester Anderson, District Manager
The Lone Tree School House.