Friday, 24 May 2024

Opinion

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. — With the current push and extensive funding available for “brush” clearing I have to point out something that is missing from the conversation.

What is being labeled “brush” is an important and natural plant community called chaparral, and it is unique to California.

It is valuable habitat for numerous wildland creatures, providing shelter, food and nesting habitat for our declining bird populations and mammals.

For some birds like the California thrasher and the wrentit, chaparral is their primary habitat. chaparral is a shrub community composed of many different shrub species, including toyon and old-growth manzanita that provide berries for birds and mammals, and numerous other beautiful native California plants including the blue and white displays of various California lilac (ceanothus) species that cover our hillsides in spring.

The green hills surrounding Clear Lake are mostly carpeted with chaparral. It is what makes Lake County beautiful. It seems like with all the discussion regarding fire safe communities the fact that our chaparral ecosystem is a valuable and unique resource is never mentioned.

Chaparral is not brush or fuel but is an ecosystem unique to California. And it is not indestructible.

Numerous myths abound about chaparral. One being the idea that it is “overgrown,” or “decadent.” These are terms that are not carelessly slapped on other natural systems. Do we talk about old growth redwood forests being “overgrown”?

Old growth is a natural and essential component of chaparral ecosystems, and it is just fine to have stands of old growth chaparral just like in forests and Redwoods. No one speaks of “clearing” redwood forests the way they speak about “clearing brush.”

Let’s look at some facts.

The most effective way to protect lives and communities from wildfire is to focus on making homes fire resistant, reduce flammable materials within 100 feet around them, and prevent developers from placing neighborhoods in harm’s way.

This focus is critical because the most devastating fires in California are wind-driven, casting billions of hot embers miles ahead of the fire front. It’s the wind-driven embers that destroy a majority of communities, not flames from burning shrub lands.

Maintenance of existing fire breaks, maintaining low vegetation along evacuation routes, and focusing on firebreaks near communities are also reasonable approaches. However, completely stripping hillsides of vegetation using masticating and bulldozing is not.

Also, too-frequently burning chaparral will kill it. It is not “meant to burn”; this is a myth that is often promoted about this unique and vulnerable ecosystem.

Lake County’s chaparral represents California’s most extensive and most misunderstood ecosystem. Chaparral can recover from occasional fire, but it is threatened by too much fire.

Also unmentioned is the role of chaparral in climate change. Chaparral plays an important role in carbon sequestration. Does Lake County have a climate change policy that clearly addresses how destruction of natural communities will impact climate change? No, it does not.

Various federal and state agencies have recognized the threat to chaparral: California’s Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment of the state’s terrestrial vegetation predicts chaparral will likely disappear within the next century if current trends continue.

The United States Forest Service established a new leadership intent to protect chaparral in California because human-caused fires have increased fire frequency to the extent that chaparral can no longer survive and is being replaced with non-native annual grasses.

The California Board of Forestry’s Vegetation Treatment Program states that, “coastal sage scrub and chaparral are experiencing fires too frequently resulting in changes to their ecology.”

The California State Legislature amended the Public Resource Code to mandate additional consideration for chaparral plant communities that are being increasingly threatened by fire frequency.

The concern for conservation of chaparral includes acknowledging the critical ecosystem services it provides, especially watershed protection, soil and hillside stabilization, as well as intrinsic value to biodiversity and wildlife habitat.

Vegetation management for the purpose of fire risk reduction should focus on thinning vegetation along evacuation routes, within 100 feet of structures and removing flammable invasive species, which are the primary ladder fuels, to reduce ignitions. Preventing roadside ignitions makes great sense, as this is exactly where many fires start.

Clear cutting, masticating, or excessive burning of chaparral is not a solution. This will create large swaths of unsightly cleared hillsides that will soon revegetate with flammable non-native grasses. These grasses can ignite with a single spark and rapidly carry fire into whatever wildlife habitat is left.

Large cleared open areas also create wind tunnels that can funnel fire at high-speeds, thereby creating wind-driven fires even when the weather is not intrinsically windy.

Please don’t call chaparral “brush” or “fuel”. Call is what it is and recognize it for what it is: an endangered unique California ecosystem that is important for the birds and animals that live here.

Roberta Lyons lives in Lower Lake.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. — South Africa reported identification of a new SARS-CoV-2 variant to the World Health Organization on Nov. 24. As many will be aware, it has become known as the “Omicron variant” (B.1.1.529).

Omicron is considered a variant of concern for several reasons: the number of mutations; the replacement of Delta as the dominant variant in South Africa; the potential for increased transmissibility; and concern for decreased effectiveness of neutralizing antibodies provided by our current vaccines.

Multiple continents have already confirmed Omicron cases; Africa, Asia, North America and Europe. The first United States case was identified Dec. 1 in San Francisco. Since then, additional cases have been identified in the U.S. among people that had not traveled internationally, suggesting community spread.

There is much we do not know, at this time. First, it is unclear whether Omicron is more transmissible than the Delta variant. A relatively low number of cases have been documented, to date.

Second, it is unknown whether Omicron variant infection is associated with more severe disease; preliminary data from South Africa shows no unusual symptoms.

Third, no data exists to assess vaccine effectiveness or the neutralizing potential with prior SARS-CoV-2 infection on the Omicron variant. Lab and epidemiological studies are underway to answer these concerns. We will learn more in the coming weeks.

The public health response to this new variant has been swift and thorough. The CDC has implemented enhanced surveillance at all public health labs. Select US airports with travelers coming from infected regions are performing additional post-arrival testing. Travel from some south African countries has been suspended.

CDC officials are recommending all travelers get a COVID-19 viral test three to five days after arrival. If you are not fully vaccinated you should quarantine for seven days, even if your test is negative. All travelers who are positive or who develop symptoms should self-isolate.

COVID-19 vaccination remains as our first line of defense. The approved vaccines have proved highly effective in preventing hospitalization and death, even in the face of previous variants. As of Dec. 1, 233 million Americans have received at least one dose of vaccine. Outbreaks are much more likely in areas of low vaccination. Areas with more receptive hosts (i.eunvaccinated individuals) are also more prone to give rise to new variants.

Vaccine recommendations are in place for everyone 5 years and above. Boosters are now recommended for everyone 18 years and above at the recommended intervals. Vaccines are widely available in Lake County.

As we progress through this pandemic, we must continue to employ prevention strategies we have learned. These include effective masking while indoors, improved indoor ventilation, social distancing and hand-washing.

Most recently, President Biden has requested all insurance companies reimburse individuals for over-the-counter SARS-CoV-2 test kits.

In the coming months these will become much more available, and should be used when you have concerns regarding increased risk of exposure; for example, contact with individuals outside your regular core group, and before and after travel outside your region.

Omicron is not the first variant of concern to be identified, and, unfortunately, is unlikely to be the last. It is almost certain the Omicron variant will soon be identified in Lake County. SARS-CoV-2 is now endemic in our world community, and we will continue to manage outcomes of that for years.

We are all exhausted by the changes we have endured since the advent of the pandemic. However, keeping apprised of current knowledge surrounding the virus and its variants can help keep you and your loved ones safe. It is also highly fortunate we have such ready access to vaccination and booster doses in the United States and Lake County. New therapeutic treatments are also expected to be authorized soon.

As more is learned about Omicron, we will be better positioned to take appropriate measures to limit its effects on our communities.

If you have considered vaccination but have not gotten around to it, please do so today. Immunity from vaccination typically takes two weeks after a one- or two-dose course has been completed.

More information on the Omicron Variant is available at the following links:

https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/Omicron-Variant-Fact-Sheet.aspx

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/science/science-briefs/scientific-brief-omicron-variant.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/index.html

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2021/s1201-omicron-variant.html

Are you interested in COVID-19 vaccination, but facing barriers? Call 707-263-8174.

Dr. Charlie Evans is an Emergency Medicine Specialist that has seen firsthand the devastating effects COVID-19 can have on individuals, families and communities, and he has supported Lake County Health Services’ pandemic response.

According to Chinese medicine our health and well-being are maintained when there is balance and harmony in body, mind, and spirit.

What does this mean to be balanced and in harmony?

There is a universal Life Force energy that flows in everything around us and in us. The movement of energy in nature can be observed by the movement of the seasons.

In Chinese medicine each season correlates with an element. Water is winter, wood is spring, fire is summer, earth is late summer, and metal is fall. We are connected to nature. Therefore, the same Life Force energy flows in us.

Each element correlates with a yin-yang pair that make up the organs of the body.

Water: Bladder, kidney.
Wood: Gallbladder, Liver.
Fire: Small intestines, heart; triple burner function (thermostat), heart protector/pericardium.
Earth: Stomach, spleen.
Metal: Large intestines, lungs.

The energy of each element also corresponds to every aspect of our being, at the physical, mental/emotional, and spirit level. In this article I'd like to share some information about how the Elements correspond to the mental/emotional level, and the full range of emotions we experience as human beings.

In life, all the emotions have their appropriate and healthy time and place. Emotions are an expression of our Life Force energy and when we are balanced, we can freely feel, express, and release our emotions. But what happens when we cannot freely feel, express and freely release emotions? Emotional energy can become blocked, stuck, or create an imbalance in the body.

When we have many stresses, it can be a daily challenge just to stay balanced. When our energy is strong, resilient, and balanced we can deal with the ups and down of daily life, including the mental/emotional level. Sometimes when life becomes too hard, the first signs of imbalance are often felt at the mental/emotional level.

When issues go on for an extended period of time and are not resolved, they can lead to mental/emotional conditions, or even physical level dis-ease.

When we are in a balance the elements grant us the capacity to express these gifts of mental/emotional expression:

Water: Appropriate fear, trust, faith, courage, reassurance.
Wood: Appropriate anger, direction, assertion, self-esteem, clarity, intention.
Fire: Joy, elation, spirit, relationship/partnership, connection, open heart.
Earth: Sympathy, nurturing, understanding, groundedness.
Metal: Appropriate grief, self-worth, purpose, inspiration, acknowledgment, respect.

When mental/emotional expressions are not resolved, the elements may begin to show signs that we need balance and support:

Water: Constant fear, need for control, stress, anxiety.
Wood: Unresolved anger, frustration, indecision, irritability, depression.
Fire: Lack of connection, sadness, disconnection, bitterness, lack of joy, closed heart.
Earth: Obsessive worry, overthinking, lack of sympathy, lack of nurturing.
Metal: Emptiness, low self-worth, pointlessness, unresolved grief.

We all have the gifts of the five elements within us. Our mental/emotional state is an expression of what we need to stay balanced and whole.

When we feel out of balance, the mental/emotional gifts of the elements can be a road map to regain your balance and harmony.

If you find yourself feeling stressed, full of anxiety, or the need to control the unknown, look to the gifts of the water element. Do you need faith, courage and trust?

If you find yourself feeling irritable, frustrated, or depressed, look to the gifts of the wood element. Do you need direction, assertion, self-esteem, clarity, intention?

If you find yourself feeling a lack of connection, sadness, or bitterness, look to the gifts of the fire element. Do you need joy, partnership, connection, open heartedness?

If you find yourself feeling worried, ungrounded, a lack of nurturing, look to the gifts of the eEarth element. Do you need sympathy, nurturing, understanding?

If you find yourself feeling emptiness, lack of purpose, unending grief, look to the gifts of the metal element. Do you need respect, inspiration, acknowledgment?

These are some of the ways that our mental/emotional expressions point us to what we need. In times of stress, take some time to explore the mental/emotional gifts of the five elements within you, and how they can support your ongoing health and well-being.

Wendy Weiss has been practicing Five Element Acupuncture for 30 years. She has offices in Lakeport and Lower Lake. For more information she can be reached at 707-277-0891 or visit her website at www.wendyweissacupuncture.com.

Kelseyville Unified Superintendent Dave McQueen. Courtesy photo.

KELSEYVILLE, Calif. — No matter how qualified you may be for a new opportunity, it can be intimidating to go for it — especially if you’ve never filled out an application, don’t have a resume, and the idea of answering interview questions makes you panic.

This is the situation many of our students find themselves in at some time or another.

To make the transition to life after high school a little easier, our Career Technical Education, or CTE, teacher, Donelle McCallister, took a page from the Future Farmer of America handbook and created an interview competition for Kelseyville High School CTE students.

She invited students to apply for one of the sample jobs that aligned with their CTE pathway: agriscience, ag mechanics, woodworking, digital media and hospitality/culinary.

Then she asked a bunch of us teachers and administrators, including our county superintendent of schools, to serve as judges. I have to say, the whole event was a huge success.

More than 100 students started the process by submitting a resume and cover letter. Many quickly learned how important it is to get the details right, including spelling. If the only thing someone has to go on is what you put on paper, that information had better be good.

The top applicants were then invited to complete a job application, and the top finishers from that phase were invited back for a 10-minute personal interview.

We asked students about their skills and experience, as well as dropping in questions that tested their ability to think on their feet, for example, having to do basic calculations in their head. It’s one thing to perform well when you’re calm and relaxed. It’s a very different thing when you’re nervous.

Kelseyville High School Principal Mike Jones and I were two of the 12 judges, and we agreed that some of the interview questions might have stumped us for a second, but most of the students didn’t miss a beat. They answered with poise and professionalism.

One of the things we talk about a lot in education is “college and career readiness.” In addition to academic skills, it is often the soft skills (or interpersonal skills) that open doors. If a brilliant artist is too shy to talk to another human being, his art may never find an audience. If a student loves math and science but struggles to explain why, she may never be able to connect with people who could help her use those disciplines in her future.

It’s hard to put ourselves in situations where we might fail, but experience is a great teacher and it is better for students to learn where they need to grow when they are applying for a job as part of a competition, as opposed to a job in the real world. I am proud of these students who took a risk and grew from their experience.

The top three finishers in the competition were Iyali Aguirre, Diana Cortez and Madelyn Madrzyk.

Madelyn said, “I am very grateful for the opportunity I was given to be able to compete in the competition. As someone who has never been in a job interview, the experience I have gained in this competition is going to benefit me tremendously in my future careers. I would like to thank the teachers and judges who made this competition possible and congratulate all of the other competitors on their success.”

It’s pretty clear from her thoughtful comment why she was one of the top finishers.

I want to thank Donelle McCallister for organizing the event and to both Jeff and Donelle for offering a $250 scholarship to the first-place finisher.

I also want to thank ag mechanics instructor Maille McCallister from Elsie Allen High School for creating the laser-etched water bottles as prizes, and all the judges who took hours out of their busy schedules to invest their time and expertise to help our students.

As adults, it is up to us to give young people a chance to spread their wings, to see what they are capable of. If you have opportunities in your workplace where high school students could learn new skills, please reach out to our Career Technical Education Department. Let’s help our students soar.

Dave McQueen is superintendent for Kelseyville Unified School District.

Camm Linden. Courtesy photo.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. — A hint of Autumn is in the night air, and the smell of scented pine cones and pumpkin latte already wafts through our local supermarkets.

These clues can only mean the season of gratitude and giving thanks is quickly upon us.

Accordingly, the Lake County Symphony Association remains ever so thankful for our loyal and dedicated membership, advertisers and sponsors. Your support keeps this musical machine operating and thriving — even in the wake of a global pandemic.

Recently, the LCSA Board of Directors made the tough decision to err on the side of caution and cancel all live performances through the end of the year. The prolonged absence of in-person concerts has both tested the patience of our usual attendees and provided an opportunity to exercise creativity in bringing high-quality, cultural entertainment to the residents of Lake County and beyond.

Thanks to modern technology — along with talented local symphony musicians, dedicated youth orchestra parents, generous donors and benefactors, and other heroes in various support roles — the LCSA has successfully brought two virtual presentations to the community: the Annual Youth Orchestra Concert and a Summer Concert “preview” with the Lake County Symphony Chamber Orchestra.

Ever determined to provide value to our members, it is a pleasure to announce two more virtual concerts coming in November and December to round out the 2021 season.

The Student Programs is another value-added LCSA offering. This includes our free-of-charge Strings Classes and College Scholarships for area youths. These remarkably golden opportunities are possible through the generosity of the Lake County Wine Alliance and the Allegro Scholarship Program.

Learning and playing an instrument is an excellent way to channel and transform young energy into positive rewards. Music can improve brain connections, making it easier to learn foreign languages and improve math abilities. Musical studies can also increase a child's memory, attention, and concentration capacities, and assist with developing physical coordination.

Through music performance, a student can harness the power of accomplishment and a sense of belonging and purpose — in addition to gaining a lifelong skill that will travel anywhere!

The LCSA Strings Classes begin in January, along with rehearsals for the new, much-anticipated Lake County Community Orchestra. This multigenerational activity is open to all ages, from middle school to adults, and is a superb source of community involvement.

It's a fact. Music reduces stress, anxiety, and depression — a quality that is particularly attractive in this moment of lockdown fatigue. The LCSA is proud to be a part of bringing musical joy into the community. It is through your memberships, gifts, donations, sponsorships, and advertising dollars that we are able to provide this service.

Please visit our website to explore all of these, and other tax-deductible opportunities to contribute. And, as always — and in keeping with the season — the LCSA is grateful for your continued support.

To see the latest updates on upcoming events, view the LCSA Overtures Newsletter, get links to performances by Lake County musicians or explore membership options, go to http://www.lakecountysymphonyassociation.org.

Camm Linden, D. Mus., is president of the Lake County Symphony Association Board.

Kelseyville Unified Superintendent Dave McQueen. Courtesy photo.

KELSEYVILLE, Calif. — As school gets going this year, I’m happy to report some good news: The Kelseyville Unified Music Program is back! We have two teachers, both of whom are new to Kelseyville.

Kaitlyn Mensen will teach music for grades five to seven. Anna Katibah will teach music for grades eight to 12. Both programs will emphasize character building and teamwork.

In grades five to seven, students will have the opportunity to learn a band instrument and form an ensemble. In the upper grades, we’ll offer beginning instrument classes so students can start music anytime; plus, we’ll offer eighth-grade band, high school band, high school choir and high school jazz band.

This is just the beginning. We are rebuilding our music program from the ground up. Eventually, we plan to offer music from TK through 12th grade, to include middle school jazz band, music theory classes, bring back our mariachi program, incorporate school musicals and start a string instrument program.

Many people can appreciate the artistic treasure and enjoyment music provides, but an education in music offers more benefits than you might think.

Studies show that young children with a year of musical training show brain changes and superior memory when compared with children who don’t receive the instruction. In a study by researchers at McMaster University in Canada, children taking music lessons improved more than the others in non-musical abilities such as literacy, verbal memory, visuospatial processing, mathematics, and IQ.

Maybe most important of all is the outlet music provides for self-expression and the sense of belonging students feel when they create music with others. Humans are social creatures and when we spend time with people who really understand us, that is a powerful thing.

Anna Katibah

“A vibrant, comprehensive music program at school isn’t just a vital ingredient to a great education,” Ms. Katibah remarked, “It is essential to the joy we find in life.”

When Ms. Katibah was earning her undergraduate degree in Flute Performance and Music Education from California State University East Bay, she began her career teaching in public schools.

Upon completion of her Bachelor of Arts degree, she finished her teaching credential and master’s degree in Music Education from the University of Southern California and is currently pursuing doctoral-level coursework. Since receiving her master's degree, she has spent six years in the classroom.

Ms. Katibah picked up her first instrument at the age of 2 when her parents bought her a toy guitar. Her parents say she immediately demanded a “real guitar,” and with that, her love for music was off and running. She also grew up singing and enjoys teaching singing. And her participation in jazz music growing up helped establish her musical taste and teaching style.

Ms. Katibah will be based at Kelseyville High School, and she will also teach a class at Mountain Vista Middle School, or MVMS.

Kaitlyn Mensen

Mrs. Mensen says she believes in cultivating the artistic minds of students as they are propelled through their educational journey.

After earning her Bachelor of Arts and Sciences degree in Music Performance and Education at Concordia University Irvine, Mrs. Mensen earned her teaching credential from California State University San Bernardino. After taking a class on music for children, she knew what she was meant to do.

As the daughter of a special education teacher, she says both music and teaching are in her blood. Her primary instrument is the bassoon and she is ready to teach students whichever instrument they want to learn.

Mrs. Mensen will be based at MVMS and will spend a couple of mornings a week at each elementary school.

Both Ms. Katibah and Mrs. Mensen are excited to share their love of music with Kelseyville students and to make the music program as strong as possible.

In the years ahead, they hope to take music students on field trips and find opportunities for them to perform inside and outside the community.

Music students can check out an instrument from their school. If families choose to purchase an instrument, Ms. Katibah and Mrs. Mensen recommend checking with them so they can help assure the highest quality instrument is secured.

If your student is interested in taking music, please let your student’s counselor know as soon as possible.

Dave McQueen is superintendent for the Kelseyville Unified School District.

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