California chaparral institute 76 gas card login

During and after the Cedar Fire, chaparral was inaccurately blamed by some as the cause of the fire’s devastation. San Diego County responded to this misperception by proposing a program to clear 300 square miles of backcountry habitat. After six years of involvement by the Institute and others to help the county develop a new fire risk reduction plan based on science, the county proceeded with their original program. The program was dropped after the Institute successfully challenged it in court.

Since 2003, the Institute has produced publications and provided hundreds of public presentations explaining the value of the chaparral ecosystem and how we can live safety within California’s fire-prone environment. The Institute has also coined several popular concepts to help promote science-based fire safety and an appreciation for the chaparral including reducing fire risk in our communities “ from the house out rather than from the wildland in” and identifying legacy chaparral stands over 60-years-old as “ old-growth chaparral.”

Chaparral now is more commonly recognized as an important part of California’s natural environment. The US Forest Service has issued a major policy statement recognizing the value and fragility of the chaparral and has held several symposia focusing on the ecosystem services it provides. New publications are also helping the public recognize and appreciate the chaparral.

Still, there remains an artificial distance between people and nature that continues to propel environmentally damaging projects and perceptions about the natural environment. As a consequence, the California Chaparral Institute continues to encourage leaders to tackle the difficult problems – land use changes, planning, creative approaches to reduce the flammability of homes and communities from within and encouraging all of us to allow nature to play a positive and restorative role in our lives.

Richard Halsey has given more than 500 presentations and written numerous papers and articles over the past 15 years concerning chaparral ecology, how we can reconnect with Nature, the importance of Nature education, and how we can live safely in our fire-prone environment. Richard also works with the San Diego Museum of Natural History and continues to teach natural history throughout the state. The second edition of his book, Fire, Chaparral, and Survival in Southern California, was awarded the 2008 Best Nonfiction-Local Interest Book by the San Diego Book Awards Association. He was also trained as a Type II wildland firefighter past the age most would consider reasonable in order to better understand fire.

Richard earned undergraduate degrees from the University of California in environmental studies and anthropology. During graduate work he received teaching credentials in life, physical and social science and a Master’s in education. Richard taught biology for over thirty years in both public and private schools and was honored as Teacher of the Year for San Diego City Schools.

After controlling the ball 90% of the time, shutting out the opposition three games in a row, and riding high on friendship born from struggle and cooperation, our 10-year-old son’s soccer All-Star team was forced into a penalty kick show-down due to a 1:1 tie.  As each player squared off, the tie continued until the last, with goalie kicking against goalie. We lost. It was such lousy way to lose, especially since our team had played so well together. Such a one-on-one showdown just doesn’t seem right.

You may be wondering what this has to do with chaparral; well, quite a bit actually. You see Sunday, the day we would have been playing in the final game had we won, our family of four spent the afternoon hiking up a mountain covered with magnificent, old-growth chaparral near our home. At one point the vegetation was so high and dense that our path had to weave its way through a narrow tunnel of ceanothus, the canopy of which arched more than three feet over my head. I’m six feet six inches tall. More than a century ago, such a place would have been a utilized by the California grizzly bear to travel from one side of the mountain to the other.

My son knew the plants along the way and proudly announced their names. They were friends to him. They were friends to all of us. On the way back down, we heard the bouncing whistle of the wrentit, a chaparral voice that made our hearts sing. Our son pointed that out too. It was one of the best adventures we’ve had as a family. You see, nature has a way of refocusing energies, helping to put things back into perspective. It allows us to realize (once again) what is really important in life.

Yeah, we lost a little dream on the soccer field and still felt horrible about it, but somehow it was O.K. after our chaparral adventure Sunday. Nature brought us back. And it wasn’t just because we took a walk, but because we took a walk with friends from the wild. We felt at home. The characters and things around us were familiar because we knew their names and their life histories. They had meaning for us.

Beyond its value as a natural resource and watershed, chaparral is valuable as a place of connection, beauty, and peace in a very busy and sometimes confusing world. This is why I am so passionate about helping others learn to appreciate the chaparral or whatever natural environment is near their home. It helps make life so much more enjoyable and helps people smile, something we need a lot more of these days, especially after a not-so-good day on the soccer field.