Lake County News, CA – NCO partners with Lake County communities to plant 600 native trees and plants

TERA Team member Mark McCloud planting native Toyon and Redbud trees with his daughter Mina McCloud (Big Valley Rancheria Tribe), Alana Varela, Emmalina Varela and Natalya Eagle (Robinson Rancheria Tribe). Photo credit: Tribal EcoRestoration Alliance.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – This spring and throughout the seasons to come, 504 fruit, flowering and shade trees and nearly 100 specimens of native plants will grow in Lake County neighborhoods and common areas.

The new flora is the result of Greening Lake County, a collaborative project between North Coast Opportunities, or NCO; Tribal EcoRestoration Alliance, or TERA; the town of Lakeport; and partner sites to revitalize and beautify communities in an area that suffered heartbreaking damage in recent wildfires.

According to the Cumulative Impact of Lake County’s Disasters report released by Lake County, fires have consumed more than two-thirds of Lake County’s landmass since 2015, wiping out thousands of homes and structures, disrupting lives and damaging a much of the region’s natural resources. landscape, including trees and forests that act as powerful carbon sequestration tools to combat climate change and contribute to the overall quality of life of communities.

“NCO has distributed millions of dollars in fire assistance to meet the housing, food and necessities of survivors in Lake County over the past 7 years,” said NCO’s Executive Director. , Patty Bruder. “So we were thrilled to have the opportunity to support fire recovery efforts in a new way – through land regeneration and re-beautification – to help restore communities that have been impacted by years disasters.”

The Greening Lake County project was funded by CalFire and the United States Forest Service through the California ReLeaf Grant which supports community collaborations that help make cities livable and protect the environment by planting and caring for trees.

NCO was unable to complete this massive project alone and sought partners to survey Lake County communities and lead planting activities while providing matching grant, grassroots coordination and administrative support to the project.

Through a collaborative effort, Greening Lake County partners identified 11 sites in Clearlake, Lakeport, Middletown and Nice and began planting in mid-2021.

The City of Lakeport has committed to planting and caring for 53 trees in public spaces in Library Park, Main Street downtown, 11th Street and Westside Community Park. These trees will bloom in the spring, beautify the downtown corridor and provide benefits to residents and visitors to the city.

“Not only do trees help deflect sunlight by reducing the heat island effect caused by pavement and commercial buildings, they also create an aesthetically pleasing environment,” said Ron Ladd, Superintendent of Public Works. for the town of Lakeport. “Working with NCO on the ReLeaf project has been a pleasure.”

NCO has contracted with nonprofit organization Tribal EcoRestoration Alliance for Land Restoration to design and plant the additional 451 trees and 90 native plants at six partner sites across Lake County, including Highland Senior Center in Clearlake, Hospice Services of Lake County in Lakeport, Jesus Christ Fellowship and Middletown Rancheria of the Pomo Indians in Middletown and Robinson Rancheria of the Pomo Indians in Upper Lake.

Specifically, TERA’s role was to select the species best suited to local ecosystems and ensure that the project promotes fire resistance and provides maximum benefits to the community and the land.

TERA is a cross-cultural, multi-organizational collaboration that revitalizes ecology, economy, and culture through Indigenous-led restoration seeking to undo centuries of poor land management policies. TERA had previously partnered with NCO’s tax-funded program The Oak Granary, and NCO believed it had the expertise and partnerships to carry out planting activities in a way that was best for the earth, culturally relevant and engaging for the community.

Bringing together indigenous wisdom and land care practices, TERA engages its teams in tribal communities to cultivate land stewardship, livelihood and leadership skills that build bridges between tribal residents and the community. community at large.

“Lake is one of the most disadvantaged counties in California,” said Alyson Sagala, chief operations officer for TERA. “It’s important that our staff also come from the community they serve. It’s not someone from the outside who comes to do this project. The people who live here are paid to help their neighbors and that’s the beauty of the project.

All native trees and plants within the Greening Lake County project have intent and purpose in the local ecosystem and community and provide holistic benefits.

Apple, walnut, peach, cherry and mulberry trees will provide food access to residents of a small home village at Jesus Christ Fellowship, built in part by participants in Building Homes, Building Lives, an NCO program that offers paid training and placement in general construction for unemployed or precarious residents.

TERA also plants Valley Oaks and Blue Oaks which, when mature, can grow up to 100 feet tall with a canopy 40 feet in diameter, providing essential shade during the summer months and helping to combat the climate change. Wildfires, especially across Lake County, are emitting huge amounts of greenhouse gases, further compounding carbon emissions.

Due to their size and long lifespan, oak trees can capture substantial amounts of carbon from the air, offsetting greenhouse gases for over a century.

“[This work] is important to my children, to everyone’s children, and to all the children who come after us,” said Mark McCloud, Team TERA member and tribal member of the Pomo Indian Band of Big Valley Rancheria.

When intentionally intermixed with the built environment, oak trees can also help communities reduce their consumption of fossil fuels.

TERA has placed plantings at Robinson Rancheria, Jesus Christ Fellowship, Middletown Hospice Thrift, and Highland Senior Center within 60 feet of buildings so their expansive canopies create a cooling effect, reducing the energy needed to keep buildings comfortable during downtimes. hottest months.

“I think people don’t realize how much they’re getting out of the Earth,” said Lance McCloud, a TERA crew member and a member of the Robinson Rancheria tribe of the Pomo Indians of California. “We are giving back, it may be small, but it will still have a big impact on everything in the long run.”

The oaks are essential for supporting biodiversity in the region, providing habitat and resources for a vast web of life, from moth larvae to black bears, and are also culturally important to the tribes of northern California that use acorns for food and many other parts. of the tree for basketry, tools and medicines.

TERA planted the oak trees by harvesting native acorns on site, a practice that produces a resilient tree suited to the land.

In addition, TERA has placed 90 specimens of native species and other culturally significant plants – such as elderberry, a native shrub with many medicinal uses and redbud, a material used for making baskets – on the Pomo lands of Middletown and Robinson Rancherias.

NCO project coordinator Sarah Marshall said the Greening Lake County project is the first time California ReLeaf has funded planting activities on tribal land. NCO and TERA have made special efforts to encourage California ReLeaf to use the funds in this way.

“It was great working with California ReLeaf and seeing how flexible they were in allowing us to work with the tribes and use their regeneration methods,” Marshall said. “This sets a precedent for all other organizations working with California ReLeaf. Now they can consider working with tribes in this way in the future.

TERA hosts volunteer days at project sites to engage the community around Greening Lake County’s work.

They offer training on plant care, presentations on native and drought-tolerant species, and information to encourage volunteers to plant trees in their own backyards.

Each training is tailored to fit the community and provides opportunities for volunteers to learn about the cultural, historical and ecological context of each species.

“Most places where you need higher degrees or other resources to do this kind of work, but TERA shares this knowledge and passes this information on to anyone who wants to learn and creates opportunities for people to do this work. who haven’t always had the ability to,” said Stoney Timmons, TERA team leader and Robinson Rancheria tribal member of the Pomo Indians of California.

The volunteer days garner an overwhelmingly positive response from communities close to the planting sites, as those who live nearby come forward to help and learn.

TERA Operations Manager Alyson Sagala said the response from the Robinson and Middletown Rancheria communities has been particularly inspiring, as they have participated in planting days and donated funds to support the project.

“The ability to expand this partnership and work with the local tribes in our community is amazing,” Sagala said. “We are privileged to be able to partner with an organization like NCO.”

NCO is the community action agency serving Lake and Mendocino counties, as well as parts of Humboldt, Sonoma, Del Norte and Solano counties. NCO responds and adapts to community needs, including disaster response and recovery. For more information, visit or call 707-467-3200.

Special thanks to the Tribal EcoRestoration Alliance for their contributions to this article. To learn more about TERA, visit

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