Saturday, 25 March 2023


It’s hard for me to understand how certain special interest groups get to plan the vision for the Blue Ridge Berryessa region. The big fear of development can be viewed as a threat, but who get to make the decisions on whether or not a particular region gets to grow? Those that we elect to represent our local counties and cities should remain in control of local land use decisions.

While I may not be a resident of Lake County, I am a resident of Colusa County and the National Conservation Area (NCA) designation would not only affect Lake County, but Colusa, Solano, Napa and Yolo counties as well.

But herein lies the problem: Of the 800,000 acres in the Blue Ridge Berryessa region, over 400,000 is privately owned. Arbitrary layers of conservation on privately owned land can affect property values, and many of those landowners have no idea that there is a proposed conservation area that they may be forced to deal with. Environmental groups are not elected by the people and their vision for the region may differ from others who live there. But regardless of their vision, they have no authority to plan for the future of privately owned land.

Private landowners should be able to opt-in to such a designation. While proponents of an NCA designation proclaim that it will protect the region from growth, it creates a mechanism by which local government is bypassed, thus giving the federal government land use authority.

Private property rights are included in the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution because our forefathers understood the basic principles of private property and their role in creating the American dream in a capitalistic society.

Over the years the environmental movement has stripped many landowners of these rights through government intrusion and the Endangered Species Act. The acquisition of private property for “public good” under the guise of protecting the environment is only a scare tactic. Landowners, farmers and ranchers have been good stewards of their land for many decades and the government and environmental groups have no right to impose regulations on private landowners that have the potential to put them out of business.

It is critical that the public understands that private property rights need to be protected and that programs that undermined those rights need to be exposed. In our nation and right in our backyard, a deceptive land grab is being pursued to further the environmental agenda, and agricultural and our rural economies are the innocent victims that are caught in the crossfire.

So why the use of scare tactics? What is the big unknown fear that we need to be protected from? Development? The fear that landowners will sell out to the highest bidder is a real threat, but it is also someone’s right to sell if farming or ranching is no longer economically viable for them. Investing in programs that help keep farming and ranching viable is the way to prevent development not additional environmental and government regulations and fees.

Also, it’s not surprising that environmental groups are supporting such a concept. The NCA designation will create an influx of money to the region, and that means that local environmental groups will be able receive grants to “preserve” the region and further their agenda.

The goal of an NCA designation is land acquisition and federal land use authority. This region has been protected by private landowners for over 100 years, and who is to say that the federal government can do a better job managing the region?

It seems disingenuous for the proponents of such a designation, who claim to want to preserve the region for future generations, to want to put those future generations deeper and deeper into debt. And while there may be a growing number of organizations that want to support this designation, there are a growing number of landowner, elected officials, nonprofit organizations, ranchers and farmers who are opposed to such an egregious violation of private property rights.

Public awareness and knowledge of the issue is the only way to protect our communities. We are a nation that was built on the “land of free and home of the brave” and private property rights are one of the founding principles that make our county so great.

Ashley Indrieri is the executive director of Family Water Alliance, a nonprofit grassroots organization that advocates for private property rights, water rights and the sustainability of agriculture for rural north state communities.


Recently it was brought to my attention that three businesses in Middletown had shut down in a two-week period of time. Perhaps the fact these local merchants were concerned about the amount of tax that had to be paid on unsold inventory had something to do with the timing. Nevertheless, it is sad to see any business that chooses to serve the area decide to close up shop. Is there anything the community could do or should do to help prevent such such events from reoccuring?

Well, I happen to be an advocate of business networking something that is NOT very common in Lake County. In the six years I have lived in the area I have seen nonprofit fundraisers canceled or restructured due in part to a lack of consideration of people. There is a serious lack in caring and connection here that is "off the charts." I am not sure if the problem is that people have decided they:

1) Don't NEED to CARE about anyone's business other than their own; or,

2) Do not know HOW TO CARE about anyone's business other than their own.

Make no mistake, willing to CARE and knowing HOW TO CARE is important. I plan to be a featured speaker at the upcoming Middletown Area Town Hall meeting on Thursday, Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. in the Middletown High School Multi-Use Room. I plan to address this issue in the process of sharing tools which I believe can move Middletown forward in such a way that the town truly becomes the "Gateway to Lake County." That is to say, Middletown actually becomes a destination rather than a drive-thru to somewhere else.

Caring matters. What would the intensive care unit be within a hospital if no one really cared? Answer: a place to die.

In 2006, I approached two well-known Middletown organizations to ask if they would like to help me do something special for the town's annual western festival, "Middletown Days." The idea was to bring the Fox News Channel to Middletown to cover the festival. Neither organization showed any interest. Put another way, they did not CARE.

Since the adults would not help me, I sought the help of local high school students. Had I simply TOLD the students what to do, their answer would probably have been, "No deal." But, we negotiated with one another. For example, the kids would say, "We'll write the letters, but you provide the envelopes and postage" to which I responded, "Done."

I actually was able to "connect" with 30 high school students. They understood the vision I had for the town. They actually WANTED to help MAKE it come to pass. There was no community service credit attached to getting their help. Each student was simply a volunteer. To make a long story short, the students succeeded in bringing Fox News Correspondent Adam Housley to Middletown to address the parade crowd and get this event mentioned on the network news, June 17th of 2006.

It is important you understand Fox News did not come to Middletown simply because 30 students wrote letters to the network. No, Fox came because those 30 students set into motion a campaign that had caring people around the world writing and calling the network on behalf of the effort initiated by those young people. The students actually engaged in a technique known as "pay it forward" or "netweaving." The students connected with caring people around the world. Those caring people went out of their way to contact Fox News on behalf of those students. Why? Because the student effort "connected" with those adults in such a way that the project became an adult desire as well as a student desire.

It has been said that nothing succeeds like success. The following year when students were once again asked to help spread news about "Middletown Days," it was not just 30 letters that got written. It was 110. And, it was not just high school students that wanted to participate. Middle school children wanted in on the action as well. Teachers were so impressed that this time around every student participating in the business letter-writing program was given community service credit toward graduation.

Meanwhile, a Middletown organization was offering students the opportunity to participate in a T-shirt drawing contest. The winning artist would have his or her artwork displayed on the famous, "Middletown Days T-Shirt," which is always a big seller during the annual western festival in Middletown. An article about the contest was published in the local newspaper. A personal appeal was made to the students at the high school.

But, something was wrong with this approach. There was no serious "connection" made with the students. They were simply given marching orders and expected to carry them out. Why should the students care about the T-shirt drawing contest, anyway? Because the adults told them they should? Was it merely a coincidence that only one person out of the entire high school volunteered to participate in the contest?

Make no mistake, good intentions, are not good enough. Both CARING and knowing HOW TO CARE are crucial in life. For the most part, no one reads the newspaper, listens to the radio or watches television for the advertising. Why then do people pay attention? They pay attention for the news and entertainment value. But, the advertising is there to pay the bills. But, when the advertising CONNECTS with the audience in the same way the news and entertainment does, something marketers love happens. People start to CARE about the advertising message. Often, people will remember that message long after it has disappeared from the media. I doubt anyone reading this commentary will have a problem completing this line, "Please do not squeeze the ________." (Answer: Charmin').

Insanity has been defined as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting things to change." If that pretty much sums up your advertising experience in Middletown, the time has come to think "outside the box." Try something new and different. Here are some suggestions:

1) Coop an advertising campaign with a group of businesses. Find a way to coop your advertising needs with a group rather than going it alone.

2) Join Project-Middletown on This FREE online business network allows you to freely advertise your business every Saturday four different ways plain text, HTML (pictures), audio clip (radio spot) and video clip (TV spot). Help is also freely available for those who need it. This business networking site is also a great place to get an online education. There are a lot of helpful people from around the world who really do want to help you succeed. Why not get acquainted?

3) Be a featured guest on a free online talk show, like Lake County's own Power Networking. It just might be the best 30 minutes of your day. Call 707-709-8605 for more information.

4) Establish a presence at monthly business mixers. If you cannot attend every mixer, make sure someone shows up to spread your business message on your behalf.

5) Learn how to use Send both email and voicemail to a group of people using only the telephone and making a single toll-free call.

6) Create your own free broadcasting online network with Orb Networks. This can come in extremely handy for folks wanting to make public or online slide show presentations. It is also useful for "placeshifting."

7) Get yourself a Skype account for free Internet calling. This is especially good for people who have a high-speed Internet connection.

8) Learn how to create and utilize an online lens at including connecting an invitation to it.

Above all, remember to CARE and CONNECT with your community. Life is not all about you and your business. It is all about us.

Helping us helps you. Think "better together."

Lamar Morgan lives in Hidden Valley Lake.


Last night I ate an avocado. In Northern California. In midwinter.

Because it came from Chile, that avocado might be enough to get me kicked out of the Locavore movement of people who pledge to eat only what originates within 100 miles, but it was worth it, because it was the last straw in a growing pile of evidence that the United States is not at war, no matter what the government says.

Here's war:

  • You save your food cans and flatten them to contribute to the war effort.

  • You drain bacon grease into a container and contribute that to the war effort. (That is, if you have any ration stamps for bacon, and if your neighborhood grocery store has any bacon.)

  • Your backyard is a garden, a Victory Garden, where you grow food all summer and spend the harvest season preserving it for winter eating.

  • All the adults in your family who are not in military service pool their ration stamps for food and gas, and are very frugal about trips. Mostly they take the city bus.

  • As a child of the greatest generation, you send off for a Captain Midnight plane spotter chart so you can watch the skies after school. And you feel pleased that your presence in the family provides extra milk rations for the grown-ups' tea.

Some other evidence:

  • Gas may cost more than three dollars a gallon, but we can buy as much as we want or can afford. Our military airplanes must use some other kind of fuel these days, and I suppose whatever vehicle transported that avocado to my supermarket has found the same mystery fuel.

  • Nobody has suggested that I put blackout curtains on my windows, or asked me to walk around the neighborhood in the evening to make sure other people have their windows darkened against air raids.

  • I can stay out as late as I want without carrying identification papers or documents to prove I have a good reason to be out.

  • Last month, I flew to Miami for a pleasure trip. I didn't need any government permission to travel, and the plane was not full of military folks.

  • If I want to, I can take a cruise to just about anywhere in the world. In fact, that would be downright patriotic, because my government keeps telling me that if I stop shopping and traveling the terrorists will win.

Getting old doesn't have a great deal to recommend it, but getting old with a good memory raises some fascinating questions. How can we be at war without needing civilian support? Why isn't this war pumping money into our economy? Where are the factory jobs? Where is Rosie the Riveter? Who's building all the military stuff, and where are they building it?


And I keep coming back to the same answer: This Iraq adventure is not a war. Heaven only knows what it is.

Now that you mention it, I am entertaining some doubts about the 1969 moon landing. Thanks for asking.


Sophie Annan Jensen lives in Lucerne.



On Monday night, the president offered few real solutions to the problems that have developed since he came into office. In fact, the president shared a much rosier view of the conditions facing American families than reality dictates. While our country remains the greatest on earth, Americans are struggling with the rising costs of energy, gas, health care, education and housing. And the war in Iraq continues to drain our treasury and military, while our reputation among our allies steadily deteriorates. Over the past seven years, the president squandered the financial resources and international goodwill our nation had when he came into office. Because of this, American families are facing tough times, and they are ready for a change.

Unfortunately, the president’s State of the Union address offered little direction or inspiration for America’s future. His claim that No Child Left Behind is a success drew laughs from Republicans and Democrats alike. And one of the few ideas he had – privatizing public education – is a non-starters on both sides of the aisle.

Like many of my fellow Americans, I am looking for a president who offers bold solutions to problems like climate climate change, our dependency on foreign oil and the millions of Americans without health care. We especially need a president who will bring our troops home as quickly and safely as possible and will implement a diplomatic strategy for quelling and containing violence in Iraq. But most important, we need a president who values bipartisanship and problem-solving over political rhetoric and pandering.

Our nation faces many challenges, but with the right leadership, I am confident that the state of our union can once again be strong. Over the past year, Congress has begun to take our county in a new direction. We’ve made strides toward energy independence, better care for our veterans, lowering the cost of college and improved national security. However, Congress acknowledges we have much more to do. I look forward to working with a president who shares this commitment.

Congressman Mike Thompson represents the First Congressional District, which includes Lake County. Visit his Web site at


Just as we were starting to realize what a blessing the Writers Guild strike might be, they went back to the negotiating table on Wednesday.

Just as television viewing was declining and people were reporting reading more books, getting more sleep, doing their housework. Just as some of us were hoping for the return of, or at least the reruns of, shows like Sid Caesar, Carol Burnett, Ernie Kovacs, Actors Studio. You know, the Golden Age of television, and the brief golden age of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

Or maybe you don't know. Once upon a time television shows had heart instead of laugh tracks, and if they told you they were live, they were. Complete with mistakes and bloopers. Nobody was trying to pass off a scripted show as reality. Well, almost nobody. There were nasty incidents like quiz shows which gave favored contestants the answers ahead of time, but people were indignant when those came to light. They didn't just shrug and say “that's television for you” and then keep on watching the same dishonest programs.

The writers have reportedly dropped their proposals for jurisdiction over non-union writers of reality TV and animation, which could be a major breakthrough. Another of their proposals seems more important.

A little integrity, please

It says: “Product placement has existed for a long time, first unpaid and more recently paid placement. Most recently, advertisers seek to have the product mentioned in dialogue, often in the scenes preceding a paid 30-second spot. These product mentions can be clumsy and disruptive to the creative goal of a script. This infringes the creative purview of the writer and defeats the very viewer-engagement the advertisers are counting on. Writers are critical to guarding the creative integrity of the script. If products are integrated, it should be in a way that doesn’t detract from the script.”

We know all about that one in the news business. The occasional advertiser demands a news story about the very same thing they have placed an ad to announce, and the really dumb ones want it on the very same page, not understanding that if they're lucky enough to get it in twice, it will have more impact in different locations. Editors refer to this as selling editorial space, and the good ones don't like it one bit. They fight back.

So, while it's fun to fantasize about the bloated, water-guzzling, Los Angeles basin emptying as thousands of carpenters and hairdressers and seamstresses leave it for lack of work, and about bold maverick producers moving to Lake County, I think I'll stick to hoping the writers hang tough on "guarding the creative integrity of the script." We need all the integrity we can get.

Sophie Annan Jensen lives in Lucerne.


Everyone in Lake County with an angle of vision more elevated than a banana slug recognizes that we live in a rare and special place, beautiful, tranquil and clean, with abundant wildlife habitat and outstanding recreational opportunities.

But in focusing our attention on Clear Lake and its immediate surrounding we may disregard the equally remarkable area to the east of the Clear Lake Basin, which for lack of a more official designation has come to be called the Blue Ridge Berryessa region even though Lake Berryessa and the Blue Ridge crest represent only a small part of it.

Taken as a whole, this bioregion at the wild heart of the Coast Range extends from the Vaca Mountains in Solano County to Snow Mountain over 800,000 acres containing three Federal Wildernesses and a State Wild and Scenic River as well as two large and many small lakes and several designated wildlife areas.

This land provides habitat and critical long-term movement corridors for many animal species, and has such an extraordinarily high level of botanic biodiversity that it registers as a “hot spot” of planetary significance. This vast expanse, which includes much of eastern Lake County, is a mosaic of public and private lands, encompassing undeveloped watersheds as well as working ranches and farms.

Putah Creek and Cache Creek flow through a diverse landscape of oak woodlands, chaparral, grasslands, riparian habitat, and the rare and endemic plants found on serpentine soils, combining to sustain healthy populations of tule elk, black bear, mountain lion, bald and golden eagles, ospreys, bobcats, foxes, river otters and many more species, including rare and endangered plants and animals. The ecological interactions among vegetation, wildlife and water support a fertile working landscape, while also providing water for nearby urban populations and agricultural operations.

Farmlands and ranches benefit from the regional landscape and also play a critical role in sustaining it. These rural land uses form a bulwark against residential and commercial development by providing economic benefit from private land in a manner that replenishes rather than destroys its environmental resources.

Encroaching development threatens the Blue Ridge Berryessa region from several directions, and as millions of new residents pour into the Sacramento and San Francisco metropolitan areas during the next 10 years, the development engine can be expected to accelerate, leading to the construction of both residential subdivisions at a suburban level of density and estate homes on acreage that is now agriculturally productive. Both will require new roads and lead to demands for public services better suited to urban areas; both will destroy important wildlife habitat and imperil biodiversity, as well as chipping away at prime farmland – land that now provides both food and jobs.

This region, which now feeds nearby urban populations, quenches their thirst, and provides vital natural recreational opportunities, risks becoming an urban area itself, a consumer rather than a producer of food and clean water.

For more than a decade, public agencies, conservation and recreation interests, and private landowners have been working together for the better management of the public lands and the prosperity of the private lands in the Blue Ridge Berryessa region, in an informal partnership that has served the natural and working landscape well. But as outside pressures mount, the area needs a more structured level of protection, as well as formal national recognition of its value.

The Solution: A National Conservation Area

Designating the Blue Ridge Berryessa region a National Conservation Area will acknowledge its importance as a natural area and working landscape. At the same time, it will establish a framework for coordinated management of public lands, facilitate collaboration between private agriculturalists and public agencies, assist the solicitation of conservation grants, and prioritize efforts to obtain public funds.

Without either formal recognition or management framework, the Blue Ridge Berryessa region has been at a competitive disadvantage with areas like the Santa Monica Mountains or Lake Tahoe in the allocation of state and federal resources. This region received no earmarked funds for conservation or recreational facilities in the recent $5.4 billion park bond, and it gets hardly any federal funding for preservation of open space, private land stewardship, and agricultural protection. A special designation will make it much easier to obtain the funding needed for stewardship projects and for ecological and agricultural protection.

With a National Conservation Area designation:

  • This specific geographic area will have a formal name.

  • Congress will acknowledge the local and national importance of this region.

  • A Public Advisory Committee will be formed to provide official citizen input.

  • A coordinated multi-agency management plan for the public lands within the region will be developed, allowing for protection of ecological resources on a landscape level.

  • It will become much easier to obtain state and federal funds for conservation stewardship and enhancement projects and to develop a recreation program for the entire region that provides access while ensuring protection of environmental resources.

Although National Conservation Area designation will open a number of options for private landowners, including increased opportunities to participate in the management of neighboring public lands, it imposes no obligations on them at all: participation is entirely voluntary. Local government will also retain full decision-making authority.

Although the Blue Ridge Berryessa National Conservation Area is not yet a reality, a growing number of organizations and individuals are trying to make it happen and we need your help. Please share this proposal with your friends, organizations and businesses, and join with us to become part of the community working to protect this splendid place.

To promote local awareness of this initiative, the Sierra Club Lake Group is hosting a Town Hall Forum at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 19, in the Brick Hall on Main Street in Lower Lake. UC Davis botanist Dr. Susan Harrison will provide the keynote presentation: “Why is our region a hotspot of botanical diversity...and what can we do to conserve it?” followed by a discussion of the National Conservation Area proposal itself led by Tuleyome president Bob Schneider, with lots of maps, photos, and opportunities for questions and comments – please join us at this free event.

For more information, visit the Lake Group Web site,

Victoria Brandon is chair of the Sierra Club Lake Group. She lives in Lower Lake.



Upcoming Calendar

03.27.2023 5:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Courting The Muse~Mixed Media Art Class
03.30.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
Middletown Art Center
03.30.2023 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Character Design~Art Class for Teens
04.01.2023 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
04.01.2023 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Lake County Spring Dance Festival
04.01.2023 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Lake County Spring Dance Festival
04.03.2023 5:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Courting The Muse~Mixed Media Art Class
04.06.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
Middletown Art Center
04.06.2023 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Character Design~Art Class for Teens
04.08.2023 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile

Mini Calendar



Responsible local journalism on the shores of Clear Lake.





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