“Cooperation, Collaboration, and Communication”
...add Coordination and it’s a perfect title for a report from Piercy.
I first heard enviro activists promoting collaboration during a North Coast Resource Partnership conference at the Bear River Tribe’s Community Center in Loleta Ca. The presenters stressed that since catastrophic disasters have no respect for political boundaries, we have to collaborate to respond effectively. Less than two years later I feel double dipped, triple dipped, saturated, almost hog tied with collaboration. But not because Piercy had no prior experience with collaboration.
For over twenty years our Voluntary Fire Department has responded mutually with Leggett VFD, and when called, with ten other VFDs in the border area between Humboldt and Mendocino Counties. After meeting with state senator Mike McGuire, our twelve departments chose a committee from among their chiefs to analyze our needs and propose a budget to utilize two million dollars to improve coordinated regional response. Within two months the gear they wanted was designed and ordered. Long working acquaintance and shared vision and goals make collaboration smooth.
Without that acquaintance, simple human diversity has made our other collaborative efforts more complex, even when working in Piercy on Piercy’s needs.
Piercy got its name when local residents wanted a post office. When the county line was finally surveyed, a third of the Piercy Postal District was in Humboldt County, the rest in Mendocino County. During the tan bark to split stock to logging/milling to marijuana boom times, no one cared. Cash covered crises. Post boom times we became a fire district that did not include all our postal district, a postal district without a post office, a commute community without a school, and with children bussing both north and south to different school districts, a volunteer fire department trying to maintain a response team with no local employment, and no emergency shelter nor any other safe place for our bused children to wait for their parents. We even commuted to vote and to buy stamps to pay our taxes.
The teams struggling to keep our Community Hall, VFD, and Fire Protection District from total collapse began to share resources to maintain basic community services. When the atmospheric river deluges began to flood our fire station, we insured the Community Hall for emergency response training, slowly diverted the flood waters from our fire station, built an office inside it and started to look for grants. We were ad hoc collaborating without using the term. Hopefully planned collaboration will be easier.
At first we simply appealed for help to continue to provide emergency response to local residents inside and outside our district, to travelers on Highways 1 and 101, and to visitors in our state parks and BLM recreation areas. Later we asked for help because human health and environmental health are so interdependent that they must co-evolve. A healthier Piercy would do more for a healthier environment. A series of grants from Trees Foundation and the Mendocino Community Foundation have let us get our two core buildings back into nearly full repair by attracting willing doers and donors. And our event calendar at the Hall is fuller. Our core team is growing bigger. And at least we agree that the hall must qualify as a fully equipped emergency shelter as soon as possible. But ten years or more into our recovery we are still not a well coordinated team.
And as we reach out to “collaborate” with other organizations we find that intentions do not create coordination.
The Piercy Fire Protection District collaborated with the Mendocino County Resource Conservation District, the Redwood Forest Foundation Inc, and the Arcata District of the Bureau of Land Management to secure a five million dollar grant to put Shaded fuel breaks on nearly 1300 acres in and around our district. After working on nearly 600 acres we are still trying to get four contractors and their teams and thirteen land ownerships to share a vision of increasing fire resiliency on our landscape without reducing biodiversity, soil creation and retention, rainwater absorption, food for pollinating and composting fauna, and recreational appeal so that maintenance of the fuel breaks is more like a walk in a park than a scramble through an obstacle course. We’re even trying to generate vocabulary:”Let’s call this Eco Services Forestry”.
Collaborating with the Mendocino County OES to create a county wide evacuation plan has through tremendous effort by our PIO resulted in great plan for our district, but I have yet to see a county wide plan.
We continue to try to work with the Mendocino County Association of Fire Departments,
the NCCOAD (North County Community Organizations Active in Disaster), and many other worthy alphabet soup efforts. Sometimes I feel like being the firstest with the mostest collaboration is the new playing ground for cosmic oneupmanship, and I can’t keep up.
I don’t wish to discourage participation. Collaboration helps, and draws support. Go for it. But don’t expect a panacea. These grants do not buy solutions to problems. Every thing evolves.They are a downpayment on a sustainable relationship to issues and beings affecting our pursuit of happiness for all. Maintenance, maintenance.
And collaboration is not widely practiced in the USA. We can’t even get nighttime drivers to dim their lights for oncoming traffic. Be patient. Coordination takes time, practice, and a form of intimacy. It’s an improv dance.
Thank every effort. Enjoy any progress, and celebrate it.
Piercy Fire Protection District