View southeast from Mt. Shasta, September 2020 © José O. Hernández
A Brief History of the Shasta Chapter CNPS
By Don Burk
The Shasta Chapter, the 25th chapter of the California Native Plant Society, is proud to help celebrate the 25th anniversary of CNPS. The Chapter was established in 1983 to allow plant enthusiasts in the northwestern counties of the state to more actively participate in CNPS. Formation of the Chapter, whose logo is the Firecracker (Dichelostemma ida-maia), was spearheaded by Barbara Williams and Don Burk. The first organizational meeting was held on February 17, 1983, and the Chapter was formally recognized by the State Board on June 4, 1983. Since that time, the Chapter has grown from some 39 initial members to over 115 members. The Chapter, which is based in Redding, holds meetings monthly, except in December. At least one meeting per year is held in Weed, located 75 miles to the north, to help strengthen ties with members in Siskiyou County, who comprise nearly 20% of our membership. An annual picnic and several fieldtrips are also held in Siskiyou County.
Activities and accomplishments of the Shasta Chapter are summarized below in the following six general topics: Education, Conservation, Technical (rare plants, plant watches and floras), Fund Raising Activities, Fieldtrips and Social Activities/Slide Shows.
The Chapter is or has been involved in several long-term or annual educational projects as well as a number of one-time events. The latter have included writing two articles on native plants (the Shasta Lily and Phantom Orchid) for Wildways a local nature magazine (Summer, 1983); participation in the Carter House Science Fair (April, 1984); participation in “Green Plant Day,” an event sponsored by the Carter House Natural Science Museum (CHNSM) in July, 1984, to focus attention on plant life; leading on-campus wildflower walks for two elementary school classes (Spring, 1984); offering several plant identification/keying sessions for members and preparing book reviews for publication in the Chapter newsletter.
Long-term activities included sponsorship of three “Fungus Fairs” jointly with CHNSM (February and November 1985, and November 1986). A “Fungus Fair” was not held in 1987 due to low rainfall and poor mushroom conditions, and the event has been at least temporarily suspended since then due to our mushroom guru, David Biek, moving to Washington in 1988, where ‘shroom conditions are more reliable. Secondly, Chapter member Marlys Richman served on the CNPS State-level Oak Hardwood Policy Committee. The Committee drafted an issue and policy statement, and provided educational materials on California oaks, including the Oak Action Kit.
Additionally, the Chapter established an Arboretum Committee in 1983 to develop an arboretum in Redding jointly with CHNSM. After extensive review of sites, presentations to the City Parks Commission and other work, it was concluded that the arboretum would be most successful and best utilized if developed adjacent to the CHNSM. As the Museum had plans to relocate, the arboretum planning effort was put on hold in August 1986 until the future museum location became more definite. In January 1990, the Arboretum Committee chairman announced that the museum relocation plans were sufficiently stabilized such that arboretum planning should resume.
While the arboretum planning effort was on hold, the Committee channeled its energy into creating a small native plant garden at the existing CHNSM site. Over 50 drought-resistant native shrubs were planted in March 1987, many of which are currently doing well even though they have had virtually no care since being planted. Mulching of the area and another planting day is being scheduled for the spring of 1990. The purpose of this project is to test how well certain California natives will survive in an arboretum setting in Redding, to encourage public awareness of drought-resistant plants, and gain support for the future arboretum.
Conservation activities undertaken by the Shasta Chapter focused on writing letters and/or encouraging members to write letters regarding a wide range of conservation issues. Specific issues have included Forest Plans for the Lassen (Summer, 1986) Shasta-Trinity (Summer, 1986) and Klamath (Spring, 1989) National Forests; USFS herbicide usage (Fall, 1983 and Summer, 1986); the proposed Upper McCloud River Wilderness Area (1983/1984); use of license plate fund revenues (1984/1985); riprapping along the Upper Sacramento River (Fall, 1983 and Spring 1985); exotic plant importation (Spring, 1986); native plant habitat acquisition (Spring, 1986); Proposition 70 (May, 1988); and the Mt. Eddy Roadless Area (January, 1989). Additionally, the Chapter designed and implemented a revegetation/erosion control project at the Whiskeytown Natural Environmental Education Development Camp, and helped the U.S. Forest Service evaluate habitat damage in Panther Meadows, a sensitive and over-used wet meadow community on Mt. Shasta.
Activities included in this category include those related to rare plant protection, the CNPS plant watch project, and preparation of plant checklists and floras. Rare plant projects have included field surveys and evaluation of 17 of the 22 previously reported populations of Orcuttia tenuis occurring in Shasta and Tehama Counties, as part of The Nature Conservancy’s Element Preservation Planning program; assisting the U.S. Forest Service in field surveys for Erigonum alpinum; field surveys for Cryptantha crinita, Arnica venosa, and Cordylanthus tenuis ssp. pallescens; and review of EIR’s for a number of local development projects.
“Plant watch” fieldwork was undertaken in 1983, 1984 and 1985 to establish baseline data for three local sites. Additionally, in 1989, members revisited a plot in the Castle Crags area that was first studied some 20 years earlier.
In 1985, at the request of the National Park Service, Chapter member David Biek undertook a major project to develop a flora and herbarium for the 42,000-acre Whiskeytown National Recreational Area. After three years of work, some 831 species and 27 plant communities had been recorded, a flora was prepared (unpublished, but available from the Shasta Chapter or Park Service) and extensive additions were made to the Park Service herbarium.
The Chapter also sponsored fieldtrips to the McCloud River Nature Conservancy Preserve and Burney Falls State Park specifically to help develop plant checklists.
Fund-raising activities included sales of CNPS posters, bumper stickers, decals and other materials; production and sale of Chapter T-shirts; and plant sales. The Chapter has held six plant sales (October 1984, April 1986, April and October 1988, and April and October 1989), most of which have been jointly sponsored by the Carter House Natural Science Museum. Although net profits, usually in the $200- $600 range, have been rather small in light of the immense amount of work involved, the plant sales have provided considerable publicity and attracted a number of new members to the Chapter.
In addition to the above, for a period of about one year the Chapter sold advertising space in its newsletter. Although this had considerable promise as a fund-raiser, it was discontinued when our advertisement sales person resigned.
The Chapter has sponsored fieldtrips on a regular basis. The number of fieldtrips lias ranged from 5 (1987) to 13 (1986) annually. Attendance Has ranged from 1 to about 25, and is usually less than 12 persons. Some of our favorite and/or more spectacular trips have been to Castle Crags State Park, Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, McCloud River Nature Conservancy Preserve, Mt. Eddy – Deadfall Lakes, Cedars Lakes Basin, Lassen Volcanic National Park, Cooke and Green Pass and to members’ native plant gardens.
Social Activities/Slide Shows
Slide presentations have been given at most Chapter meetings, with topics ranging from the flora and/or natural history of far-flung places such as Peru, New Zealand and the Antarctic, to wildflowers found in members’ backyards. A number of presentations have been by natural resource agency staff including the Forest Service, Park Service, Department of Fish and Game, County Departments of Agriculture and others. Programs are not necessarily devoted to plant-related topics, and have included diverse topics such as the geology of Northern California, canoeing down the Green River in Utah, effects of the massive 1987 Northern California wildfires, and life in the Soviet Union. One program each fall is a ’’slide potluck,” where all members are encouraged to bring a few of their favorite slides from past excursions.
Members occasionally meet for pizza before the meetings, particularly when we are hosting an out-of-town speaker. Other social events have included a more-or- less annual picnic in the Mt. Shasta City park, as well as post-fieldtrip picnics at members’ homes or area parks. Our first Chapter picnic, in August 1983, was held in honor of three Soviet botanists who were touring various National Forests throughout the United States.
The Chapter also hosted the June 1988 State Board meeting.