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Wildlife Conservation Receives Public Funding at Elliott Ranch

By Jan Dalske

In June of 2016, a California state agency, the Delta Conservancy, awarded the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) a grant of $380,000. The money will be used to implement a habitat enhancement project for the state-listed Swainson’s hawk. The future habitat for this endangered species is Elliott Ranch, in West Sacramento, near the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
The Swainson’s hawk is not the only species that will benefit from this grant. The ranch will meet its conservation goals while keeping the land planted with productive agriculture. The result will provide a beneficial impact on the local agriculture economy.
The grant is part of California’s public water bond funding which is managed by the Delta Conservancy to restore wildlife habitats in the Central Valley. The Elliott Ranch project will enhance the Swainson’s hawk habitat on 300 acres. The project will expand the hawks’ hunting grounds by restoring a habitat for their prey and converting existing crops to a bird-friendly pasture.
Our farms and ranches, America’s private lands, provide the greatest potential for conservation and management of species like the Swainson’s hawk. Improved accounting tools are being used to demonstrate the value of habitat on working lands. They can help to target areas that have the greatest potential for restoration.
A habitat quantification tool (HQT) which was designed by the EDF and local stakeholders is central to the project. The information obtained will be used to test how the HQT can be used for future restoration or future landowner incentive programs. It measures the impacts of wildlife habitat and the benefits that have been created.
The Yolo Habitat Conservancy, a group that is a partner in the project, will benefit by testing how the HQT can be used for future restoration or landowner incentive programs. The use of public funds can improve restoration projects and obtain the highest environmental return on that investment.
The Swainson’s hawk HQT will measure both habitat quantity and quality. The quality will be based on three attributes: nesting habitat, foraging habitat, and suitability of habitat within the landscape. These habitat attributes will be scored, weighted and combined into a single overall habitat quality score. This score will reflect a consideration of both the project area and the surrounding landscape.
Additional lessons can be learned from the Elliott Ranch project. The ranch will be able to meet its conservation goals while it keeps the land in productive agriculture while providing a positive example for the local agriculture economy.
With the application of the HQT on this site, a multi-species assessment will be used. This single property could be used to assess a variety of species including riparian songbirds, giant garter snakes and Chinook salmon. And in the future the criteria for assessing the habitat for monarch butterfly could be included.
The state of California, as the Delta Conservancy, EDF and various other partners have demonstrated how the use of public funds can be used to target restoration funds for those projects that will offer the highest environmental return on the investment.

You Are Not Forgotten

By Michele Townsend

“YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN” are the words that are carved into Lt Gregory Hodson’s paving stone, that is located in the All Veterans Memorial section of Capitol Park.This section is a tribute to all veterans. This statement couldn’t be more fitting, or accurate. Gregory Keith Hodson grew up in West Sacramento, along with his three best friends. In 1961 the four of them graduated from James Marshall High School in West Sac. They had all four joined the military, but each in a different branch. The Vietnam War was going on, and Greg had become a US Navy Pilot. On October 2nd 1964, Greg along with Lt Harold S Roach Jr, from Coronado Ca., and Horace E Rainey – AT3 (Aviation Technician) were returning to the USS Kearsarge, a seventh fleet anti-submarine carrier (after a “routine training mission”…over the war zone). The ship was located in the South China Sea just outside of the war zone. There were high, rough seas that were rocking the ship violently. Greg came in for the first attempt of landing the S-F2 Tracker Plane that he was flying but the rocking of the ship was too severe. He made a second attempt, but still no luck. On the third attempt they thought he had it, but the movement was too severe and the plane fell off of the bow, plunging 700 yards into the sea below. All three members of the crew perished, and their bodies were never found.
In approximately 1998, Greg’s childhood friend, Bill Spurgin, went to the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, in Ca State Capitol Park, and discovered that his good friend, and fellow Vet was not listed on the wall of the 5,622 Ca Service Members! He didn’t understand how such a major mistake could have been made, and he set his mind to rectifying it. He later found out that a family friend of Lt. Roach’s had visited the Memorial Wall, in Washington D.C, and the three crew members were not listed among the 58,286 American names at that site either. Nor were they listed in the Department of Defense’s (DOD) list of soldiers killed in action! How could this be!? They were, however, listed in the USS Kearsarge’s “Yearbook”. Bill spent many frustrating and emotional years digging into why this crew was excluded from the memorials. The DOD said that they “were not a casualty of war because they were killed outside of the war zone”. The ship was a carrier, and just outside Vietnamese waters, but the planes were flying missions in the war zone!
The fight to add veteran’s that died combat related deaths began. As you can imagine, there has been TONS of paperwork that went to the DOD, and to the Legislature. Bill enlisted the help of CalVets to help change this injustice. Together, they filed form after form trying to make changes, to include combat related deaths. They wanted to include not only those that died in the line of duty, but also those that die later due to Agent Orange. In 1982 the Memorial began to recognize combat related deaths, but specifically exclude PTSD related suicides, and deaths due to health issues from Agent Orange exposure. Not everyone agreed with this addition. Zach Earp, former President of Vietnam Veterans of America (who has since passed from health issues that were a direct result from Agent Orange), declared that “The Memorial is very sacred ground. The original intent was to honor those killed in action. In some way, it lessens the integrity of the memorial”.
It took more than 10 years for Bill to get approval to add a stepping stone in his good friend’s name to the walkway in Capitol Park. In 2011, Bill and his brother John (who is also a US Army Vietnam Vet) split the $500 cost of the stepping stone that would honor his friend. The stone read “Lt. Gregory Keith Hodson, United States Navy, You are not forgotten, South China Sea, Oct 2, 1964” But Bill didn’t stop there! With the help and support of many, including West Sac VFW 8720, Senator Lois Wolk, Senator Vic Fazio, CalVets, and Mike Mcgowan, just to name a few…the Calif. Department of Veteran Affairs enacted a law that requires Ca to add names to the memorial every year until 2020, to include current wars.
While Bill has been working on this “mission”, he tried to find and contact the families of the other two crew members aboard that plane, but to no avail. However, CalVet was able to track down the family of Lt. Roach. It was a good thing that they did, because on Memorial Day 2017, Bill FINALLY gets to see the black granite panel where his good friend gets the honor and recognition that he deserves. Lt Roach will also be added to the memorial wall, and his family is expected to attend. They are all are excited and anxious to meet. Horace Rainey will not be added however, because he is not a California Vet. You never really forget your childhood best friends, but Bill Spurgin has truly honored what those friendships mean.

Mill Street Pier Opens In Bridge District

City officials gathered for the grand opening for the $1.3 million rehabilitated Mill Street Pier. It is the latest amenity in the emerging Bridge District. Pier sits 25 feet over the Sacramento River providing breathtaking views of the water, downtown Sacramento, and the nearby Barn entertainment hub.

Mayor Pro Tem Mark Johannessen, City Manager Martin Tuttle, Julie Alvis, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the California Natural Resources Agency gathered as the West Sacramento Fireboat “Boat 41” put on water spray show on the river in West Sacramento’s Bridge District, just steps south of the Barn.

West Sacramento Deputy Fire Chief hopes to inspire more diverse fire crews as she takes over as Fire Chief in Woodland

By Daniel Wilson

Early in her career, West Sacramento Deputy Fire Chief Rebecca Ramirez, who will take over as the first female fire chief for the Woodland Fire Department on Feb. 27, said she received a compliment that embodied what she and most women desire in their careers.

It came in the form of overhearing an “old timer” on the phone telling someone that she was a woman but that he just considered her a part of the crew.

“That, to me, had always stood out as all I ever wanted,” Ramirez said. “Don’t look at me for my gender or the color of my skin or the way I speak; Look at me as what I can contribute to the organization.”

Ramirez said she has never felt discriminated against as a woman in firefighting. By working as hard as possible and being as selfless and respectable as possible, she feels she’s been able to overcome any barriers she has faced.

“I am glad to be representing women in leadership roles, particularly in roles that are not so typical, [like] the fire service,” said Ramirez, who started her tenure with the West Sacramento Fire Department in 1993. “I think we have struggled in getting women into the fire service as a whole and we need to work on that a little bit. Maybe for people seeing me in that role, some young girls…will realize that fire service is a true opportunity for them.”

Battalion Chief Steve Binns, who’s worked for the West Sacramento Fire Department since 1990, will be replacing Ramirez as deputy fire chief.

As battalion chief, Binns is responsible for working hands-on with the fire crew and running day-to-day operations for the department. In his new role, he’ll work closely with the fire chief to balance budgets, implement new programs and processes and run current programs like consortium training sessions, where all of the county’s fire departments learn to cooperate in preparation for large-scale emergencies.

“It’s just more broad-based, more higher-level looking at things,” Binns said. “I’ve always kind of operated on today and at this [new] level, [I’ll] need to operate more about tomorrow.”

Ramirez said the fire department works diligently to help prepare its staff for the job above them in the case of promotion, so Binns already has some experience with some of the duties of his new role.

“We’re going to definitely miss her,” Binns said. “We’re on a steep learning curve over the next two or three weeks, [but] she’s still going to be in the county, so we’re going to talk often, I’m sure.”

Some of Ramirez’s contributions to the West Sacramento Fire Department will have a long-lasting impact on the city.

In recent years, she was directly involved with improving the city’s Insurances Services Office rating, which ranks the department on its abilities to provide fire protection services and sets insurance rates for city residents and businesses based on the ranking.

She also worked to secure a $1.2 million grant in May to purchase Self-Contained Breathing Apparatuses, which are worn on the backs of firefighters and provide them with breathable air while inside a burning building, for the department’s firetrucks.

“She has been an amazing person to work with,” said West Sacramento Fire Chief John Heilmann. “I think I’ve learned more from her than she’s probably learned from me.”

Ramirez’s new role is part of a restructuring of Woodland’s fire and police departments, which are both currently led by Public Safety Chief Dan Bellini.

With the announcement of his retirement, the city decided Bellini’s position should be eliminated in favor of a more traditional set up, according to a Feb. 2 press release from the city of Woodland. The fire and police chief positions were previously combined following cutbacks as a result of the 2008 economic downturn.

“I think it’s good for the county and good for the fire department,” Heilmann said. “I think everyone will benefit in the end.”


Ramirez found out about her new position in early February.

“It was very exciting to find out about it and I was a little overwhelmed by it,” Ramirez said. “The support and the encouragement that I’ve received from the city of West Sacramento has been just truly amazing.”

West Sacramento City Manager Martin Tuttle said he is confident in Ramirez’s future in Woodland and is proud of the legacy she’ll leave behind in West Sacramento.

“Chief Ramirez is a pioneer in fire service and a great role model for women who are pursuing a career in fire,” Tuttle said. “She’s done a great job for us. Her appointment of Woodland expands West Sacramento’s fire department. That’s good, I think in terms of cooperation with other departments.”

Though it will take a while to assess where improvements need to be made and how to approach them, Ramirez said the crew at the Woodland Fire Department will help make the transition a smooth one.

“They’re a very dedicated group, who’s committed both organizationally and on an individual level to the citizens,” Ramirez said. “Their culture is solid, their firefighting skills are solid and the city philosophy is very supportive of the fire department.”

Tuttle said he thinks the West Sacramento Fire Department’s deputy fire chief role is being left in good hands with Binns.

“He’s outstanding,” Tuttle said. “The department won’t miss a beat. We’re going to miss Ramirez, but to her credit, there’s a lot of folks who can step into leadership positions.”