Friends of Del Norte was formed in 1973, primarily to protect the Smith River. The Smith River’s designation as a Wild and Scenic River and the establishment of the Smith River National Recreation Area stand testament to the determination, perseverance, and effectiveness of our all-volunteer group. However, our mission quickly broadened to include protecting ecosystems throughout Del Norte County.
Our members monitor and analyze county planning department projects, especially those that affect local wetlands. We have brought numerous—and well-respected—Coastal Commission appeals, where irreplaceable wetland and riparian stream segments would have otherwise been cleared and developed.
We are especially proud of our success with the new Lake Earl Management Plan, which allows higher lagoon levels, thereby adequately protecting surrounding wetlands and habitat. In cooperation with the Lake Earl Coastal Lagoon Alliance, we documented specific threats to tidewater goby. Particularly, we found that more goby habitat is available with higher Lake Earl Lagoon levels. Avoiding disruptions during breeding and rearing season is fundamental in protecting these fish.
During the 1990s, we rallied the community in opposition to the development of five-acre ranch parcels at Point St. George. With community support, we were able to influence the county’s general plan and the Point is now a county park, under the oversight of the Coastal Conservancy.
We have a number of avid sports fishermen in our group, so it was a natural fit for us to work with local fishermen, the fisheries commission, and Fish and Game to develop stricter fishing regulations on the Smith River. The beneficial impacts of our efforts are evident throughout the Smith River Basin.
Recently, we have also focused on the Crescent City Airport terminal expansion project and submitted comments on the draft EIR, offering alternatives to paving over and destroying rare, forested wetland areas and coastal stream riparian habitat.
In all of our conservation efforts, we are ever-mindful of the long-term impacts, because our local economy is and will remain deeply tied to tourism. Visitors come to Del Norte County for the beautiful scenery and unparalleled access to unspoiled nature. Together, we can keep our environment and our economy healthy.