Background & History
Our story is one of change, as we transformed in 2011 from a non-profit statutorily recognized by the federal Farm Bill and principally funded by government grants into a grassroots organization robust with community connections and funded from diverse sources, mostly generous gifts by our individual supporters. We have changed again in 2020, to embrace a new name that captures our mission and vision in just two words: Conservation Works.
For a little background, our legal name is the North Coast Resource Conservation & Development Council, and we are a non-profit and non-governmental organization which was formed and officially incorporated as a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization in November of 2002 to advance the conservation of natural and agricultural resources within Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino, and Lake Counties in Northern California. Initially, the US Department of Agriculture authorized the Councils across the United States under the Federal Farm Bill in the 1950s, and provided funding through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). California was late in coming to the RC&DC structure, but our Council formed in 2002 and our federal funding included office space and the full time services of a coordinator to work with the Council to identify problems, establish goals and objectives, build strategies, and implement plans, including addressing Sudden Oak Death (in picture at right), agritourism opportunities, biomass energy utilization, and other issues of importance to our area.
Less than ten years later, in the spring of 2011, all funding and support from the NRCS abruptly ceased, including complete elimination of office space and the Coordinator position. Although the loss of NRCS support was challenging, our Council had been slowly transforming itself into a grassroots organization by adding new at-large members to its Board of Directors and expanding how we accomplished projects. Gradually, we had been broadening our the role from mostly being supportive of others' projects to developing our own actual "take action" projects. Today, our youth environmental education AND ACTION projects are the cornerstone of the work we do, and other grassroots projects are similary geared to "take action" by our staff and volunteers. One program, Worm Wizards of Waste, educates in schools on the importance of composting (picture to the left shows an older boy telling a younger girl about the new vermicomposter we installed at their school).
We continue to have a network of partners, varying from the traditional resource conservation districts to local native plant society chapters, youth groups including the Girl Scouts and Social Advocates for Youth, beekeepers, and many others. Over the eight years since the 2011 change in funding, the Council continues to grow and thrive through a diversification of funding sources including fiscal sponsorships, private foundation grants, corporate giving, fundraising, and generous donations by numerous individuals.
Our projects now are as varied as the natural world itself--from planting habitat to investigating the economic uses of native turkey tail mushrooms in our forest landforms.
Turkey tails (Trametes versicolor) are common woodland mushrooms. These saprophytes are “bracket” fungi –growing shelf-like—and occur in diverse locations in Mendocino County forests (and elsewhere) on dead or rotting stumps and branches. The "versicolor" portion of its name is because these fungi are very variable in color, most often within the brown to red range.
Benefits of Turkey Tail: Some research is being conducted on these mushrooms for their medicinal value as adjunct cancer treatment including colorectal cancer and leukemia. Our 2-year project is treating cutover tanoak stumps to see if the native Turkey Tail will be useful in retarding brush re-growth and reducing fire loads in cutover lands.