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Land Trust legacies

The Feather River Land Trust (FRLT), a locally based nonprofit organization, could not have thrived for the last 20 years without local volunteers and donors.

Three remarkable people who have left a significant legacy of protecting the special places of the Feather River region recently passed away in 2019 — Frank Davis of Quincy, Bill Harnach of Sierra Valley, and Sam Catalano of Genesee Valley.

Paul Hardy, former executive director of FRLT, summed it up this way, “All developed a deep love of place and wanted to share it with others and protect that place for future generations. They were men who loved nature and their families and were always ready to help. I was buoyed by their presence and ability to see beyond their own lives.”

Frank Davis

Frank Davis, who passed away in September 2019, played an important role in the early years of the Land Trust (2004-2005) when Paul was trying to make a case for the conservation of Sierra Valley.

FRLT needed to persuade bigger players and funders of the ecological importance of Sierra Valley and the risk of habitat destruction that unchecked development could pose.

Frank, a pilot, volunteered to fly Paul and representatives from larger conservation organizations over Sierra Valley and nearby areas in eastern Plumas County and Stead-Bordertown to illustrate what the valley could become if left totally unprotected. It was in the spring and Frank flew so close to the ground that Paul could see the yellow in the eyes of a great egret!

As they flew over the wetlands, they flushed a magnificent number of birds, ranging from waterfowl to white-faced ibis to yellow-headed blackbirds, helping to convince The Nature Conservancy that this was a special place that needed to be protected.

Frank was equally happy to show up with his tool box on volunteer days to fix gates on the Maddalena Property, now known as the Sierra Valley Preserve, and to participate in demolition of old structures on the Leonhardt Learning Landscape in Quincy.

He was also a generous donor to FRLT for the last 14 years of his life. Frank’s motivation to help and give to the Land Trust was his granddaughter — wanting to leave her the open spaces he loved so much.

Bill Harnach

Bill Harnach, of Calpine, passed away in September 2019 and also left a legacy of supporting conservation in Sierra Valley, but in a different way than Frank.

Bill arrived in Sierra Valley when he was 18 years old. In addition to teaching at Loyalton High School, he was a self-taught botanist who, with assistance from his wife, Nancy, wrote the Annotated Checklist of the Fauna of the Sierra Valley region.

He emphasized the fact that Sierra Valley is uniquely located at the intersection of three of the West’s great geographic regions:  the Sierra Nevada from the south, the Great Basin from the east, and the Cascades from the north, and that this intersection creates a biodiversity hotspot. Bill’s checklist includes 1,153 documented species and varieties, representing nearly 15 percent of California’s plant species.

Paul Hardy said, “Bill has had a significant impact on the conservation efforts in Sierra Valley. He gave many botanical tours of the Valley to the public, donors and public agencies free of charge. In addition to plants, Bill intimately knew the history, geology and geography of Sierra Valley. He possessed a rare ability to combine his scientific expertise with local knowledge and an undeniable and contagious enthusiasm for the place and its plants. This combination made Bill not only an expert, but an artist. He could truly bring out the magic in a place. After a tour with Bill, you felt like you had to do something to protect it.”

Shelton Douthit, executive director of FRLT, admired Bill’s passion for observing nature close to the ground. Bill  always encouraged him to get down and really look at nature.

In addition to its amazing wetlands, wildlife and working ranches, Bill added the diversity of plant life to the case for conservation in Sierra Valley. He contributed his knowledge to the Sierra Valley Preserve Management Plan, locating rare species that needed to be protected.

Bill wrote his own obituary and included FRLT among two other organizations to be a recipient of memorial donations.

Salvatore Catalano

Salvatore (Sam) Catalano retired to Genesee Valley in the mid-’80s and passed away in August 2019.

He was always willing to help the Land Trust and made his first donation in January 2001, when FRLT was barely a year old, and continued to make a donation every year after that.

He joined Sandy’s Circle, a group of monthly donors and even delivered his checks by hand to the FRLT office whenever he was in town. A very significant donation by Sam allowed FRLT to preserve the 100-year-old Davis Barn on the Heart K Ranch in Genesee Valley by replacing a leaky roof.

He attended most events at the Heart K Ranch and volunteered fixing windows, pulling invasive thistle, and showing up for workdays on the land.

Sam wrote hundreds of poems, many of which were spontaneously crafted while at events. His writing reflected his romantic nature, sense of humor, community-mindedness and love of the land, especially the Genesee Valley.

The last lines of his June, 2006 poem, Heart K Barn Raising:

It’s for posterity our trust protects the earth,

For we’re but tourists passing through by chance of birth.

And some lines from The Thistle Battle Field, July, 2015

These modern knights eradicating weeds,

With resolution and practiced skill

And shunning any payment for their deeds,

Joust bravely with the foe and with strength and will

Sam’s final contribution to the Land Trust was his inclusion of FRLT into his trust, which is providing the funds necessary for the roofing of Heart K Ranch historic buildings so they will be there for future generations.

Grateful to these men

The passing of Frank, Bill and Sam leaves a hole in our hearts and our communities. We miss them deeply. As we remember them, we’re grateful that these men loved their families, their communities and the beautiful lands around them and that they translated this love into generosity and action. We’re also grateful that they could see beyond their own lives and helped to create a legacy of protected lands and special places within their Feather River region, as well as an enduring organization that will help carry their legacies forward.

It takes a community made up of dedicated people like Frank, Bill and Sam to make enduring conservation on a large scale possible. If you would like to know more about FRLT, how you can help, or how to include FRLT in your will or trust, contact Corey Pargee at 283-5758 or visit [email protected].

And you are all invited to our Quincy Holiday open house at the FRLT office on 75 Court St. in Quincy on Friday, Dec. 13, at 5 p.m.

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