HomeEditors' PicksSixth annual California Wildlife Day sets out to spread conservation education

Sixth annual California Wildlife Day sets out to spread conservation education

Published March 6, 2024

BY LAUREN GALICIA

Co-hosted by the Carmel River Watershed Conservancy and the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District, the sixth annual California Wildlife Day will provide a multitude of events and activities hoping to educate the public on the importance of conserving and protecting the environment and threatened species on March 24 at Palo Corona Regional Park from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Through the dedicated efforts of Beverly Eyre and Lorin Letendre, California Wildlife Day was founded, with the first event held in 2018. What started out with about 350 members at CWD has grown to almost 1,000 people. Eyre chose the event to be on or near the Spring Equinox because it marks the beginning of many animals coming out of hibernation and nature’s renewal.

The Rumsen Ohlone tribal community table displays traditional weaved baskets and more. (courtesy of CARMEL RIVER WATERSHED CONSERVANCY)

“We’re trying to spread the word about how many animals go extinct every year,” says Letendre, the president of the Carmel River Watershed Conservancy, “and that the people in the public understand the need to protect wildlife and honor and celebrate it on these occasions.” 

This year’s theme, “Protecting Species on the Edge,” focuses on endangered species such as the California red-legged frog and the central coast steelhead. The day will start off with a panel of speakers, some being political leaders, discussing relevant issues including the reintroduction of the beaver to the watershed, Sudden Oak Death and wildfire remediation. 

“People can’t understand or have a passion for conservation until they get outside and learn about it,” says CRWC executive director Abbie Beane. “It helps cultivate the next generation of environmental stewards for the watershed.”

Palo Corona’s entrance will be packed with 25 or more local environmental organizations with informational exhibit tables, food trucks, live music and artwork from local elementary school students, as well as displays in the Discovery Center. The day is run with the help of Carmel High School volunteers.

Congressman Jimmy Panetta speaks as one of the keynote panelists to start off CWD. (courtesy of CARMEL RIVER WATERSHED CONSERVANCY)

Along with exhibits, the event will feature the Rumsen Ohlone Tribal Community dancers for the first time. The dancers are descendants of Rumsen Ohlone people indigenous to the Monterey Peninsula stretching from lower Carmel Valley to Point Lobos. With many ecological traditions, the tribe is no stranger to living in harmony with nature, and it encourages cultural learning.

Mountain lions, coyotes, deer and other native wildlife will also be highlighted in the event. Live raptors will be shown by master falconer Antonio Balesteri, like the red-tailed hawk and various owls. Nature and poetry walks will be scheduled every half-hour accompanied by guides, with many hikers staying past closing time.

Isabella Davi, a Carmel High student and nature enthusiast, frequents conservation events such as CWD and is an apprentice falconer, achieving her license through the California Hawking Club and training Erwin, an American kestrel. Like Balesteri, Davi hopes to educate the public about conservation through her love for raptors.

CRWC aims to restore the river to its former health through its watershed, in turn improving water conditions and habitats for wildlife. The nonprofit organization was established after the American Rivers organization declared the Carmel River to be among the top ten most endangered rivers in the U.S. A watershed is essentially a land area with a drainage basin, where tributaries and streams channel into one body of water. The Carmel River empties into the Carmel River Lagoon. 

The crowd relishes in the greenery of Palo Corona on one of the many nature walks. (courtesy of CARMEL RIVER WATERSHED CONSERVANCY)

“We all have a part in protecting the earth,” says Jackie Nelson, the environmental education supervisor for MPRPD. “In the ‘70s, there were concerns about the ozone hole or the Clean Water Act. Today, we still talk about those things, but we talk about it on a global level—a climate change, social justice or diversity level.” 

Both co-host organizations hope for California Wildlife Day to expand into a state-wide celebration, with some previously hosted in Los Angeles and Sacramento.

Besides the California Wildlife Day, CRWC continues to spread environmental education through initiatives such as watershed education for grades K-12 and restoration projects in the watershed, while the MPRPD distributes the Let’s Go Outdoors guide to residents all over the peninsula.

More resources and information on the event can be found on the California Wildlife Day website at www.carmelriverwatershed.org.

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