The Warbler vs. the Willits Bypass

For decades, the Federal Highway Administration and the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) have been pursuing a freeway bypass on Highway 101 around the town of Willits in Northern California. For decades, the townsfolk have been suggesting simpler, less costly, and less destructive alternatives. With word that a large-scale cutting of trees could begin on January 28, 2013, a 24 year-old local woman, calling herself the Warbler, climbed into a large ponderosa pine tree slated for removal. Her actions were supported by a local citizens group, Save Our Little Lake Valley (SOLLV). Warbler's commitment to protect the land evolved naturally from her years growing up surrounded by the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

Warbler has pledged to maintain her tree-sit as long as it remains an effective way of staving off CalTrans' construction plans. Locals have rallied at the base of the tree to support her protest and to raise public awareness. Warbler inspires us all to get in touch with our life on earth. "Caltrans has not considered the many other viable and sensible solutions to Willlits' traffic problems developed by the people," Warbler told The Willits News. "This bypass will not improve local traffic and will create no permanent jobs, but it will permanently scar the Little Lake Valley. The Army Corp of Engineers is mandated to choose the least harmful alternative and the CalTrans Bypass isn't it."

Warbler's willingness to "occupy" a large tree in order to protect it and the surrounding countryside is reminiscent of Julia "Butterfly" Hill who was just 23 years-old on December 10, 1997, when she ascended 180 feet up the redwood tree she called Luna, where she lived for 738 days, before an accommodation was reached to preserve Luna and all trees within a 200 foot buffer zone.

Support for Warbler, and her efforts to find a better solution than the CalTrans Bypass, is increasing every day. Long-time Willits residents Marc Komer and Robin Goldner wrote to Governor Jerry Brown saying, "The CalTrans Bypass is a project that needs to be stopped now. It is an unnecessary fiscal waste and an environmental disaster."

Rosamond Crowder who has been working for many years to find a local solution to traffic congestion says, "I want you to know that there is a Transportation Industrial Complex. It is fueled by the mega-trucking industry and the highway construction industry. They take our tax dollars and they serve the Complex."

Michael Foley grows vegetables at Green Uprising Farm in the Little Lake Valley. "When our elected officials choose to leave it to the bureaucracies and leave us out," says Foley, "it becomes not just a right but an obligation of citizens to protest. That's what Thomas Jefferson and John Adams and the rest of the Founding Fathers said."

Warbler has made her stand. "I'm here and I'm going to stay here," she says. The question is, who will stand with her? To learn more contact: Save Our Little Lake Valley (SOLLV)