Stories from California: Human vs. Natural Communities

The second in an eight-part series from multimedia documentarian jesikah maria ross about the people, land, and stories of rural California’s Cache Creek.

The creek is always going to be pulled in different directions. —Ann Brice

Back in the mid-1990s, I was part of a burgeoning countywide movement to rethink the scale of gravel mining on Cache Creek. As a budding documentary media-maker focused on environmental issues, I could see that mining the creek was being pitched in oppositional terms: jobs vs. the environment. In particular, mining jobs and the industry tax revenue for the county vs. wildlife and habitat. What wasn’t as clear to me at the time, though, was the impact of farming along the creek banks.

As someone with family that ranches along the Stanislaus River in Northern California, it’s odd that this never crossed my mind. In fact, the twin impacts of farming and mining on riparian ecosystems really didn’t come home to me until I interviewed Ann Brice on a breezy fall afternoon for the Restore/Restory project. Ann is an ecologist and the founding executive director of the Cache Creek Conservancy, the organization that manages the Cache Creek Nature Preserve. In that role, she has worked to advance restoration of the creek and surrounding habitat after years of degradation from both mining and farming.

Listening to Ann talk about how the creek’s been restored, how mining and farming practices have changed, and the ways that the Conservancy is connecting residents with their creek is definitely a feel-good story. But how we balance continued human use of our waterways with their ecological health is an on-going question—I’d like to hear readers’ thoughts.

Meanwhile, here is a snippet from Ann’s interview at the creek. —jesikah maria ross

Go here to learn more from Ann Brice about the environmental history of Cache Creek. To read and listen to other perspectives on the history of the area, visit


  1. Balancing the human and ecological needs of ppl and creatures who need rivers is a good question. On the Klamath they’re trying to figure it out, but it’s gotten hard again lately with tribes taking water away from ag to save salmon drying up in the bed. Closer to northern CA, the Yuba River has a great group of ppl working to get it right, look up, the South Yuba River Citizens League.

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