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Oakhurst Audubon Program: "Climate Change Is Happening"

Guest Column submitted by Len Mckenzie

OAKHURST – “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” wrote Bob Dylan–and, indeed, they are. They always have, of course, and those words continue to ring true today. The only constant in nature, it’s been said, is change, and survival requires adapting to it.Yet, the climate change that characterizes modern times presents an unprecedented challenge that demands society develop solutions to lessen the extreme consequences–Hurricane Sandy, last summer’s Colorado wildfires, the Pakistan floods, the Midwest drought–caused by or related to climate change.

Climate change, or global warming, has moved from a potential future problem to a current problem that is affecting our weather, our wildlife and our economy. That is why former Vice-President Al Gore’s organization is now called the Climate Reality Project.

Area residents Beth Pratt of Midpines and Steve Smallcombe of Mariposa recently participated in a three-day Climate Reality Project training workshop with Gore in August and were certified as workshop presenters. The two will present an illustrated talk, “Climate Change Is Happening!,” at the Yosemite Area Audubon Society’s (YAAS) monthly program at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 10, at the Oakhurst Methodist Church on Road 426.

The talk will focus on how climate change is influencing current events, including its effects on weather and wildlife, some of the science, and what people can do today to help mitigate this current and serious problem. The presenters will also discuss current climate change trends and projections for California and the Sierra and what those trends mean for wildlife and people of the state.

Beth Pratt Ca. Director of the National Wildlife FederationPratt, the California Director for the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), has worked in environmental leadership roles for almost 20 years and in two of the country’s largest national parks, Yosemite and Yellowstone. Before joining the NWF, she worked on sustainability and climate change programs for Xanterra Parks & Resorts in Yellowstone as its Director of Environmental Affairs. Prior to her role in Yellowstone, for nine years Pratt served as the Vice President/CFO for the non-profit Yosemite Association in Yosemite National Park.

In 2007, she traveled to Japan as part of a month-long Rotary International Professional Exchange to study business, sustainability, and national park operations. She is also a member of the Association of Partners for Public Lands Training Corps and serves on the advisory committee of the non-profit Save the Frogs. Her work on sustainability in national parks has been featured in Sustainable Industries, Fast Company, Sierra Magazine, Green Lodging News and on the Peter Greenberg Radio Show. She is also the author of the official Junior Ranger handbook for Yosemite.

Pratt graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Boston with bachelor’s degrees in management and biological anthropology. She earned a master’s in business administration from Regis University in Denver. In 2009 she earned the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Accredited Professional credential. Under her leadership, Yellowstone’s environmental programs received environmental achievement awards from the National Park Service three consecutive years, from 2009-2011. She now lives in an energy-efficient home in Midpines.

Steve SmallcombeSmallcombe did his graduate work at U.C. Irvine where he received a Ph.D. in Chemistry. He then spent 5 years at California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech), where he was a member of the research faculty, before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area and a 33-year career in the scientific instrument business. Now in retirement, Steve and his wife, Rosemarie, live in an energy-efficient “green” home they recently built in Jerseydale, powered by solar panels and featuring geothermal heating and cooling. Steve and Rosemarie are on the board of directors of Mariposans for the Environment and Responsible Government (MERG) and are co-presidents of the Mariposa Democratic Club.

Like all YAAS programs, Pratt’s and Smallcombe’s presentation is open and free to the public, although donations to defray program costs and to support Audubon’s local activities are welcome. Refreshments will be available.

The YAAS will also offer its monthly birding trip Saturday, Jan. 19, to Hensley Lake. Meet at 8:00 a.m. at Tip Top Road and Highway 49 South. Oakhurst-area residents can meet the Mariposa group at 8:45 a.m. in the Sears store parking lot on Junction Drive. Suitable for beginners, free, public welcome. Dress warmly in layers, wear comfortable walking shoes and bring binoculars, field guides, snacks, lunch, beverages and wet-weather gear.

Call (209) 742-5579 or (209) 966-2547 or visit for additional information about either the program or the birding trip.

The mission of the National Audubon Society, the namesake of noted 19th-century naturalist and bird painter John James Audubon; its state affiliate, Audubon California; and local chapters such as the Yosemite Area Audubon Society is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.

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