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Kevin Wolf

Kevin Wolf
Environmental Activist
This is one of the most magnificent places in the world.

Kevin Wolf, former UC Davis student, political activist, and supporter of rivers and watersheds, believes that everyone should fight to protect natural places and experience nature in its true form. 


In the 1990s, Wolf fought tooth and nail against the multibillion dollar gravel mining companies to protect Cache Creek from being turned into a moonscape.

Although gravel mining is still a huge industry in the Cache Creek region, Kevin Wolf’s efforts helped establish the Cache Creek Nature Preserve.  The CCNP serves as natural habitat for over 80 different species of birds, a variety of woodland animals like rabbits, deer, coyote, and beaver, and native riparian plants like cottonwood trees.  The Preserve offers environmental education programs to the public about the history of Cache Creek and ways to restore the Creek today.

Wolf has long realized that in politics, those with money have power.  This, however, did not deter Wolf from trying his best to slow the destruction of Cache Creek and to gain something positive from the battle such as the Preserve.

Wolf and his group Friends of the River held fundraisers with canoeing and rafting trips, barbeques, and educational meetings to raise money for filing lawsuits, printing publications, and promoting the preservation of Cache Creek.  Eventually Wolf and his coalition of volunteers would collect enough signatures to use to negotiate with the Yolo County Board of Supervisors.  In the end, an agreeable deal would lead to the creation of the Preserve at the expense of further gravel mining.

Not everyone was happy.  Some of Wolf’s former friends felt he sold out and should have gone down fighting.  Many believed Wolf could have done more with the negotiations.

Looking back at the big picture, Wolf believes that concessions were necessary to gain something positive out of his negotiations with the Board over which the mining companies had massive influence.

What’s your relationship to this place?

My name is Kevin Wolf, I live in Davis.  Cache Creek is part of the watershed of Davis.  I’m a big believer in rivers, big supporters of rivers and streams.  You should know your watershed.  Between the Putah Creek watershed and the Cache Creek watershed, I got to know both those places.  Cache Creek has rafting and kayaking upstream, a really great little inner-tubing area as well.  A section that goes way back up to Clear Lake has elk, nesting eagles, and bald eagles.  This is one of the most magnificent places in the world and it provides us with our groundwater and all the rest.  That’s my main reason for having gotten involved – it’s both from the recreation and caring about rivers and watersheds.

Could you describe where we are right now?

We’re in the portion of Cache Creek that’s enclosed by levees.  The farmers built these things to prevent the stream from rising up each winter, or every five winters, and covering their land and moving- literally moving- hundreds of yards, thousands of yards over the last million years which brought down all this sand and gravel from fifty miles upstream where the rock is very loose.  This became a settling basin of gravel.  Thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of years of this stream moving back and forth depositing gravel.  This gravel is hundreds of feet thick through here.

Did Friends of Cache Creek have anything to do with this Preserve at all?

This Preserve wouldn’t be here if the law hadn’t changed to put aside a percentage, a charge on every ton extracted from the creek that would go into restoration, and into this Preserve and into all the other types of preservation work that is needed here.  It ended up being tens of millions of dollars that came out of the industry.  I and Sheryl Freeman had to be in all the ads [supporting the compromise]. We had to be in public speaking, we had to be the leaders of the effort to do this.  People until this day will not talk to me.  The old Friends of Cache Creek felt that I sold out, that Sheryl and I and those who agreed to do this should have all gone on with our fighting the good fight to really stop the gravel miners who were just basically bad.  We should have just said “no.”  Some friends from those days won’t talk to me still.  So there was a bad side to it.

 Do you think it was worth it?

I think if you just stand here you can see it was worth it.  You know, there is a problem with folks.  It’s hard for people to realize the issue of money in politics and how you win.  How could you win when there’s so much money on the side of the destruction that they get to keep doing the gravel mining and they have the money to harass you and prevent you from even putting the initiative on the ballot, they have the money to just win any way in a county-wide initiative.  So, against that, be realistic, learn the rules of the game, figure out the best you can do within the situation you have at hand to make the change happen that you can make.

What’s your vision for this place?

Let’s set these levees a quarter mile out and have this stream do what it was supposed to do.  Let’s have it be a corridor for bears to get from the Cache Creek wilderness and cougars to cross over the valley and up to Sacramento and then over to the Sierras.  If we don’t have mixing in those populations, we endanger the rest of those otters, beavers, all the animals that need to cross.  We should make this a wide, big corridor to allow that movement of animals between the ranges.

What was the initial moment that you decided to get into political activism?

I said OK, I could make a difference, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that anything I did could make a difference.  Just a few hours of time and you could get people to turn around and change their mind or do all kinds of stuff.  So I became an organizer, learning how to use my time very efficiently, without much money and resources to make change happen.

That’s good.  We need more people like you.  Anything else you want to add?

I fell in love with the Stanislaus River and places like the Yuba, and upstream Cache Creek here.  I’m taking my nephews inner-tubing this summer.  It’s one of these great places.  People should fall in love with nature, natural places, and fight for them.  But then once you’ve got that, I don’t need to see this place to want to protect it, I don’t need to know that the Alaskan Plain should not be turned into another wasteland like Prudhoe Bay. It’s just not necessary, and I don’t need to go there to know that that place needs to be protected.  You don’t have to actually get the benefits from it or see it to take action and make change happen.  But it is important to know some experience and have some connection to nature to love it in some way, in some place, so that you can extend that place.  One of the sad things is that people have no chance to see that place or even know it; they live in the city and never get out.  One of these groups that’s very useful, they take inner city kids from West Sacramento and Woodland and bring them white water rafting and boating.  It’s a lot of fun to see these kids so amazed in a place so beautiful.  They need it, they need to know these places exist, and they need to spend time in it.


Written by: 
Alan Huang

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