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High Country News has an interesting feature on Richard Halsey, the director of the California Chaparral Institute.

Halsey sees himself as an advocate for chaparral, the term that describes the native plant community that blankets San Diego’s hillsides. The feature story is worth a read. Here’s a glimpse:

[I]n the aftermath of the winds and the subsequent infernos [Halsey] suffers from a peculiar kind of isolation: Almost everything everybody around him is saying about fire, he believes, is wrong.

“I get enraged,” admits Halsey, a former high school biology teacher who quit 10 years ago to educate a broader audience about Southern California’s plant communities. “I go into orbit. So many people out there create a sense of fear and misconception about the natural environment, which to me is just so wrong. We’re disconnected enough as it is.” The 53-year-old Halsey, who now runs a small nonprofit called the California Chaparral Institute, has dedicated his life to defending the chaparral against its detractors. He likens chaparral-haters to climate-change deniers and flat-earth believers. “I’ve chomped down on it,” he says, “and I’m not going to let go until either I die or I can get some kind of validation, so that land-management agencies aren’t proclaiming the need to cut it all down.”


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