Kin to the Earth: Steve Madrone

Madrone for Supervisor campaign photo.
Madrone for Supervisor campaign photo.

5th District Supervisor Elect

After a well-orchestrated, grass-roots campaign, Steve Madrone was elected to the position of Humboldt County Fifth District Supervisor on June 6, 2018. Some may have considered his prospects to be a long-shot, but through persistent door-to-door self-introductions, attending numerous community events, and endorsements from three local tribes, Steve was able to meet and share his vision of sustainable economic development and resource conservation with enough voters to ensure his success.

Those who have known Steve through the decades know that his high level of commitment to every undertaking is thorough. His patience and persistence have served him well his entire life.

Born in Iowa in 1952, Steve moved to California as a young boy with his family in 1956 and grew up near Disneyland in Anaheim. Steve’s years of determination in the Boy Scouts of America earned him the rank of Eagle Scout, an achievement earned by only four out of one hundred scouts. The Scouts’ monthly camping trips and annual 2-week trip to the eastern Sierras fostered his love of the outdoors.

In 1973, he moved to Humboldt County to pursue a degree in Natural Resources at Humboldt State University (HSU). At HSU, he was inspired by the late Dr. Rudy Becking, spending many weekends hiking in the redwoods with his faithful dog, Muskie, or his good friend Randy Stemler, looking for the world’s tallest tree and falling in love with the majestic redwoods and Humboldt County.

Steve became part of the Emerald Creek Committee, a largely student-based group that focused on a watershed approach to land management and creating more protections for old growth forests. The Committee worked with the Sierra Club and Save the Redwoods League, advocating to expand Redwood National Park to include the upland areas along Redwood Creek. Their efforts paid off and in 1978 Congress approved the expansion of Redwood National Park to its present-day configuration.

Steve and a group of friends formed the Northcoast Reinhabitation Group (NRG) and from 1977 to 1980 they pursued contracts for tree-planting and other forestry work. NRG performed some of the first watershed restoration work in the newly expanded Redwood National Park.

Steve Madrone on a backpacking trip to Caribou Lake in July 2018. Photo: Don Allan.
Steve Madrone on a backpacking trip to Caribou Lake in July 2018. Photo: Don Allan.

Steve and his family lived in the Mattole River Valley from 1979 to 1982, where Steve worked as an erosion control and land management consultant and helped form the Mattole Restoration Council. In 1982, they moved to Blue Lake and Steve helped to develop a neighborhood park, got appointed to the planning commission, successfully ran for City Council, and become Blue Lake’s Police Commissioner. In 1986, Steve and Oceana relocated to their family homestead in the Luffenholtz Creek watershed where they reside today.

In 1983, Steve started working for the Redwood Community Action Agency in the Natural Resources Services division, and became director of the division in 1992. Steve joined the National Network of Forest Practitioners and in 1994 developed partnerships with the Private Industry Council, Employment Development Department, and state and federal agencies, developing a “Jobs-in-the-Woods” retraining program to provide jobs and training in watershed restoration to displaced timber workers. Over a four year period, more than 60 workers benefitted from the program. Steve also worked as a “circuit rider” and watershed coordinator, consulting with and assisting fledgling watershed groups throughout the western states in organizing their groups into non-profit organizations.

Another of Steve’s passions was building trails to connect communities and neighborhoods. In the late 1980s, he spear-headed the building of the Hammond Trail from Knox Cove to Widow White Creek, and from Vista Point to Clam Beach, and set the wheels in motion for the eventual completion of the “Hole-in-the-Hammond” in 2007. Steve also worked on the Little River Trail Feasibility Study to extend the Coastal Trail across the Little River. The Study set the stage for the Trinidad Coastal Land Trust (TCLT) to acquire a key property along the trail from Green Diamond Resources Company. In 2018, Caltrans agreed to become the lead agency for the project and to pursue funding for engineering and permitting. As with the Hammond Trail, Steve’s work at key points in the process paved the way for completing another section of the California Coastal Trail.

In 2006, Steve returned to HSU to pursue a Master of Science degree in Watershed Management. At the same time he worked as a consultant in helping prepare the Trinidad Integrated Coastal Watershed Management Plan. The Plan led to securing millions of dollars in grants to protect the Trinidad Area of Special Biological Significance (the kelp beds around Trinidad Head) and protect the city’s water supply, including a first of its kind grant from the Department of Public Health that treated the sediment sources in the Luffenholtz Creek rather than just treating the excessive turbidity at the water plant.

After receiving his master’s degree, Steve worked as a hydrology lecturer at HSU and became the executive director of the Mattole Salmon Group, overseeing innovative projects in the Mattole estuary, including restoring grasslands by digging up large trees encroaching on the meadows and transporting the trees, roots and all, to the estuary by helicopter to provide cover and habitat diversity for salmon in the estuary.

Thanks to his hard work, effective campaigning, and coalition building, Steve’s narrow but monumental victory in the Board of Supervisors election in June fulfills a long time dream.