I have only met Chairman Mr. Bottorff twice. The first time it was but a simple “hello” but the second time was during a FSCR meeting. Sadly, I heard that he is retiring as Friends of the Santa Clara River Chair. I was given the pleasure to write this article about him to ask him a few questions; so that I can get to know him a little better.
FSCR began 25 years ago when Mr. Bottorff and a few of his cohorts decided to protect the river ecosystem which was clearly needed. They formed FSCR the summer of 1993 as a public interest organization. They got a seat on a river steering committee shortly after and he has been chair since that day FSCRs was created; that is until his retirement.
Do you have someone in mind to take your place?
“Jim Danza joined our board of director a few years back. In spite of his busy schedule, he has fortunately agreed to lead the organization. Jim is uniquely qualified for this position. As a Geography Professor at Oxnard College he doesn’t only bring wealth of environmental knowledge to the organization, but is intimately acquainted with river issues. Having worked many years with Friends of the Los Angeles River, he is bringing in several students as interns to assist us and that’s a major step forward.”
What made you want to start the organization?
“I had become very concerned about biological diversity through working with Sierra Club. A four page article in the Los Angeles Times of April, 1993 clearly laid out what was at stake for the Santa Clara River. Right in my backyard! The watershed is home to 30 endangered and threatened species. Over 95% of these woodlands have been converted to farms and houses since settlement began. River channelization and massive harmful development projects were being proposed; which involves placing levees along nearly 6 miles of the river. We are still involved in litigation over this.”
What is one thing you will miss from this organization?
“I have been very fortunate to have worked alongside an outstanding group of people over the years. Including members of our board and other individuals who have contributed greatly to our mission. When I eventually leave the board, the experience of working with this group will definitely be missed. They are a dedicated lot, and I give them the lion’s share of credit for the success we have enjoyed.”
What is one thing you will remember from being involved?
“Having the Santa Clara selected as one of our nation’s most endangered rivers in 2005 was particularly memorable. This gave us national recognition.”
What do you hope to see in the future for FCSR?
“The most important thing is to educate the public and bring in younger people to carry on our mission. That is the reason I am so excited about Jim Danza’s taking on the position as Chair. There are many areas that will need dedicated work if we are to eventually succeed in preventing Southern California’s last mostly – natural major river ecosystem. Maintaining and restoring a natural river is basically the challenge. That and dealing with the impacts of climate change.”
Do you think you’ll still be involved with FSCR even after retiring?
I intend to remain on the board of directors as long as I have half a brain left and can be of help to our new Chair. That could cover a few months or even a couple of years. I only hope the board will kick me off when I become a liability.”
What do you think you’ll be doing in your spare time once you retire?
“I supposedly “retired” from the aerospace industry 26 years ago. “Retirement” is a concept missing from my set of possible futures. I think one does best if they continue doing projects that interest them as long as they can.
I have a problem now with collecting too many books (Amazon makes it so easy). I have started reviewing books on current issues for family members, calling this activity “Thoughts on the Human Prospect”. They get these emailed to them whether they ask for them or not.
I may write an essay occasionally and see if our local newspaper might publish one of them.
I have a much-loved, special-needs grandson who I help take care of most days.
And, of course, THERE IS ALWAYS HIKING! (I used to go out 3 days a week) – if these old bones of mine will just hang together for a while.”
Do you have any last thoughts for FSCR?
“It is possible to look around at what is happening, both in our country and on our planet, and become disheartened. We are leaving a very troubled world for future generations to cope with. Giving in to despair, however, will almost surely bring about a grievous outcome. Or, we can be optimistic, grasp the opportunities that exist, and perhaps help make the world a better place for both people and nature. The choice should be clear.”
Being able to ask Mr. Bottorff these question I got to know him better. He is a man with a dedication to the environment and is ready for the greener future. Seeing as he will still be involved with FSCR, I look forward to talking to the “Mountain Man”. I have a strong feeling that FSCR is in good hands and that this organization will strive as the years go on.
Interview by Samantha Marin, an English major studying at Oxnard College and intern for FSCR