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EPIC's 2023 Summer Celebration & Sempervirens Lifetime Achievement Award Ceremony

Updated: Jul 24, 2023


Thank you so much for joining the EPIC team and over 160(!) members of our strong North Coast environmental community on Saturday, July 15th at the Arcata Veterans Hall for EPIC’s 2023 Summer Celebration in honor of Petey Brucker, his amazing life work, and the incredible community he has cultivated here on the North Coast over the past 50 years. Your generous, heartfelt support and commitment to this event and Petey’s decades of environmental activism made this one of our best-attended and favorite annual celebrations in EPIC’s 46 years. A special thanks to the many upriver supporters who traveled out to the coast to help make Summer Celebration so special.


The highlight of this year's Summer Celebration was the ceremony honoring Petey with the 2023 Sempervirens Award for his lifetime of achievement in watershed advocacy and community organizing. Thank you to Leaf Hillman, Craig Tucker, Ron Reed, and Geba Greenberg for delivering such moving tributes during the ceremony (watch/read below). To Petey and the Brucker/Greenberg family, thank you for your loving, lifelong, intergenerational contributions to the health of forests, rivers, wildlife, people, and salmon of the Klamath and Salmon watersheds. Read more about Petey on our blog in “Petey Brucker: The River Runs Through Him” by EPIC staff and Petey’s family, and “The Gentle Warrior: A Portrait of Petey Brucker” by Felice Pace.


Learn more about the work of the Klamath Forest Alliance (co-founded by Petey in 1989) to defend the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains from the threats of industrialization, climate change and other forms of habitat degradation at www.klamathforestalliance.org. Learn more about the work of the Salmon River Restoration Council (co-founded by Petey in 1992) to assess, protect, maintain, and restore the ecosystems of California's spectacular Salmon River watershed at www.srrc.org.


We hope that you all enjoyed reuniting and visiting with friends, colleagues, and fellow environmental activists in celebration of such a spectacular local environmental trailblazer. From brainstorming Sempervirens Award recipients in January and starting planning in full earnest in late April, to collecting auction donations throughout the late spring and early summer, to setting up the venue and keeping the event running smoothly, EPIC’s 2023 Summer Celebration was truly a community effort. An extra special thanks to the following people for your contributions to such a joyful gathering:

  • Petey Brucker, for your lifelong and intergenerational environmental activism & community organizing.

  • Allegra Brucker & the team at Royal Gold Soils, for sponsoring the Summer Celebration dinner service.

  • Kevin Buchanan & the Arcata Veterans Hall, for welcoming us to your beautiful, historic space.

  • Andy Ardell & the team at Humbrews, for your hardworking and delicious catering service.

  • Lost Coast Brewery, Frey Vineyards, Moonstone Crossing Winery, and Raised Gluten Free for your donations for dessert and the bar.

  • Rex Richardson & the Superfines band, for your joyful musical contribution.

  • Michael Schwartz aka Tofu Sound, for ensuring we all could hear the lovely music and moving tributes to Petey.

  • Jeremy Harris, Justin Schwartzman & the team at WoodLab Designs, for crafting the physical 2023 Sempervirens Award plaque.

  • Neal Latt & the team at Latt Law Group, for sponsoring Summer Celebration.

  • Summer Celebration volunteers Dean Haynes, Lily Cohen, Tony Silvaggio, Susan Nolan, Judee Mayer, Susan Penn, Marty Smukler, Chad, Jay McCubbrey, and Melodie Meyer (as well as everyone who pitched in to help move tables and chairs), for your hard work and can-do attitudes.

  • The EPIC team, whom I am honored to call colleagues: Tom Wheeler, Kimberly Baker, Amber Jamieson, Matt Simmons, Luis Neuner, and Josefina Barrantes, for your support before, during, and after Summer Celebration, and for your inspiring tenacity and brilliance in all of our work.

Last but certainly not least, we want to thank all of our supporters and members, who are the reason EPIC can continue our good work advocating for the forests, watersheds, wildlife, and communities of Northwest California.


Please check out EPIC’s 2023 Online Silent Auction at www.32auctions.com/EPIC-2023. Support our work and treat yourself or a loved one to an item from our exceptional online array of local products, arts & crafts, experiences, and getaways generously donated by local businesses. Online bidding will close on Monday, July 24th at 11:59pm PST. Thanks to all of this year's donors:

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Watch/read Leaf Hillman's tribute to Petey Brucker at EPIC's 2023 Summer Celebration, July 15th:

"1987 – wildfires all over Northern California, including Forks of Salmon. Back then, kind of like it is now, the Forest Service thinks they know everything; they don’t know nothing. Fires were all around. Nobody knew where the fires were, there was so much smoke. I think there were 30 helicopters that flew into the Forks fire camp, and were there for 30 days, but never flew out because there was too much smoke. They never helped in the suppression efforts or anything else because they couldn’t move, they were grounded.


There were only two fallers in that camp at Forks of Salmon. We had to go through National Guard checkpoints manned by the, I think, Texas Rangers or something, to get to that fire. Myself and Dale Ferris, and we were the only two fallers on that fire for 37 days. And at some point in time, we would work day and night, and they asked us to do stupid things that we refused to do. They said, well, cut a line from Pilot Point down to Black Bear Ranch, and they had 80 people with two fallers, so you hate to run out of gas or sharpen your saw because you’ve got 80 people standing with their hands in their pockets looking at you. We got down to a waterfall on Black Bear Creek, and we had 80 people behind us, and my partner Dale Ferris said, “We’re gonna jump.” And so we jumped, and nobody followed us, so we dried out our saws and we kept cutting a line down the creek.


And we got to Black Bear Ranch just in time. There was a large fir tree that was – we didn’t know where the fire was the whole time – when we got down to the ranch, it was clear where the fire was because we could hear it coming down the side of the ridge, and it caught trees on fire and it fell across and caught grass on the ranch. We had chainsaws, but no way to put out dry grass with chainsaws – not really a good mix there. So we packed water in our hardhats, back and forth from Black Bear Creek, and got the fire out, packing water 30-40 trips running back and forth with our hardhats, put the fire out. So we were laying there after we got it out, huffing and puffing and breathing hard, and then all of a sudden I looked up and there was this big fella standing there. I’m like, “Whats goin’ on?” It was Petey Brucker.


He had a water pump on his back, and he’d been patrolling the line around Black Bear Ranch. Petey reached into his pocket and he pulled out a ball of hash about the size of a softball and he handed it to me and says, “I appreciate you guys, what you did. You saved the ranch, and I really appreciate it. And help yourselves to the garden and whatever you can find around here, you guys are welcome to it.” And so we walked out into the garden, and there was a big sign there that said “Firefighters: Stay Outta Here.” And we went up to the ranch house, and it said “Firefighters: Stay Outta Here.” Anyways, we stayed there for two days before our crews caught up with us, because they had to walk along that creek and around to catch up with us. And that’s when I met Petey Brucker, and became a friend for life.


Later years after that, Klamath Dam Removal – we had a lot of organizations, conservation groups, environmental groups, who all wanted to be part of this negotiation, settlement, and all that. We had to shut those negotiations down a couple times because some of these groups wanted to throw poison pills in the deal, and so we had to walk away and reformulate. The feds said, “Well, we can’t do this,” so the Tribes said, “We can.” So we walked away and called the meeting ourselves, and we only invited people back to the meeting who would work to get the job done, who could stay focused on getting dams out of the Klamath. It turns out, I’m happy to say, that we got the first one! And the rest of them are coming, and there’s not any doubt in my mind, and there shouldn’t be any doubt in your mind, because they’re coming out. And Petey Brucker was there. Every time we had to walk away, call an end to it, and reformulate the group that was going to work toward dam removal, Petey Brucker was there. What else can I say? I mean, love you Petey. Turns out, you’re the man!"


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Watch or read Craig Tucker's tribute to Petey Brucker at EPIC's 2023 Summer Celebration, July 15th:

"I hate following Leaf Hillman anywhere onstage. I’m Craig Tucker, and if you’re here because you love Petey Brucker, I’m gonna say that I love y’all, too, because doing the work that we do – whether it’s social justice work, fighting for fish, fighting for water – is hard work. And a lot of us who do this work, you can get stressed out, it’s hard on your families, and we can be really hard on each other. Sometimes we spent as much time growling at each other as we do these companies, you know, logging companies and power companies. But the one person universally loved by everybody, who could always get us back together and focus, was Petey Brucker.


We spent about 10 or 12 years kind of negotiating, trying to get to dam removal. One of the federal officials that helped convene the meeting, Steve Thompson, was running these meetings, and we’d get to some impasse, like I don’t think we can solve this thing, and everybody would kind of be exasperated, everybody’s brain hurts, and Steve would look at Petey and he’d say, “Petey, did you bring your guitar?” And Petey would jump up and run to the back of the room, and get out this old guitar case, and open it up, and get this old guitar, and like these were a bunch of federal officials, policy nerds, all this kind of stuff, and like who’s this hippie guy with the guitar? But by the end of the meeting, everyone was singing along with Petey, and he had these wonderful songs – the one that honored the travelers, the people who drove all over the place to these meetings, and honoring these people – and I’ll always remember that. And I’m so appreciative of you being that presence in the room who just kept it real for everybody.


So I do have a special present for you, Petey. It don’t look like much, but this here is a chunk of Copco 2 Dam. That dam is gone, Petey, and at this time next year the rest of them are going to be gone, and you had a huge part in that. I’m going to leave this with you guys."


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Watch or read Ron Reed's tribute to Petey Brucker at EPIC's 2023 Summer Celebration, July 15th:

"Just a lot of emotions, driving out here today. Petey, remarkable person. I mean, Petey would get in all the different conversations that are happening, all these different meetings. If there was one person that was foundational in all these different meetings, it was Petey.


When I first started going to the meetings, I was connected…no, I was thrown to the wolves by Mr. Leaf Hillman and the Karuk Tribe, by going out and dealing with federal and state managers, and I thrown in one of these task forces where all you see are lawyers, doctors, agriculture, you name it, and, at that time, I think me and Leaf and Jeff Mitchell were the only brains in the room. I think I told this story a few months ago, but I was up here scared as hell, up here in this meeting with all these people I just described, and then the first public comment – everybody was arguing about stuff – first public comment, another braid comes walking to the podium: Petey Brucker. And I’m thinking I feel pretty out of place, but I’m just thinking, this guy’s out of place. I could not believe that this guy was the first one to go up and actually expose himself to the people that were just arguing and wrangling over the issues of the day. I’ll be damned, he’d get up there and start making sense. You started seeing people shaking their heads, and I was kind of, like, taken aback.


But as we went along, I just realized how fundamental that Petey was to the whole operation. He knew everybody – he knew the federal and state managers; better than anything, though, he knew how to fit in and work with the Tribes. He had the spirit, just like we do. He had that warriormanship, just like we do. Actually, out of all the great mentors that I’ve had in my life, Petey has really taught me some things – things that I’ll take for the rest of my life, the things that I’ve taught my children, and they’ll be teaching their children. It’s about being kind, and about being gentle, and it’s about being real. If you can accomplish all those things, people are going to listen to you.


I’ve taken a little bit, as much as I can, out of each and every one of the people that are in this room, and the people that are no longer with us, and those are the people we cannot forget because that’s the fumes! When we’re running on fumes, those are the people that we’re running on their fumes, on their spirits. Petey has allowed all of these people to come to the center to make change. Petey was in the same room when we decided, “What are we gonna do?!” The Vice President of the United States come out and turn the water on! What are we gonna do?! We proved scientifically that that was gonna – we won! We decided in that room that we had to go to Scotland, we gotta do all we can.


Leaf Hillman, from the audience:

He was there when Ron got spit on, and Petey Brucker got spit on!


Ron Reed:

As I was saying that all these different things are happening, and I’m sitting there, a spiritual person, in this governmental meeting, and not only did Petey get everybody’s attention, he was the chairman of the technical work group. When I found out, I just kind of thought, “Anything’s possible.” Well, right? Anything’s damn possible! I’m up here not knowing what the hell to do or how to do it – that guy sure as hell does! You know, but, at the end of the day, he became my mentor. He became a lot of people’s mentor. And those are the things that Petey Brucker brought to me.


I have a spirit of a warrior. I have emotions and passion of a warrior. But the intellectual capacity was kind of missing, a little bit. I was too vigorous, and wanted to do what I felt necessary to feed my own emotions. But Petey, he’s the one that introduced me to environmental education. Once I started doing all this stuff, once my mother was telling me, "You need to go to school, you need to do these things, you need to do things ten times better than anybody else because you’re Native and nobody wants to listen to it."


We learned how to do that, and, Petey, he was there for all of us. So now, as we march into the future, we used Indigenous science to get those dams out. We’re using Indigenous science to help the fire suppression. We’re getting all kinds of infrastructure development resources, but it’s that plan that brings both aisles to the table: western science and Indigenous science. That’s what inspired me to be where I’m at today, to expose myself to some of the richest people in the world – the Scottish over Scotland – gives me a confidence to come back here and tackle anything that’s in front. And that’s what we, as a group, collectively, are passing down to the next generation. I walk in here today, and I see some young children that aren’t so young anymore, and I see we have a great future. The dams are coming out, we’re administering Indigenous fire on the landscape, we’re teaching our Indigenous communities and the riverine communities how to work together, and how to provide a model for their future – not just for our river, not just for our region, but under the same auspice that we believe in – fixing the world, pikyávish! Pikyávish, fix the world.


Petey, if I had – I do have the honor! I do have the authority to say that you are an honorary Karuk member – tribal member…[drowned out by crowd applause]...We made an opportunity for the future, without blowing by the past. I was taught by the best, and you’re one of them. And as we move forward, and maybe one day – I might not be here, this person might not be here – but remember…but remember what we made here in our piece of the world was matriarchal, not erasure. We remember people and take steps upon another to get to the apex of who we are and the truth that we believe in. Petey Brucker, you’re a warrior of warriors, you’re a man of men. I thank you, from myself, from my family, and from the great community that we’re all involved in. Yôotva [thank you]!"


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I'm terribly sorry to report that EPIC wasn't able to record or film Geba Brucker's tribute to her husband Petey Brucker from EPIC's 2023 Summer Celebration on July 15th; if any supporters happened to capture these priceless moments, please email abigail@wildcalifornia.org.


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