There's a very well-written book about the history of open space preservation in California called Saving Open Space that covers the subjects of land conservation and preservation. It delves into the many forces working for and against open space, and a variety of the methods that have succeeded in slowing and stopping development.
Both of these books cost practically nothing used on Amazon, and they offer some good perspective.
Our area is home to a stunning array of species, some of which are classified sensitive (SE), endangered (EN), or have Species of Special Concern (SSC) status.
This morning, I was startled to see a bald eagle (CESA EN, delisted federally) circling over my grandmother's house. I've seen golden eagles (SE) before, but that snowy head and tail were a big, happy surprise. We also have river otters, yellow-legged frogs (SSC), rainbow trout/ steelhead, pond turtles (SSC), six salamander species, and hollyleaf ceanothus (CNPS 1B.2).
Soda Creek has been identified as the second-best spawning habitat for salmonids in Napa County, after Dry Creek. Rector Creek would be at least as good for salmon if not for the dam but, even so, it's a vibrant and resilient waterway with resident rainbow trout and a top-notch array of aquatic species from peltoperlid mayflies to American dippers.
The Soda-Rector drainages are designated as a Priority Conservation Area by The Nature Conservancy, due to the combination of a high rate of endemic species and the imminent threat of habitat destruction and, of course, is part of the California Floristic Province, recognized as a region of global significance for endemism and diversity.
We have a lot worth saving beyond our own immediate quality of life, and I think there's room for the species-based conservation perspective in our quiver.
Bill Hocker adds:
The James Conaway book on the hillside preservation battles prior to 2001 (in which Chris Malan features prominently) is also an important historical context for the watershed issues we now face.
I, too, saw the same bald eagle Amber saw last weekend shooting straight up Rector Canyon, the first one I've seen since we've been here.