In a coup for the dark and damp, bats and mushrooms get their moment in Sacramento

Still, middle-schooler Naomi D’Alessio wants to make sure the flying mammals are protected for years to come. So she began lobbying state Sen. Caroline Menjivar (D-Panorama City) to author the bat bill, CA SB732 (23R), this year after recording bat calls in her backyard. Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters) — whose longtime partner is D’Alessio’s cousin — declined to carry the legislation because she had too many other proposals in the works, but she’ll be shepherding it through the Assembly.

“Their golden fur color is perfect for our Golden State,” D’Alessio testified at a recent Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee hearing. “They’re very social bats, and Pallid bats in different parts of the state communicate with each other in different languages that we can actually tell apart, just like humans.”

Pallid bats don’t live just in abandoned mine shafts, but also in the trees, under porches and the overpasses and caves around the state. Their voracious diet of vermin helps humans in numerous ways, D’Alessio pointed out. The bats save farmers money on pest control, limit the spread of Zika and West Nile by gobbling up mosquitoes and reduce the risk of wildfires by eating the dreaded Bark Beetle that’s killing California trees and leaving forests susceptible to blazes.

The Pallid bat is not the only thing vying for a chance to enter the canon of anointed state symbols. Another proposal moving through the Legislature this year would name the Golden Chanterelle the state mushroom, joining the ranks of the Golden Poppy and California Redwood as beatified state flora.

An analysis of the measure notes that Golden Chanterelles, which cannot be grown commercially, go for up to $224 per pound. Technically not worth their weight in gold, but still a solid investment.

The hope is that designating the Golden Chanterelle as the official mushroom will promote the same reverence people have for the state’s flower, the Golden Poppy. People often erroneously believe it’s illegal to cut or damage that hallowed bloom.

“In fact, there is no law protecting the California poppy, but the designation endeared an appreciation of the flower and perpetuated the myth that no one may pick them,” according to a legislative analysis of the measure. With any luck, that halo will extend to the chanterelle, too.

Three other states have official mushrooms, and, in fact, the Golden Chanterelle already represents Oregon. Only time will tell if this little fungus can carry the weight of both states.

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