California's not that different


California is no better off environmentally than the Rocky Mountain West (HCN, 5/1/06: California, here we come). (Of course, there are several Californias, and the environment is valued in different ways in, say, the central coastal region than in most of the Central Valley. Remember, please, that Richard Pombo hails from California, and he’s not all that atypical of many of his Central Valley brethren.)

Agriculture still uses 84 percent of the water delivered through the various federal, state, and local-district water projects. The Westlands Water District is suing the federal government to prevent water from being released down the Trinity River to help fish, even as the West Coast salmon fishery is virtually shut down because there isn’t enough water in the Klamath/Trinity basin. The biggest water districts in the state are cutting a behind-closed-doors deal with federal and state water agencies to ship even more water south out of the ecologically failing Sacramento/San Joaquin River Delta.

If California does have any general wisdom to offer to others in the West, it is probably that most environmental problems (related to water, timber, or public land issues in general) start from agency (mis)behavior, and the necessary ingredient in finding a pro-environment solution is citizen engagement.

Chad Roberts
Davis, California