Privatizing conservation

 

The State of California is in the middle of a process that will result in the state’s Fish and Game Commission designating an array of near shore marine reserves along the length of California’s coast. The reserves are intended to preserve and restore marine resources including commercially valuable fisheries.

The California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) was charged with developing the reserves when the California legislature passed the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) in 1999. Several abortive efforts by CDFG and a 2004 amendment to the Act led to the current effort.

The MLPA requires California to reevaluate existing marine protected areas (MPAs) and to design new MPAs that, together with existing reserves, will function as a statewide ocean reserve network.  The latest attempt to implement the legislation is using a regional approach beginning in the south and proceeding north. At this point the planning process has reached California’s North Coast where major controversy has erupted. Indigenous Americans, as well as a former congressmansome scientists, fishermen and grassroots environmentalists have blasted the process as well as the scientific basis for the location and size of proposed reserves.

One aspect of the controversy may be an indication of things to come. After having failed to implement the legislation itself, CDFG has privatized the planning process. Under an MOU between CDFG and the Resource Legacy Fund Foundation (RLFF), the private foundation for the most part controls regional MLPA processes including selection and funding individuals and organizations to complete or coordinate all aspects of MLPA development…including public participation. Among its many aspects, the RLLF serves as a funnel for Packard Foundation money (think Hewlett-Packard). The Foundation’s leaders are deeply involved in California water and ocean policy and politics.

Some observers suspect that the MLPA approach is part of a more general effort to privatize Public Trust resource planning in a fashion similar to the increasing use of private contractors by the US military. Those who question the MLPA process also tend to believe that it is part of a secret agenda to open portions of California’s coastal waters to oil, gas and other energy development.  These beliefs gained credence when Governor Schwarzenegger appointed Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association, to head the Blue Ribbon Panel that will select which among competing MLP arrays will be forwarded to the California Fish & Game Commission for review and approval. Ms Reheis-Boyd recently called for expanded ocean drilling along the California coast.

California’s environmental establishment appears to be on board with the privatization of conservation planning. In fact, that establishment has embedded more funding that could be used for privatized resource planning in an initiative it is sponsoring which on its face is intended to fund operation of state parks by increasing vehicle registration fees. If the initiative passes, however, the Ocean Protection Council – an independent state commission created by the 2004 California Ocean Protection Act - will get funding along with state parks and other California state “conservancies”. The California Fisheries Coalition and some grassroots environmentalists see this initiative by the Environmental Establishment as at least in part motivated by movement in the California legislature to cut funding for the controversial MLPA process.

On the bright side, it does appear that the concerns of federal tribes and Indigenous ocean hunter- gatherers, which went largely unaddressed on the South Coast, will be addressed on the North Coast. This is largely the result of intensive advocacy by North Coast tribes. Indigenous Americans comprise 5% to 15% of the population in California’s North Coast counties; in Humboldt and Del Norte Counties alone there are 11 federally recognized tribal governments.  Most environmentalists and fishermen are supportive of making provision in the MLPA process for traditional Indigenous use of ocean resources.

Those who are concerned about ocean protection, Indigenous rights and off-shore oil drilling will want to stay tuned as California’s MLPA process lurches toward a conclusion. CDFG has an MLPA list server for that purpose.

Another good on-line source is The Fish Sniffer where Dan Backer tracks MLPA and many other water,  fish and habitat issues.

High Country News Classifieds
  • NEW AGRARIAN APPRENTICESHIP
    Quivira Coalition's 2020 New Agrarian Apprenticeships in Regenerative Ranching and Farming -Apprenticeships run 4/20 - 11/20 Applications accepted 10/15/19 - 12/1/19 NAP partners with skilled...
  • PHILANTHROPY DIRECTOR
    Wilderness Workshop seeks a full time Philanthropy Director to raise funds for our team. Learn more: www.wildernessworkshop.org
  • EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT WITH WESTERN RESOURCE ADVOCATES
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks an enthusiastic and organized problem solver to join our growing team as an Executive Assistant. The Executive Assistant is instrumental...
  • WYOMING OUTDOOR COUNCIL
    Two positions: Development Director OR Development Writer, Communications Director. Full job descriptions at https://wyomingoutdoorcouncil.org/careers.
  • CONSERVATION PROJECT MANAGER
    Great Land Trust seeks to hire a Conservation Project Manager. Position is full-time, based in Anchorage, Alaska. First review of applications will be on October...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eagle Valley Land Trust Executive Director Position Description Summary of Position: The Executive Director, working with and reporting to the Board of Directors, has overall...
  • FINANCE & LOGISTICS COORDINATOR
    The Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, founded in 1928 as an independent nonprofit organization, is a biological field station located near Crested Butte, Colorado. Our primary...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    See Full Job Description
  • DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR
    Position: Development Coordinator Responsible to: Executive Director Time Commitment: 15-20 hours per week, or as otherwise agreed upon General Description: The Development Coordinator assists the...
  • EDUCATION CENTER MANAGER
    Friends of Cedar Mesa seeks a full-time Education Manager for the Bears Ears Education Center to provide day to day operational and administrative oversight. See...
  • TROUT UNLIMITED SCP SOUTHWEST REGIONAL DIRECTOR
    Seeking to hire an experienced advocate/manager to oversee the organization's sportsmen/women-driven advocacy in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Open until filled
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    for northern AZ collaborative conservation ranchlands group
  • AMAZING PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    If you're an amazing Program or Education Manager looking for an exciting and fulfilling position with an organization that makes a difference in the community,...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Partners are seeking an experienced and energetic Executive Director who is excited about the opportunity to lead our growing organization! A full description of the...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    High Country News Seeks an Executive Director to advance its mission, grow its audience and influence, and strategically and sustainably guide the organization through a...
  • 2 PROPERTIES ON THE WESTERN EDGE OF THE GILA WILDERNESS
    Organic farm, hot springs, San Francisco River runs through both. [email protected]
  • CHUCK BURR'S CULTUREQUAKE.COM BLOG
    Change will happen when we see a new way of living. Thinking to save the world.
  • SOCIETY FOR WILDERNESS STEWARDSHIP BOARD MEMBER
    Join the SWS board and help us broaden, diversify, and engage the wilderness community.
  • NEW MEXICO BIRDER'S PARADISE.
    Fully furnished 2B/2B home near Bosque del Apache NWR, great for nature lovers.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.