Schwarzenegger's Privatized MLPA Initiative Doesn't Protect The Ocean
by Dan Bacher
A joint press release issued by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, a privately funded process, and the Department of Fish and Game on June 23 proudly announced the holding of five "open house" events for the Northern California community from July 6 to 8.
Ironically, on the day before the announcement, Gov. Schwarzenegger and the Renova Group of Companies signed a MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) to "preserve" Fort Ross State Park, privatizing yet another public trust resource in California.
These MLPA open houses have been scheduled in northern California for the public to “review and provide input” on four draft proposals developed through the MLPA Initiative, according to Annie Reisewitz, MLPA Initiative spokesman.
“The open houses will focus on draft marine protected area (MPA) proposals for the MLPA North Coast Study Region, which covers state waters from the California/Oregon border to Alder Creek near Point Arena in Mendocino County,” according to Reisewitz. “Members of the public are invited to attend at any time during the day and evening sessions – in five locations throughout the study region – to visit informational stations and offer input.”
"We are seeking additional input from the local community to help re-design California's marine protected areas into a cohesive coastal network that adequately protects diverse marine life and their habitats," gushed Ken Wiseman, executive director of the MLPA Initiative. "These events offer members of the public one-on-one conversation opportunities with stakeholders and staff with regard to the draft MPA proposals and to directly provide their input."
Unfortunately, what Wiseman and Reisewitz failed to tell you is that this “cohesive coastal network” does very little to “adequately protect diverse marine life and their habitats.”
That’s because when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger privatized the MLPA process in 2004 by allowing a private corporation, the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, to fund the process, true marine protection was completely taken off the table.
The MLPA, a landmark law passed by the Legislature and signed by then Governor Gray Davis in 1999, is very broad in its scope. The law was intended to not only restrict or prohibit fishing in a network of “marine protected areas,” but to restrict or prohibit other human activities including coastal development and water pollution.
“Coastal development, water pollution, and other human activities threaten the health of marine habitat and the biological diversity found in California’s ocean waters,” the law states in Fish and Game Code Section 2851, section c.
The law also broadly defines a “marine protected area” (MPA) as “a named, discrete geographic marine or estuarine area seaward of the mean high tide line or the mouth of a coastal river, including any area of inertial or sub tidal terrain, together with its overlying water and associated flora and fauna that has been designated by law, administrative action, or voter initiative to protect or conserve marine life and habitat” (Fish and Game Code 2852, section c).
Furthermore, the law also defines a "Marine life reserve," as “a marine protected area in which all extractive activities, including the taking of marine species, and, at the discretion of the commission and within the authority of the commission, other activities that upset the natural ecological functions of the area, are prohibited. While, to the extent feasible, the area shall be open to the public for managed enjoyment and study, the area shall be maintained to the extent practicable in an undisturbed and unpolluted state” (Fish and Game Code 2852, section d).
Unfortunately, the Schwarzenegger administration has taken all other “human uses” and “extractive activities” other than fishing and seaweed harvesting off the table in the implementation of the MLPA process. The MLPA fiasco does nothing to stop water pollution, oil drilling, and wave energy projects or other activities from destroying fish and other marine life populations in California’s coastal waters.
A group of fisherman and conservationists exposed the Governor for doing nothing to stop pollution and other activities other than fishing in a protest they held at the Global Climate Summit in Los Angeles on September 30, 2009.
“Ironically, Governor Schwarzenegger is trying to build his legacy as a green governor while he simultaneously ignores all the ocean pollution plaguing California’s beaches and coastal waters,” said protest organizer Wendy Tochihara. “As anyone in Southern California who enjoys the ocean knows, poor water-quality and resulting beach closures are all too common, especially during the rainy season.”
She emphasized, “The Marine Life Protection Act currently being implemented in Southern California by the administration was supposed to be comprehensive, addressing all aspects that affect the ocean, like pollution, coastal development and fishing. However, the Governor has abandoned sound science and is instead only duplicating existing fishing ban laws.”
The MLPA process under Schwarzenegger not only fails to adequately protect the ocean, but John Stephens-Lewallen, co founder of the Seaweed Rebellion and the Ocean Protection Coalition, and other North Coast environmental leaders believe that it paves the way for new oil drilling off the California coast.
Stephens-Lewallen and other opponents of the MLPAI have criticized Schwarzenegger for appointing Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association, as the chair of the MLPA Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast. She also now serves on the North Central Coast task force and served on the North Coast task force charged with implementation of the MLPA in one of the most overt examples of corporate greenwashing in California history.
Catherine Reheis-Boyd recently affirmed her support for new offshore oil rigs in spite of the BP spill’s devastation, in her commentary, “Gulf Oil Spill Comments,” on the association’s website, http://www.wspa.org.
“The tragic Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico has resulted in California Governor Schwarzenegger’s withdrawal of his support for limited offshore oil development near Santa Barbara,” said Reheis-Boyd. “WSPA has not taken a position on specific offshore projects. But we have been vocal about our views that California businesses and consumers would benefit from development of the huge reserves of petroleum off the California coast, in both state and federal waters.”
Other corporate interests who preside over the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force include members Gregory F. Schem and William (Bill) Anderson.
Schem is president and chief executive officer of Harbor Real Estate Group, specializing in marina and waterfront real estate investments, including a marina, fuel dock, and boat yard in Marina del Rey, in addition to other California assets.
Anderson has been president and chief operating officer of Westrec Marinas since 1989. Westrec Marinas is the nation's largest owner and operator of waterfront marinas.
How can anybody possibly claim that the MLPAI “protects” the oceans when the Governor has appointed oil company, real estate and marina development interests – all of whom all have a direct stake in how marine reserves are implemented and designated – to decision making positions on MLPA panels? This is a classic scenario of the Governor appointing the foxes to watch over the henhouse.
Besides failing to protect California coastal waters from other human uses than fishing in waters that already feature the largest marine protected area in the United States (the Rockfish Conservation Area), the MLPA Initiative has openly violated numerous state, federal and international laws. These include the California Public Records Act, Bagley-Keene Open Meetings Act, First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, American Indian Religious Freedom Act, and UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The privatization of ocean management under the MLPA occurs within the larger context of the privatization of public trust resources in California. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on June 22 signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Renova Group of Companies in order to "affirm a partnership to support and promote the preservation of California’s Fort Ross State Historic Park, and to raise awareness of its historical and cultural significance."
"Operating hours have been reduced at the park as a result of the state’s fiscal crisis. The MOU confirms that a charitable foundation created by Renova will provide financial support for Fort Ross. Renova’s foundation also plans to be involved in programs and activities at Fort Ross and intends to help make Fort Ross a center for cross-cultural exchange between Russia and California," according to a news release from the Governor's Office.
“This agreement highlights the diverse history of California and the importance of the Russian culture to our state,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “It is exciting to see Renova get involved in preserving this important park and create a public-private partnership to increase the services at Fort Ross at no cost to taxpayers.”
Under Schwarzenegger, it's clear that public trust resources are being progressively privatized, whether it's state waters under the corrupt MLPA Initiative, funded by the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, or the MOU with the Renova Group of Companies. The MLPA Initiative and MOU with Renova are likely to clear the way for increasing privatization of coastal lands and state ocean and bay waters unless we stop this land and resource grab.
Below is the press release from the MLPA Initiative and the DFG:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
June 23, 2010
Annie Reisewitz, MLPA Initiative
Kirsten Macintyre, Department of Fish & Game
Public Input Sought on Draft Proposals for North Coast Marine Protected Areas
MLPA Initiative to hold five "open house" events for the Northern California community July 6-8
SACRAMENTO – Open houses have been scheduled in northern California for the public to review and provide input on four draft proposals developed through the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA)
Initiative. The open houses will focus on draft marine protected area (MPA) proposals for the MLPA
North Coast Study Region, which covers state waters from the California/Oregon border to Alder Creek near Point Arena in Mendocino County. Members of the public are invited to attend at any time during the day and evening sessions – in five locations throughout the study region – to visit informational stations and offer input.
Members of the MLPA North Coast Regional Stakeholder Group developed the draft MPA proposals
during Round 2 of a three-round planning process. They will be on hand to answer questions and
discuss how these ideas will help meet the goals of improved marine life, habitats and overall
ecosystem health. MLPA Initiative staff, California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) staff, California State Parks staff and members of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force will also be available.
“We are seeking additional input from the local community to help redesign California’s marine
protected areas into a cohesive coastal network that adequately protects diverse marine life and their
habitats,” said Ken Wiseman, executive director the MLPA Initiative. ”These events offer members of
the public one-on-one conversation opportunities with stakeholders and staff with regard to the draft
MPA proposals and to directly provide their input.”
The five open houses are scheduled for:
· Tuesday, July 6, 2010: 5:00-7:30 p.m., C.V. Starr Community Center, 300 South Lincoln Street, Fort Bragg, CA
· Wednesday, July 7, 2010: 8:00-10:00 a.m., The Octagon/Beginnings, 5 Cemetery Road, Briceland, CA
· Wednesday, July 7, 2010: 5:00-7:30 p.m., Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center, 921 Waterfront Drive, Room 211, Eureka, CA
· Thursday, July 8, 2010: 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., Redwood National and State Parks, South Operations Center, 121200 Hwy. 101, Orick, CA
· Thursday, July 8, 2010: 5:00-7:30 p.m., Elk Valley Rancheria Community Center, 2332 Howland Hill Road, Crescent City, CA
At each open house the public will receive information about the four draft MPA proposals currently
under consideration, as well as the various evaluations conducted by the MLPA Master Plan Science
Advisory Team, DFG, California State Parks and MLPA Initiative staff. The open houses will also
include information about the north coast MPA planning process, next steps in developing MPA
proposals and opportunities for public feedback on the draft proposals. To view the Round 2 draft MPA proposals, please seehttp://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/mpaproposals_nc.asp.
Members of the public do not have to attend an open house to provide input on the Round 2 draft MPA proposals; they may also provide input by completing an online form at
http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/mpaproposals_nc.asp. Print copies of the form may be obtained at a number of
local libraries and government offices (for a list of locations, please see
http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/pdfs/libraries.pdf). Comments on the Round 2 draft MPA proposals will be most
helpful if submitted no later than July 14, 2010, in order for the information to be distributed to regional
stakeholder group and task force members prior to the start of Round 3.
Under the guidelines of a master plan for MPAs, the process to develop a recommendation for north
coast MPAs involves, among other things, identifying marine species that may benefit from MPAs,
considering existing marine protected areas, and developing MPAs that include a variety of habitats
and water depths.
The MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force is overseeing the north coast MPA planning process and will make a final recommendation to the California Fish and Game Commission in December of this year.
Enacted in 1999, the MLPA directs the state to design and manage a system of marine protected areas in order to, among other things, protect marine life and habitats, marine ecosystems and marine natural heritage, as well as improve recreational, education and study opportunities provided by marine ecosystems.
The California Natural Resources Agency and DFG have partnered with the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation in an initiative to help redesign the statewide system of MPAs to achieve these goals. The advice of scientists, resource managers, experts, stakeholders and members of the public guide this public-private partnership.
For additional information about the MLPA Initiative, please see http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa.
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