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Executive Director’s Report, January 2021

By Chris Morrill, Executive Director

Last month, I recapped a year of ups and downs, but one surprisingly big win and some good progress. That big win was the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act which included the permanent and full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. If you missed it, you can read the 2020 review here.

CalWild’s most essential work continues as it has just within a new political context. We endure the ups and downs, and the political winds because we know that when they shift in a favorable direction our issues have to be ready to break through. That is most relevant to our legislative campaigns, some of which have operated for over a decade. We are confident in our progress on a lot of fronts; below are a few of our priorities for the coming year.

1. The full passage of the Northwest, Central Coast, and San Gabriel bills

In 2020, our three bills passed the House for the first time. Well, they actually passed twice. First, as a standalone public lands package, the Protecting America’s Wilderness Act, and second as part of the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act. Neither effort worked to get passage in the Senate, but we were very close. In fact, because we made such great progress last year, there really are no other objectives left except full passage. We believe that is very possible in 2021 and we can’t wait to see it!

2. Continuing to expand California’s conservation community

The 2020 launch of our Public Lands Equity and Resilience Program marked a change in approach for CalWild. In 2021, we will deepen that commitment by structuring our newest efforts in Riverside County, on land management plans in northern California, and the nascent California 30×30 campaign to center values of equity, inclusion, and access. This year will provide a great opportunity to grow the conservation community in critical and more just ways as we look to cement public lands victories for decades to come.

3. Mobilize for conservation opportunities in northern California

This year will begin the long process of national forest planning in northwest California as well as the resumption of the Bureau of Land Management’s Northwest California Integrated Resource Management Plan which was suspended a few years ago. That is in addition to our current work in the region on the northwest legislative bill and combatting trespass grows.  Like our past work on the Sierra, Sequoia, and Inyo National Forest plans, these planning efforts provide wonderful opportunities for added protection to many wild places, and will lay the foundation for permanent Congressional designation. That means a lot of on-the-ground organizing and getting out into the field so that we can identify the key wild places in the region ripe for protection. This is the laborious and hard work, similar to the early efforts on our legislative campaigns. We can’t wait to get started!

4. Rollback of anti-conservation measures by the previous administration

Many of the actions taken by the Trump administration were aimed at increasing extractive industry activities on our public lands. That was true in opening up Central California to increased oil and gas development, reducing the application of the National Environmental Policy Act, and declining to protect endangered species in order to increasing logging. The biggest and most recent attack was on the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan which protected millions of acres in the desert and was a compromise accepted by many parties after a decade of negotiations.

Like many of you, we are anxious for a new working environment. CalWild is excited about the opportunities before us in 2021. Thank you for support our work and continuing through the tough times and, hopefully, the good times to come.

Please let me know your thoughts, comments, and questions by emailing me at