By Chris Morrill, Executive Director
For years, CalWild has worked to expand the groups and geographies working to protect public lands in California. Internally we often repeat the phrase, “We don’t say no to a meeting with anyone interested in protecting public lands.” This means we are in discussion with timber companies, Native American tribes, off-highway vehicle enthusiasts, and hunters.
We do this sometimes to the consternation of our friends and allies. This is always in an effort to build collaborative processes to protect our public lands. Collaborative efforts can be more durable by working towards consensus that hopefully keeps conservation protections out of the courtroom. However, these processes also take a lot more time and can feel much harder to reach agreements.
From the Sierra forests to the northern reaches of the Sacramento valley, this administration has done everything in its power to undermine every improvement in transparency, sound ecological management, and local collaboration.
For years CalWild worked on the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan in an effort to weigh two important goals: increasing renewable energy and protecting delicate desert landscapes and wildlife. The state, federal agencies, local governments, energy companies, environmentalists, and many others went through a planning process that took years to agree on. The DRECP designated 388,000 acres for energy development and 4.2 million acres were designated for varies degrees of protection.
While far from perfect, the DRECP was a great example of a new way of working with federal agencies; a long overdue commitment to collaboration on the front end of planning. The DRECP, along with Planning 2.0 – which was scrapped by Congress in 2017 – could have created a culture of bringing communities and interest groups together to find compromises and collaborations that, in CalWild’s view, could bring about more conservation than some of the constant litigation and fighting of old.
These efforts are all about power and voice. The collaborative planning model gave space for all kinds of people and built trust between interests. Instead, the current administration has time and again rolled back these efforts and concentrated all decision-making power with extractive industries using our public lands for their private profit. It sidelines the public and effectively undoes any efforts at collaboratively protecting our public lands. The administration made that clear again this month trying to undermine NEPA and basic environmental oversight (see this month’s action alert).
This administration continues to look for every opportunity to subvert the concept of “public” lands. And unfortunately for the public, they’re getting much better at it with each passing day.
Please let me know your thoughts, comments, and questions by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.