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Executive Director’s Report, November 2020

By Chris Morrill, Executive Director

Well, we’re out of election season…almost. After both presidential candidates received more votes than any other presidential candidate in history, former Vice President Joe Biden has been declared the President-Elect. Despite a pandemic, we saw the highest percentage turnout of eligible voters in the past 112 years (if not more once final votes are tallied)!

Although the Senate majority will hinge on the coming Senate run-off election in Georgia, the Democrats retained control of the House but with a smaller margin. Regardless of what happens in Georgia, we can say that the Congress remains narrowly and bitterly divided.

The reality is CalWild has spent the last four years pushing against the “development at all costs” public land management strategy of the Trump administration. It began with a review and threat to national monuments, including seven in California, and continues with changes to the rules around the distribution of funds from the now permanently funded Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

CalWild stepped up, with the help of our friends, against broad attacks by pursuing litigation when the administration re-wrote the rules in applying the National Environmental Policy Act and sought legal action as they pushed a new border wall right through the Jacumba Wilderness. We mobilized as the administration pursued greater oil drilling on the Central Coast. And we are still making clear that logging and roadbuilding in roadless areas is not a good “fuels treatment” program.

We are hopeful for what a new administration could bring. The names of people being considered for the heads of the public lands agencies are allies we share a conservation vision with. However, we will remain persistent that harmful rollbacks are overturned, destructive projects are abandoned, and public lands policy takes its rightful place in both the mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

As for the prospects for our three key legislative campaigns, well we will see. We have not given up hope that our “Hail Mary” to get them included in the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act will be successful. On the positive side, a divided Congress is often when public lands packages get passed. Just this August, in one of the most divisive political times in anyone’s memory, the Great American Outdoors Act passed with bipartisan support.

Public lands are politically popular, even in places known for their antipathy towards them. For members looking to get re-elected, working to protect public lands is a political win. CalWild will look for opportunities to build a bipartisan package within California that could aid a broad public lands package. For example, after a short stint away, Representative Darrell Issa, a Republican from San Diego, is returning to Congress. In 2010, he introduced a wilderness bill to protect the Beauty Mountains in northern San Diego. We are excited about the possibility of him re-introducing that bill and incorporating it into our efforts to pass our three current bills. This may give us an opportunity to show once more that wilderness conservation can and should be a bipartisan concern.

Political leadership in this country is always swinging back and forth. Sometimes it is more favorable to our work and sometimes not. At CalWild, we hold onto the long journey of making change happen. We are building support for conservation every step along the way regardless of context. That way when the door opens, even just a crack, we are ready to push our wild places through. Thanks to all of you for having our back through those long efforts. On to the next phase!


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