By Chris Morrill, Executive Director
The new year is a great time to set priorities. The end of 2022 was a bit of a disappointment for us. We made a hard push in Congress for all of our legislative priorities, but none crossed the finish line.
Ryan Henson, our Senior Policy Director, went to D.C. to make a final case for the PUBLIC Lands Act (our number one priority for a long time) and a newer initiative to expand the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument. Despite overwhelming local support, including local representatives and both of our state senators, neither bill passed. In fact, no significant public lands or conservation package came out of Congress this year. We’re again disappointed by the inaction of Congress and we will move forward in 2023 with an understanding of that body’s limitations.
A focus on National Monument expansions, the 30×30 initiative, and changing our relationship with wildfire
This year, we’re going to focus on several national monument campaigns. On top of that list is the Berryessa Snow Mountain expansion which includes the renaming of the area to Molok Luyuk (Condor Ridge in Patwin), establishing a process for tribal co-management, and adding protection against ill-advised wind projects. We are also very excited about the state of our Protect California Deserts campaign and expect great progress over the next year, including the possible introduction of national monument legislation and hopefully action by the Biden administration.
Another exciting development over the last year was the state of California’s efforts to protect 30% of California’s lands and waters by 2030 (30×30). I had the honor of being appointed to the 30×30 Partnership Coordinating Committee in collaboration with the California Natural Resources Agency. CalWild also remains an active member of the Power In Nature coalition. This year, we’ll be elevating the essential role of federal public lands as part of the initiative. 30×30 remains a critical tool for elevating land conservation in combating climate change and staving off the worst of our biodiversity crisis.
For a number of years, CalWild has participated with other environmental groups interested in changing our relationship with wildfire by increasing beneficial fire in the state including prescribed fire, cultural burning, and the use of managed wildfire. Unfortunately, our number one priority to get more full-time staff for the public lands agencies (that are non-fire suppression and forester staff) has not yet been successful. We’re currently in an ongoing discussion with many of our partners about clear and tangible policy avenues for facilitating the use of more beneficial fire in California. This will improve both the ecological health and protection of communities.
Exciting old growth opportunities for northwest California
Finally, there is an exciting opportunity in northwest California. The Forest Service had planned to revise the management plans for the five national forests in the area. That plan has been postponed for the foreseeable future. Instead, the Forest Service will be amending the Northwest Forest Plan of 1994. We’re excited about this opportunity for two primary reasons. The first is that this effort is in a follow-up to an Executive Order to catalog old-growth and mature forests, which highlighted the importance in light of climate change. Second, it provides an opportunity to give overall management guidance to change how the Forest Service manages all the national forests of the Pacific Northwest, including the five National Forests in northwest California. Senior Policy Director Ryan Henson has applied to be a part of the Advisory Board and we’re hopeful that he might be appointed to that effort so he can elevate the voices for conservation.
Despite the disappointing note that 2022 ended on, we are still excited by the new opportunities that 2023 has in store.
Please let me know your thoughts, comments, and questions by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.