Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fish and Game Commissioner Dan Richards disappointed in Ken Wiseman and Don Benninghoven

June 2, 2009
Fish and Game Commissioner Dan Richards is not happy with the latest developments in the South Coast project area in the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative and comments by Resources Agency officials about the next region, the area north of Point Arena to the Oregon border, due to begin meeting this fall.
Although Ken Wiseman and initiative staff just today (June 2) have retracted the decision to forward external proposal C despite the fact it was voted out (see the memo attached to the bottom of this blog), the fact that he and Blue Ribbon Task Force Chair Don Benninghoven would consider such a move in the first place has shaken not only stakeholder confidence in the process, but Richards’ as well.
Richards’ contacted this writer yesterday, just as we were sending the latest issue of WON to the printer, but his comments were both prescient and significant.“
Although I don’t know if this decision will stand, I am so disappointed in Ken Wiseman and Don Benninghoven,” said Richards. “They’ve been standing up talking about what an open and transparent process this is and then they take an action like this. I never knew they had the power to unilaterally change the vote, who gave them that?
“What’s the point of the vote, what’s the point of participating? I’m sure there are a lot of stakeholders asking that question,” he added. “Why don’t Ken and Don just send us (the Fish and Game Commission) something up and say this is what it should be, these people don’t know what’s right, but we do?”
Some stakeholders would argue that’s exactly what has happened in the previous two projects — the Blue Ribbon Task Force deciding what is best instead of the stakeholders.
And others would say the Fish and Game Commission, which is the only entity in California government with the power to close state waters, has just been a rubber stamp at the end of the process.
Richards is one of the commissioners who bristle at that suggestion. He and Commission Jim Kellogg have been outspoken about making sure the state and the economy can bear the cost of the closures.
He took particular exception to a recent comment made by Sandy Cooney, a spokesperson for California’s Resources agency, in the Eureka Times Standard. The story was about how the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District was considering asking for a delay in the process until good science is in place. Sound familiar? Here’s the part of the piece that got Richards steamed.
California Resources Agency spokesman Sandy Cooney said that a delay “is not going to happen.”
He said the act is law, and that the marine protected areas will be put in place on schedule. The state and its private partners have so far put up $60 million in the central and north central coast for science to back up the reserves, Cooney said, and there will be money available for the North Coast, too. Cooney chafed at the idea that communities have had reserves imposed on them.
"No one is being steam-rolled at all,” Cooney said, “It is one of the most open and inclusive processes we have going.”
“How does he know there’s not going to be a delay?” asked Richards. “Where does he come up with $60 million? And how does he know the marine protected areas will be put in place on schedule. Does he have a vote? Last I checked only the Fish and Game Commission can vote in a marine protected area. Does he have the names of three commissioners who will guarantee they will vote for the MPAs? And you certainly have to take exception to the statement the process is open after what just happened.”
When contacted by WON, Cooney said the $60 million represented all the money spent on marine protected areas in California since the creation of the reserves at the Channel Islands, but was unable to provide precise figures. Otherwise, Cooney said he would stand by his words.
I don’t know about you, but all of this has left me feeling flat.

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