By Dan Bacher
December 3, 2009
Tom Stienstra, outdoor columnist for the S.F. Chronicle, recently pointed out the absurdity of many of the people that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently appointed to the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF) for the North Coast by listing the appointees and their "qualifications."
"Sometimes people take issue with political appointments to committees charged with overseeing the state's conservation management," said Stienstra in his column on November 29. "The Department of Fish and Game provided this list of committee members who will implement the Marine Life Protection Act for the Northern California coast.
Catherine Reheis-Boyd, chief operating officer and chief of staff, Western States Petroleum Association; Gregory Schem, president and chief executive officer, Harbor Real Estate Group; Jimmy Smith, chair, Humboldt County Board of Supervisors; Virginia Strom-Martin, advocate, Los Angeles Unified School District; William Anderson, president, Westrec Marina Management; Meg Caldwell, director and senior lecturer on law, Stanford Law School Environment and Natural Resources Law and Policy Program; Roberta Cordero, lawyer, co-founder Chumash Maritime Association; Cindy Gustafson, district general manager, Tahoe City Public Utility District."
I'm one of those people who takes strong issue "with political appointments to committees charged with overseeing the state's conservation management." Upon announcing the appointment of the task force, Mike Chrisman, Natural Resources Secretary, claimed, "This diverse and knowledgeable group, that includes local public leaders, will ensure that all interests are heard as the MLPA planning process moves to the north coast."
However, the exception of Jimmy Smith, a well respected Humboldt County Supervisor, all of the members of this "August body" are people from outside of the region.
Reheis-Boyd is the most controversial of the appointments, since she was on the MLPA panel for the North Coast, in addition to being the chair of the panel for the South Coast MLPA process. She was part of the panel that decided to ban the Kashia Pomo Indian Tribe and other tribes from their traditional areas off Stewarts Point and Point Arena where they have sustainably harvested seaweed, mussels and abalone for centuries. The "oil industry superstar" will become the president of the Western States Petroleum Association in January.
What the heck is an oil industry lobbyist doing on the task force? Political insiders believe that she has been chosen for this position so she can protect the oil industry's interests on the California coast. The oil industry is seeking to open up new areas to oil drilling off the California coast, particularly in the Point Arena Basin. She is apparently on the North Central Coast, North Coast and South Coast Task Forces to make sure that marine protected areas don't impinge upon existing or planned future oil drilling operations off the coast.
Schwarzenegger's choice of William Anderson, president, Westrec Marina Management, is also quite curious. "Focusing on the service side of the marina industry, Westrec is the most comprehensive and authoritative source of marina operating information in the business; handling fuel docks, ship's stores, boat repair and maintenance, commercial leasing, restaurants, campgrounds and lodging facilities," according to Westrec's website, http://www.westrec.com.
Just like having an oil industry official on a task force designed to create marine protected areas is an obvious conflict of interest, isn't having a marina operation executive on the panel a conflict of interest? Could Anderson be on the task force to make sure that marine reserves don't impede on marina operation and expansion plans now in the works?
The appointment of Gregory Schem, president and chief executive officer, Harbor Real Estate Group, is also bizarre. Why should a real estate corporation officer be presiding over a supposedly "environmental process? What background does he have in fisheries or "marine protection? to justify his appointment?
A broad coalition of North Coast environmentalists, fishermen, Indian Tribes and seaweed harvesters fear that these corporate officials and political hacks are being appointed to the MLPA Task Force to remove the strongest protectors of fish and the oceans and most ardent opponents of oil drilling from the water to clear the path to the development of offshore oil rigs, marina projects, corporate aquaculture and wave energy projects off the North Coast.
The Governor and Secretary Mike Chrisman excluded California Indian Tribes and environmental justice communities from the MLPA initiative since Schwarzenegger initiated his fast-track MLPA process in 2004. Fortunately, under pressure from the tribes, the Governor finally appointed a member of a California Tribe to the north coast panel, Roberta Cordero from the Chumash Maritime Commission in southern California.
Roberta Cordero is strongly supported by the Yurok Tribe, as well as other North Coast Tribes in sitting on the BRTF. Given her profession, her involvement in the MLPA process in the South Coast, understanding of the role of the BRTF, and the support of her by many Tribal members in the North Coast, the Yurok Tribe backs her appointment and is happy to have her involved as an advocate for Tribes.
The BRTF held its first meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 18 and Thursday, Nov. 19 at the Red Lion Hotel in Eureka. Members of the Yurok Tribe, Wiyot Tribe, Hoopa Valley Tribe, Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria and other North Coast tribes showed in force to criticize the MLPA initiative, a process to date that has not engaged the tribes in government-to-government relations as they are required to do under state and federal law.
The participants in the California Water Tribal Water Summit on November 3-4 took aim at the exclusion of the tribes from the MLPA. “The ocean is the same water; in the Marine Life Protection Act, the California Department of Fish and Game has made an explicit policy decision not to consult with the Tribes,” according to one tribal representative.
Before the summit, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) at their annual session from October 11-16 in Palm Springs passed a strongly worded resolution blasting the MLPA process for failing to recognize the tribal subsistence, ceremonial and cultural rights of California Indian Tribes.
"The NCAI does hereby support the demand of the tribes of Northern California that the State of California enter into government to government consultations with these tribes; and that the State of California ensure the protection of subsistence, ceremonial and cultural rights in the implementation of the state of Marine Life Protection Act," the resolution stated.
The MLPA, passed by the Legislature in 1999, has under Schwarzenegger become an surrealistic parody of "marine protection." The MLPA has done nothing to stop pollution and habitat destruction on the ocean, but only aims to further restrict sustainable fishermen and seaweed harvesters on the most heavily restricted stretch of ocean waters on the entire planet, even though a June 31 study in Science magazine revealed that the California current features the least exploited and most restored marine ecosystem population of any place studied!
"These MPAs do nothing to keep the ocean healthy, they do nothing to improve water quality," summed up Vern Goehring of the California Fisheries Coalition.
Even worse, the corrupt MLPA process under Schwarzenegger is funded by the Resource Legacy Fund Foundation (RLFF), a shadowy organization supplied with millions and millions of dollars every year through the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, David and Lucille Packard Foundation and other corporate entities. The foundation heavily funds the corporate environmental NGOs that are pushing so hard for their way in the MLPA process.
At the same time, many of these NGOs backed the water policy/bond package that clears the path to the construction of a peripheral canal and more dams that will result in the destruction of the California Delta ecosystem. While MLPA proponents are pushing for more redundant restrictions on North Coast coastal fishing communities, they apparently made a deal with the Governor and Legislators to back legislation that will seal the doom of collapsing Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon, striped bass and other fish populations. What is going on here?
The conflicts of interest and corruption of the democratic process that run rampant in the MLPA initiative, the California legislative process and the Governor's campaign to build a peripheral canal and more dams were prophesized by Thomas Jefferson in 1782.
"We should look forward to a time, and that not a distant one, when corruption in this as in the country from which we derive our origin will have seized the heads of government and be spread by them through the body of the people; when they will purchase the voices of the people and make them pay the price," said Jefferson in his Notes on Virginia.