Tuesday, March 9, 2010

State to cut funding of MLPA

By Ed Zieralski, San Diego Union-Tribune
March 6, 2010

What's really behind the proposed State Parks Initiative that will add $18 to our vehicle registrations in California to help fund the failing state parks system?

Fish and Game commissioner Dan Richards recognizes the proposed State Parks Initiative for what it is. A sham.

Once again, California taxpayers, in this instance, California's vehicle owners, are being asked to fund a failing state parks system that is $1 billion behind in work projects. But that's just part of the state parks' problems. The parks have been incredibly mismanaged for years. Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is a prime example. Had the state parks personnel done proper forest management, the burn that wiped out most of that park during the 2003 Cedar Fire never would have burned as hot and for as long as it did. All that timber that the park employees let lay after it died from bark beetle infestations or disease fueled that catastrophic fire in an unimaginable, horrific way. These park administrators and employees basically protected and preserved that beautiful park to death.

Richards was the only one of five commissioners on Wednesday who refused to endorse this latest sit down at the public trough for more money from an already over-taxed California citizenry. If this state parks initiative makes it to the ballot in November and is passed by the state's voters, this will give non-public entities all the public funding they need to bid on land, projects, etc., without any oversight. Oh, they promise there will be monitoring of the money, but can you really believe that from a group of fanatical environmentalists who know no boundaries when it comes to wasting the public's time, money and energy?

At some point, this out-of-control extreme environmental movement has to be stopped in this state to allow for some common sense. Right now, there isn't any. Everyone wants to be green. Everyone wants to do the right thing environmentally. So when scams and shams like this come along, everyone just signs up for it. Must be good, right? No, this is very bad.

On the surface, the funds are earmarked for the state parks, the DFG, the Ocean Protection Council and other "state conservancies." But what impact will this grab of public money have on the state budgets for the parks and the DFG? Will the legislature then reduce their budgets and funding by a like amount? What will parks and the DFG really net from all this?

Looking at it right now, the Ocean Protection Council and the other non-government groups look to make out large, getting over $40 million of taxpayer money to do what they want with it. That's just wrong.

It's bad enough that this proposed initiative is bailing out the poorly managed state parks system. They should have stopped right there, but no, they had to add the MLPA to the mix. That's where they made a huge mistake.

There have been some incredible conflicts of interest throughout this MLPA process, and this is just the latest example of the movement to take the management of fish and game away from the Department of Fish and Game.

Right now, there is a strong movement in the state legislature to completely cut funding for the Marine Life Protection Act and the black hole it has become.

Here's the latest, the Legislative Analysts' position on the MLPA for the budget year 2010-2011. This was published March 3, 2010:

"Recommend suspension of state support ($4.4 million General Fund and $400,000 special funds) for this recent public-private partnership initiative (2004) to help the state implement the Marine Life Protection Act. Funding in the budget year is for establishment of the marine protected areas (MPAs), not for long-term enforcement or management of them once established. There is no long-term comprehensive plan to finance administration and enforcement of the proposed MPAs. Other existing state fishing statutes (traditional fishing restrictions and the Marine Life Management Act) could be used to enforce fishing restrictions as an alternative to this proposal."

What's clear in this statement is that the there is a strong sentiment in Sacramento that it's time to stop wasting money on the MLPA process. For the Legislative Analysts to recommend "suspension of state support" for the MLPA, it clearly is taking a stand. The common sense arguments have finally gotten through to some in Sacramento that fisheries management has been effective, that the DFG has done its job, and that present fisheries management practices will continue to be effective without the MLPA.

The answer now is for fishermen -- and hunters, too, because you're going to be impacted by this rigged Fish and Game Commission -- to go to the state legislature and rally your state senators and state legislators. Let them know how you feel about this parks initiative, this latest sham, the latest move to fund this unholy war against fishermen.

The state legislature is getting bombarded with requests by people who want to waste more money, but in this case, this is a way for the state to cut its losses on the MLPA and quit funding this black hole of an agenda.

This initiative proposal is the latest attempt to fund not just the failing parks system, but the struggling MLPA. And the language is vague enough to allow these so-called "conservation groups" to take the money and use it rather than allow the DFG to use it for its purposes.

We still have the power to vote in this country, to voice our opinions about things we see that are just wrong.

Evidence shows MLPA corruption

By Jim Matthews, San Bernardino Sun
March 6, 2010

The first wave of hard evidence documenting the corruption and conflict of interest that's guided the implementation of the 1999 Marine Life Protection Act surfaced at the meeting of the California Fish and Game Commission at the DoubleTree Inn this past week.

The commission accepted public testimony again on the so-called Blue Ribbon Task Force's recommended ocean fishing closures and protected areas along the Southern California coast before adopting a final plan. During Wednesday's testimony, documentation was provided that proved that two members of the Blue Ribbon Task Force, Bill Anderson and Greg Schem, lied to the commission at a recent meeting about having a business association.

Bob Fletcher, former president of the Sportfishing Association of California who's been involved in the entire MLPA process, said there was evidence that both members agreed "to sign off on everything else" in return for not putting a reserve on the Rocky Point area between Redondo Beach and Long Beach where both had marinas and business interests.

Fletcher and others at the meeting say this is just the tip of the iceberg. Sportfishing groups are gathering evidence on three other issues that have plagued the process.

First, Michael Sutton, a member of the Fish and Game Commission and a key supporter of vast closures, has been charged with conflict of interest and repeatedly asked to recuse himself on all MLPA issues. Sutton works for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which stands to benefit financially from Department of Fish and Game funding to help implement and monitor protected marine areas.

When a complaint was filed with the state Fair Political Practices Commission last year, however, it wasn't investigated. Sportfishing groups are looking into whether anyone from the governor's office tampered with the issue.

In an incredible case of irony, Sutton is also on the FGC's Marine Resources Subcommittee with commissioner Richard Rogers, and recused himself recently when the issue was collection permits because his employer, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, has a vested interest in the collection permits.

Second, there's growing evidence that former Fish and Game commissioner Cindy Gustafson was asked to resign when she, along with two other commissioners, questioned the science involved in some of the proposed MLPA recommendations.

She was replaced by Don Benninghoven solely because of Benninghoven's support of the most restrictive MLPA designations, giving the closure supporters a 3-2 majority on the commission.

Benninghoven came to the commission after a two-year stint on the Blue Ribbon Task Force.

Third, at least 12 of the members of the MLPA science advisory team are fully or partially financed by grants from the Packard Foundation and Ocean Protection Council, both of which have been outspoken proponents of the MLPA process' most restrictive protections, including vast areas closed to all fishing.

The science advisory committee refused to consider catch-and- release sport angling and sport take restrictions as a management option that was less damaging to the marine environment than unrestricted commercial fishing. A catch-and-release angler fishing barbless jigs for calico bass was the same as a commercial gill net to the majority of the science advisory team.

Sportfishing interests have said the whole public process was a sham after the Blue Ribbon Task Force essentially ignored the proposals from the three volunteer study groups that labored for 18 months before forwarding their own recommendation to the Fish and Game Commission, which was a breach of what the volunteers had been assured at the outset would happen.

The Blue Ribbon Task Force has also refused to take into consideration the state's economy and budget, and how closures will affect business and recreation in the region.

Fletcher said it was likely, with the state's budget crisis, there won't be funding to finance the MLPA. Last year, the legislative budget office stripped all funding of the MLPA implementation out of the Department of Fish and Game's budget, but its funding was continued by the governor's office by backfilling with Proposition 84 funding.

This year, the budget office is again likely to recommend that funding be stopped - and that Proposition 84 funds aren't used again.

"The whole process is rife with conflict of interest," said Fletcher. "It has been hijacked."

Fish & Game Commission advances MLPA coastal fishing restrictions

By Melissa Pamer, Torrance Daily Breeze
March 4, 2010

The state Fish and Game Commission this week advanced a plan to limit or end fishing in nearly 400 square miles of state coastal waters, including an area off Point Vicente and south of the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

The five-member commission voted 3-2 late Wednesday to ask its staff to develop regulatory language for an "integrated preferred alternative" plan - known as the IPA - that remains controversial but has been pitched as a compromise between fishing and environmental interests.

The vote took place at a lengthy meeting in Ontario that included more than three hours of public comment, mostly from critics of the plan.

The proposed closures, which must still undergo an environmental review, are the result of months of meetings attended by stakeholders from across Southern California as part of the Marine Life Protection Act initiative.

At the meeting this week, fishing groups continued to argue that the process that produced the plan was flawed, alleging conflicts of interest, corruption and closed-door meetings.

"It's probably one of the worst public policy debacles that I have seen in my long career," said Bob Fletcher, former president of the Sportfishing Association of California and a former deputy director of the Department of Fish and Game.

Environmental groups cited new research showing well-placed marine reserves benefit fish populations and fishermen. They continued to argue for a reserve at Rocky Point, a rich marine environment off the north end of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. As a concession to socioeconomic interests, that area was traded last fall for greater protections off Malibu.

"We were disappointed that the IPA failed to meet the science guidelines, with the most egregious failure occurring at Palos Verdes by not protecting Rocky Point," said Shelley Luce, executive director of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission.

Luce and others noted complications with the Point Vicente-area reserve because of its proximity to a huge underwater pesticide dump that's now a Superfund site.

Commissioners stuck with their original indication at a meeting in December, in which they backed the IPA. Their decision means that state staff will not write complicated regulatory language for three other proposals that came out of the stakeholder process. Those three proposals will, however, get a full environmental analysis.

The commissioners made clear that they may still make changes to the marine reserve plan before it is finalized in coming months.

The commission also voted to study requests by other agencies to allow continued water-quality monitoring and other activity in the proposed reserves.

A follow-up meeting is set for April in Monterey.