While the Newsom Administration has not yet understood the pressing needs of wildlife, it has opportunities to do better.
With a budget surplus of $85 billion dollars, efforts to pass a bond act for natural resources were shelved. Instead, the Legislature put together 3-year budgets for natural resource spending. EHL and others educated policy-makers on the pressing need for land conservation, and in particular the completion of our regional habitat reserves, called Natural Community Conservation Plans. The state has large financial obligations to these efforts, which are a way for wildlife to survive climate change. The State Senate offered a modest but respectable amount for the key state agency which acquires land and protects species under threat, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB). But even this amount was not supported by the Governor and was cut back.
On climate change, the Newsom Administration has been strong in many regards, but with blind spots in others. One of the latter is an apparent reluctance to spending money on the single most urgent thing if species are to adapt to climate change, which is to acquire the lands under threat of development, and to create interconnected reserve systems. Because vulnerable species populations are collapsing both here and worldwide, this is a foundational action. Another blind spot is fire management, as the Administration––and Legislature––allocate funds for destroying chaparral and coastal sage scrub with prescribed fire and other vegetation removal, which convert the native habitat to flammable weeds and do nothing to reduce the severity of wind-driven wildfire.
The Resources Agency has now asked the conservation community to comment on two new, promising environmental initiatives: 1) a strategy to store carbon on habitat and farmland and protect biodiversity called the “Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy” and 2) a plan to protect 30% of California’s land base and offshore waters called “30X30.” EHL will provide input on the need for realistic funding levels, particularly for WCB. We will also recommend prioritizing the existing regional habitat plans in Southern California, which await completion and exemplify program goals. These are opportunities to make good intentions real.