Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Civics 101

By Ed Zieralski


December 21, 2008

Welcome to Civics 101, courtesy of the California Fish and Game Commission, the Legislature and the rabid preservationists who are hijacking our state's resources. Today's lesson is a basic one.
Don't pass legislation like the Marine Life Protection Act without a funding plan to make it work. Otherwise, all you get is a giant ocean money pit and dazed and confused Fish and Game commissioners.

I digress.

In 1999, the misguided Legislature passed the Marine Life Protection Act, a plan to establish a network of underwater refuges along the state's 1,100-mile coastline. Proponents of the act say it's all about protection of habitat, ecosystems and developing a beautiful underwater Yosemite.
In reality, the process was hijacked by preservationists and anti-fishing groups who now are targeting commercial and recreational fishing and want to eliminate any take of sustainable and viable ocean resources in most of these underwater parks.

The process already is here in the South Coast after some fishermen's lives were destroyed by fishing closures in marine protected areas on the Central Coast. Some fishermen now are working on the North Central Coast, where abalone divers are fighting the good fight. Soon, we'll be fighting for our ocean-fishing lives, with everyone from urchin divers to bait suppliers threatened.
I know this because I watched a replay of the recent Fish and Game Commission meeting at which the DFG listened to abalone divers make a case for a change in marine protected area boundaries that will lessen the impact on abalone divers. At this meeting, I heard DFG personnel tell the commissioners how many millions of dollars the entire network of marine protected areas will cost the state.

More on that in a bit.

The Marine Life Protection Act died a couple of justifiable deaths before preservationists – not conservationists, as they like to call themselves – gathered enough cash from the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, or RLFF, to raise it from its watery grave.
An explanation: The RLFF draws its money from various organizations that have close ties to rabid preservationists. That was Fish and Game Commissioner Michael Sutton, a former officer in the Packard Foundation (one of the RLFF's deep pockets), patting himself on the back at the recent commission meeting, boasting how this wonderful public-private partnership between the DFG and the RLFF has kept this great farce going.

Thus far, the RLFF has given the DFG and the MLPA process more than $18 million since 2004 to keep this ocean land-grab going. The preservationists are paying for these parks and they're getting all they want.

And yet, there still is no clear plan to fund these restrictive parks.

It gets worse.

DFG personnel told the commissioners at their meeting last week that the entire network of marine protected areas will cost the state as much as $40 million a year for enforcement, public outreach and monitoring.

Let me write that again: $40 million a year. That's our taxpayer money.
There are whispers that the DFG will follow other state agencies and make 25 percent cuts in its operating budget as California tries to erase what could be a $42 billion deficit in 18 months.
So, where is the DFG going to get $40 million a year to keep its underwater Yosemite protected and green?

Gov. Schwarzenegger, with all due respect, your little ocean legacy plan really is an ocean money pit that preserves nothing but more debt, wastes taxpayers' money and ruins the lives of hard-working fishing families.