Governor misses his chance to protect salmon

Veto of AB 2575 and demise of SB 539 imperil fisheries

Despite the sweet taste of victory on one of Forests Forever’s leading bills (see the story on A.B. 1504 here), we’d be remiss in not taking note of the less-than-sweet fate of two other key measures we’d worked hard to pass.

Once again California’s stale economy has been held up as a reason to set back a key environmental effort approved by the state legislature.

In his veto message of A.B. 2575, the "Comprehensive Forest Land Recovery and Restoration Act" sponsored by Forests Forever and authored by Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro (D-North Coast), Schwarzenegger said he cares about improving forest practices in California. But then he argued that the forestry pilot projects designated in A.B. 2575 would redirect scare budget dollars and staff from existing state forestry projects.

His comment is way off the mark.

In fact the pilot projects in question already have been authorized under the Anadromous Salmonid Protection (ASP) Rule adopted by the BOF in September 2009 and at this writing are in the beginning stages of launch.

A.B. 2575 would have assured that those projects would address what the Forest Practice Rules already call for: addressing the cumulative effects of logging in watersheds containing salmon runs. In addition, the statute would have tamped down the agency’s ability to scuttle or weaken the research efforts on its own.

While this governor may not understand the compelling need addressed by A.B. 2575, residents of the North Coast and salmon fishermen out of work know all too well the cumulative impacts of clearcut watersheds.

S.B. 539 fades into the sunset

Another measure backed by Forests Forever, Senate Bill 539, authored by Sen. Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa), quietly went by the wayside last year.

Forests Forever sponsored S.B. 539 because it would have enlisted the state Ocean Protection Council (OPC) in watershed restoration efforts. It would have authorized OPC to engage in the full range of activities needed to bring back salmon and steelhead fisheries, both of which ultimately need healthy forest habitat for spawning.

Unfortunately Wiggins’ health declined precipitously just after the bill passed in the full Senate 27 to 12 on June 1, 2009. Before the measure could be considered by the Assembly’s Committee on Appropriations, Wiggins canceled the hearing, leaving the bill in permanent limbo.

“Salmon habitat restoration is more critical than ever; every year without a salmon season adds urgency to the issue,” said Paul Hughes, Forests Forever Executive Director. “We are actively exploring legislative options to move the issue forward vigorously in 2011 and beyond, and we think public awareness is sufficient to motivate lawmakers to take action.”


Forests Forever:
Their Ecology, Restoration, and Protection
John J. Berger

from Forests Forever Foundation
and the Center for American Places