By Redgie Collins,
CalTrout Staff Attorney
Advocacy remains a core tenant of CalTrout’s mission. From our inception, CalTrout lead the Wild Trout Program and played an instrumental part in forming the California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. CalTrout is committed to having a presence in Sacramento and always looks for opportunities to provide legal muscle for proactive challenges to support freshwater conservation efforts in California.
Using our collective legislative approach, led by Staff Attorney Redgie Collins, we build off our ground experience, community support, science, media, and advocacy experience to advance mission-critical policies programs and funding.
CalTrout continues this effort today by building relationships with legislators and key legislative staff on statewide conservation and by supporting, opposing, and sponsoring key legislative initiatives.
Cover Photo: Sacramento Capitol
2020 Policy Overview: Conservation in the Time of Coronavirus
As you might imagine, the legislature is reeling from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. California started the 2020/2021 legislative cycle with a budget surplus of $5.6 billion, a rainy-day fund of $18 billion, and a clear path towards a several billion-dollar natural resources bond effort that voters would see on the November ballot.
However, with California responding to Covid-19 and the related recession, the legislature now predicts a budget deficit of $54.3 billion over the next two years, and the administration has signaled that any new bond effort this cycle is unlikely to make it to the ballot box in November. The numbers are bleak, but the administration, the Department of Finance and the Governor’s office are working with natural resource agencies to prepare a budget that only cuts non-essential programs and puts a pause on any new expenditures.
CalTrout’s focus will now be on ensuring any State Agency cuts are temporary and we will work with our conservation partners to advocate for keeping essential programs funded through this pandemic and recession. Further, CalTrout will protect key environmental regulations from proposed rollbacks and we will take this opportunity to advocate for removing the green tape that hinders beneficial restoration in California.
Natural Resources Bond
Against all odds, the legislature is still discussing a Natural Resources Bond which would inject between $4 and $8 billion in water and natural resources spending through Assembly Bill AB 3256. CalTrout is in the heart of advocating for the passage of this bill and gearing up for a ballot initiative which, if successfully passed through the California legislature, would be on the ballot in November of 2020. CalTrout is focused on supporting the massive restoration and barrier removal projects that Sandra Jacobson is championing in Southern California and cementing funding for the pioneering work Jacob Katz is pursuing in the Central Valley.
The protection of our freshwater natural resources and the diverse ecology found throughout California is a major reason that our state attracts industry leaders and fosters the economic growth that makes California the fifth largest economy in the world. CalTrout will remind our legislative champions and the administration that cutting back on environmental protections and lowering the funding for protection of our natural resources is the wrong choice for California.
Cutting Green Tape Initiatives
CalTrout has partnered with other leading conservation organizations to work with agencies to identify inefficiencies that need non-profit support to implement. We are working with CDFW on the North Coast Salmon Initiative to streamline restoration permitting and grant administration in key North Coast watersheds like the Eel River. We have also partnered with the State Water Board on specific projects like instream flow implementation in the Shasta Valley to get more water instream more quickly.
These initiatives are timely, as many of these initiatives are aimed at saving conservation organizations and agencies time and money.
Preparing for Natural Resources Agency Cutbacks
In the likely event that we see cutbacks in key partner agencies due to the Covid-19 created recession impact of COVID-19, CalTrout is working with the legislature to identify and implement forward thinking measures that will lessen the burden on conservation organizations. We are working with agencies to continue the past bond spending measures and highlight grant inefficiencies that will ensure that non-profits like CalTrout will be able to continue the important restoration work during this economic downturn.
Due to the pandemic related recession projections, the Senate and Assembly leadership, as well as the Newsom Administration and Department of Finance have put the collective kibosh on new funding allocations that do not directly related to Covid-19, wildfire, homelessness or public health measures. This has drastically reduced the bill load for most legislators.
Photo: Eel River by Mike Wier
Legislation We Support
SB 1296: The Nature and Parks Career Pathway and Community Resiliency Act of 2020.
CalTrout is proud to support Senator Durazo’s AB 1296 which aims to build equitable access to opportunities working in the natural resource field and for highlighting the importance of diversifying the workforce to make it more representative of the state’s population. SB 1296 would ensure that communities facing barriers to accessing and sustaining jobs are prepared to succeed in a natural resources career.
Legislation We Oppose
AB 3005: Santa Clara Valley Water District’s Leroy Dam and Reservoir Expediency Bill
CalTrout pride’s itself on working cooperatively with a diverse group of partners and do not take opposition stances lightly. However, after speaking with the Author’s office, offering our initial letter of opposition, and talking with Santa Clara Valley Water District, we have decided to formally speak in opposition to AB 3005.
AB 3005 sets a dangerous precedent for all future Dam retrofit projects throughout California by requiring the regulatory agencies and the state board to adhere to shortened timelines, exhaustive notifications, and unique appeals processes ultimately does not allow the natural resources agencies the time and space needed to adequately protect public trust resources.
The Water District s an untrustworthy partner for conservation organizations and are therefore not credible advocates for the impact on public trust resources. AB 3005 would legalize the same unilateral decision making and action process by Valley Water District that has nearly led to the local extinction of steelhead in Coyote Creek already.
CalTrout is excited to support a suite of bills aimed at protecting California’s public lands, especially considering the federal threats of delisting protected public lands over the last four years.
CalTrout is launching a campaign to support U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on and their joint bill: Protecting Unique and Beautiful Landscapes by Investing in California (PUBLIC) Lands Act.
The PUBLIC Lands Act is a package of three previously introduced bills that would increase protections and access for over 1 million acres of California lands, including nearly 600,000 acres of new wilderness and over 100,000 acres of new national monument.
Stay tuned for calls to action from CalTrout in the near future!
Photo: Merced River by Phil Reedy