By Tommy Hough
Thanks to everyone who joined us for our hike along the mesa tops and wooded canyon bottoms of Del Mar Mesa Preserve this past Sunday.
Enjoy the photos of our trek collected here, courtesy of long-time San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action member Renée Owens, who won our first-ever Member of the Year award in 2017.
Now threatened directly and indirectly by the construction of an 11-story office building and related office park on land surrounded on three sides by areas managed for conservation, the Del Mar Mesa Preserve is one of the best-preserved specimens of natural San Diego habitat, and home to endangered vernal pools, rare lichens, an assortment of birds from along the Pacific Flyway, and what may be the largest surviving wild Coastal scrub oak in San Diego County. It's a special, quiet place – and surprisingly wild along the canyon bottom in the tunnels of oak trees.
Special thanks to Frank Landis from the San Diego chapter of the California Native Plant Society for leading the hike, founding club member and Torrey Hills Planning Board chair Kathryn Burton for her advocacy with Protect Our Preserves, club vice president Sara Kent for organizing the outing, and Sacramento attorney and California Democratic Party Progressive Caucus chair candidate Amar Shergill for joining us.
Renée also supplied a few brief captions for each photo, numbered 1 to 26, beginning with the photo of our members on the trail:
1. Kevin Lourens, Cara Furio and Kathryn Burton (L to R)
2. Allen's hummingbird and bottlebrush
3. Black sage
4. California towhee
8. Echo blue butterfly
9. Female California quail
10. Male California quail
11. Mimilus aurantiacus
14. Nutall snapdragon
15. Raptor nest in coastal scrub oak
16. San Diego button celery (very rare)
17. Scrub jay
18. Splendid mariposa lily
19. Splendid mariposa lily
20. Star lily
21. Torrey Highlands vicinity
22. White catchalagua
23. Wild hyacinth
24. Greater roadrunner
25. Red admiral butterfly
26. Less than impressive vernal pool interpretive sign
By Tommy Hough
Any fan of the outdoors in Southern California worth their salt knows the harsh landscape of the desert also has a soft side, whether it's the gentle, sandy slopes of the Cadiz Dunes, the coat of a wild desert kit fox, or the visual splendor and riot of color of the spring wildflower bloom.
Our deserts are some of our nation's last truly wild places and sources of needed elbow room. And with five new wilderness areas having been established by the recent public lands bill signed into law last month, more of our Southern California deserts are being managed for conservation than ever before.
Curiously, the desert has another resource some in Washington, and here in California, are eager to tap into: water.
An area called the Fenner Basin in the Mojave Desert is home to a massive, crescent-shaped underground aquifer that holds trillions of gallons of groundwater, and feeds at least five springs in the eastern Mojave that are critical for area wildlife and regional ecosystems. The age of the aquifer is also significant, with some estimates placing it at around 10,000 years old. Its presence ensures the region will never be entirely baked into oblivion by punishing summertime temperatures, or by our warming climate.
The northern end of the aquifer was first protected when Fenner Basin was drawn into the original boundaries of Mojave National Preserve, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton as part of the Desert Protection Act of 1994.
In 2016, after years of galvanizing public support for wilderness initiatives, desert advocates scored another victory for American conservation when President Obama established Mojave Trails National Monument along wild portions of old U.S. Route 66, incorporating the southern portion of the Fenner Basin aquifer.
Unfortunately, shortly after the arrival of the Trump administration, the Interior Department unveiled a plan to reduce the boundaries of over 20 National Monuments, mostly in the west. Mojave Trails was included on that chopping block, and while Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante, both located in Utah, had their boundaries shrunk, at this point the same fate has not befallen Mojave Trails. Not yet.
The Trump administration's move to shrink National Monument boundaries is unprecedented, and in the case of Mojave Trails, it's clear the point is to facilitate the pumping of the Fenner Basin aquifer for commercial purposes. The only company interested in doing so is Cadiz, a Los Angeles-based conglomerate with significant ties to the Trump administration and Interior Secretary nominee David Bernhardt, whose lobbying firm has represented Cadiz on this matter in the past. Cadiz owns property within the National Monument and wants to tap into the aquifer beneath its inholding.
Cadiz claims its wells can pump at least 16 billion gallons of water each year from the aquifer for 50 years without harming any springs, wildlife or plants on the surface. The company claims the aquifer receives about two-thirds of the amount of water they plan to draw out annually from rain and snow, but the U.S. Geological Survey and National Park Service say no.
According to those agencies, the Cadiz project would pump up to 25 times more water than the aquifer receives each year, lowering the water table and drying up local springs – thus harming the desert wildlife that has relied on those springs for centuries. The Cadiz Project will aggravate desertification, and decimate a cross section of Mojave Desert wildlife and ecology as it tries to steal and sell groundwater from one of the driest places in the United States.
Curiously, in the Trump administration's haste in re-writing federal railroad right-of-way laws into order to facilitate the Cadiz plan, they missed the fact that any pipeline from the Cadiz inholding in Mojave Trails must cross state land. While the state lands commission has the final say on how a pipeline may be placed and utilized on land that belongs to California taxpayers, there have been recent moves in the legislature to head the problem off with bills that would have prevented Cadiz and the Trump administration from draining the aquifer.
Unfortunately, the bills were killed in committee in the State Senate, and the critical policy affecting the aquifer never implemented. So conservationists are once again going to bat, this time for SB 307, introduced by State Senator Richard Roth (D–Riverside). The bill would enable the protection of the Fenner Basin aquifer beneath Mojave Trails, and at last, put an end to the destructive Cadiz proposal. If passed by the State Senate, Assembly passage would be likely.
The bill is up for a vote in the California Senate Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday, after Cadiz asked for more time to formulate a response. SB 307 needs a resounding yes from the committee as the bill heads to the full State Senate. One of the votes SB 307 needs is Senator Ben Hueso, whose 40th Senate District includes much of southern San Diego County and Imperial County.
As a Californian, outdoorsman, and co-founder and first president of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action, I'd like to ask Sen. Hueso to consider the science, the proud conservation heritage of our state, the need to preserve our natural aquifers and water resources, and the need to resist the environmentally destructive Trump agenda – and vote yes on SB 307 in the Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday.
Photos by Michael Gordon and Tommy Hough.
By Tommy Hough
The sweeping public lands bill signed into law by President Trump on Tuesday is the kind of idiot-proof bill of decades past, when Democrats and Republicans worked across the aisle to score wins for their home states and districts, and passed sensible, popular policy the public was in favor of.
The passage of the Natural Resources Management Act of 2019 is a huge win for the environment, for wildlife, ecosystems, and American conservation – made possible by decades of work by thousands of tireless activists whose names may be never be known, but who worked year after year on local projects important to their communities. Given the anti-science, anti-environmental era we live in, this victory is a moment of sweet irony and an environmental milestone. It is worth savoring, and celebrating.
From 1954 to 1994, the practice of passing sensible, popular policy was largely the norm in Congress. There were stark exceptions, of course, but those four decades of responsible – progressive, even – effort has come to be seen as a kind of congressional Golden Age.
But since the nationalization of midterm elections by an activist GOP in 1994, enabled by the rise of right-wing media in the wake of President Reagan's clueless "let the market decide" abdication of the Fairness Doctrine on public airwaves in 1987, bipartisanship became a dirty word as a radicalized GOP sought to cement the conservative gains of the Reagan era into, as Karl Rove called it, a "permanent Republican majority."
In doing so, the GOP's flirtation with dog whistles and idiocracy led not only to the Trump administration, but the flight of reason and reality from one of the nation's two major political parties. In its careless wake, the GOP created an amped-up, anger-driven, straw man-fed, resentment-fueled "movement" that eschews science, evidence and responsible inquiry – and continues to cite snowballs in winter as proof our global Climate Crisis is a hoax.
Over the last 10 years, an evermore gerrymandered Congress became a place where Wilderness and National Park bills went to die, and where effective conservation policy of decades past like the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and the Wilderness Act have not just come under attack, but are being rolled back as fast as possible by the Trump administration, whose job as the executive branch is to enforce those laws passed by that earlier, Golden Age of idealized congressional wisdom and compromise.
A decade ago, when Democrats last controlled Congress and the White House, President Obama signed into law the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009. Despite that bill's uninspiring name, the legislation was a needed boost for conservation efforts in the wake of the Bush administration, and ultimately added two million acres of designated Wilderness nationwide – the gold standard of federal conservation protection – plus miles of newly-recognized National Wild and Scenic Rivers.
It was a big win, but environmentalists knew it would be the last decent public lands bill for some time. And like nails in a coffin, the Tea Party election of 2010 ensured it would be so. Since then, Wilderness and other public lands packages accumulated into a legislative backlog in Washington, as the GOP Congress dismissed conservation bills out of hand while looking for excuses to shut down the government.
Congress even allowed the popular and effective 1965 Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which utilizes offshore oil drilling revenue to fund everything from trail maintenance projects to grants for little leagues, to expire on its 50th anniversary in 2015. Congressman Rob Bishop of Utah, then-chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, shamelessly referred to the LWCF as a slush fund.
But by the summer of 2018, things began to change as the congressional GOP could no longer ignore the rising tide of the Blue Wave – like water racing out to sea ahead of a tsunami. As word from panicked district offices reached Washington that the Blue Wave was real, Congressman Bishop, recognizing his state's love and enjoyment of the outdoors, made peace with his Tea Party roots and began work with Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva to craft an agreement on the Land and Water Conservation Fund that would become the backbone upon which the 2019 public lands bill was built.
The election of a Democratic House in November provided the needed sea change, and began to loosen up the conservation front in the Senate. Since the new year, some GOP politicians have even dared to address the Climate Crisis, and Senate Democrats who ordinarily may have looked elsewhere for actionable policy took the lead on introducing new public lands legislation. With some gentle nudges from the conservation movement, the backlog of bills found new sponsors and bipartisan eagerness, and things began to move forward. The public lands bill passed the Senate on Feb. 13, and the House on Feb. 26. President Trump signed it on Tuesday.
Now, don't be fooled. The bad old days of shrinking National Monument boundaries and warping the mission of agencies like the Department of the Interior and the EPA into destructive tools benefiting polluters by the Trump administration are still with us. But the package of public lands bills signed by the president is so thorough and so far-reaching it not only preserves 400,000 acres of federal public land in California in National Park additions and new Wilderness areas, it permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund. That, in of itself, is epochal good news in this age of environmental rollbacks.
But for our environmental advocates who brought these initiatives and bills over the finish line, whose hours of sacrifice and time away from families made this possible – they will be back at it tomorrow. Because preservation doesn't end with one success. We must play defense on one hand and continue to preserve the bounty of Redwoods, Sequoias, wild beaches, canyons, mountaintops, glaciers and grassland passed on to us from previous generations. And there is so much yet to preserve in our nation and elsewhere for ourselves, for others, and those who will come after us.
The Natural Resources Management Act of 2019 is a worthy addition to America's conservation heritage. Now lace up your boots, grab a map, and explore our public lands.
Natural Resources Management Act of 2019 (Senate Bill 47)
What a prize this package is for conservation. In the Golden State alone, the California Desert Protection and Recreation Act expands Death Valley National Park by 35,292 acres, and Joshua Tree National Park by 4,543 acres. The seldom-visited but must-be-experienced Mojave National Preserve receives a comparatively smaller addition of 25 acres, while 87,999 acres (!) will be added to Death Valley National Park to be managed as Wilderness by the National Park Service.
As my friend David Lamfrom, California desert and national wildlife director with the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), explained on my Treehuggers International show at the time of the rollout of Sen. Dianne Feinstein's California Desert Protection Act of 2010, the preservation of our desert wilderness not only retains intact ecosystems, but ensures continuity of wildlife corridors and the "very best of what remains."
The act establishes five new Wilderness areas on BLM-managed public land, totaling 207,300 acres:
The act also expands five existing Wilderness areas on U.S. Forest Service and BLM-managed lands by a total of 81,011 acres, including the legendary high country of the San Bernardino Mountains in the San Gorgonio Wilderness, one of the original Wilderness areas established by the Wilderness Act of 1964:
Over 77 miles of newly-protected National Wild and Scenic Rivers are included in the newly-signed package, including Surprise Canyon Creek just west of Death Valley and Deep Creek in the high country of the San Bernardino Mountains:
In addition, the California Desert Protection and Recreation Act establishes the Alabama Hills National Scenic Area in the Owens Valley. A popular camping destination and frequent filming location for Hollywood westerns and car commercials at the base of the eastern Sierra Nevada, the Alabama Hills are made up of strangely-shaped, windblown rock formations, and are plainly seen from U.S. 395 just west of Lone Pine and Independence in Inyo County. The area has been in need of greater ecological protection and recreation management for decades.
Also established is the long-awaited Desert Tortoise Conservation Center, which will most likely be located along the border of California and Nevada in the midst of desert tortoise habitat. The center will provide care to the long-living but threatened species, especially tortoises rescued or collected from development or renewable energy sites on federal land. The center will also support rehabilitation efforts and continued research on the tortoises' tragic condition of inheriting a virus during human contact that prevents them from safely returning to the wild.
Here in San Diego County, the bill transfers 934 acres of BLM-managed land to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, already the largest state park in California, to be managed as Wilderness under state guidelines.
Not only is the sanctity of wildlife corridors between large conservation areas like Wilderness or National Parks ensured with the passage of this public lands bill, but it also requires the BLM to assess the impacts of habitat fragmentation, and establish policies and procedures to ensure the preservation of wildlife corridors within two years.
It Doesn't End Here
Despite signing the Natural Resources Management Act of 2019 into law, the 45th president is, of course, no friend of the environment. From undoing National Monuments to ending required fuel efficiency standards for cars to enabling polluters to dump poison and toxins into America's rivers and waterways, the Trump administration has a great deal to answer for in this life, and the next. The damage and utter subversion Ryan Zinke and Scott Pruitt let loose upon their respective agencies at the Interior Department and EPA at the behest of polluters and the resource extraction industry should be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted by Congress.
And as if to provide a reminder his administration is the most virulently anti-conservation, anti-environmental in U.S. history, and as if to remind Americans that he cannot bear to sign desired and effective policy into law that literally brought together a historically divided Congress without some kind of pointlessly self-serving last word, Trump announced during the signing ceremony he had removed nearly all the money from the Natural Resources Management Act's most popular component – the restoration of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Of course, Congress has the last say on that. So let your elected officials know the LWCF needs to be funded and utilized now.
Photo by Tommy Hough.
By Fred Rogers
With only a few days to go before the California Democratic Party returns to San Diego for its annual convention for the first time since 2012, San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action were thrilled to welcome Senate Pro Tem Kevin De León for a special club meeting at the Machinists Hall in Kearny Mesa.
We were also happy to welcome back San Diego City Councilmember Georgette Gómez, who was our endorsed candidate in the 2016 San Diego City Council D-9 race, and who introduced Sen. De León. And not only is the newly-minted U.S. Senate candidate a big supporter of the environment, Kevin De León is also a San Diego native. Thanks to everyone for their photo submissions.
With that, this blog marks my final entry as acting president of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action, as the club officially welcomes a new president to take over from co-founder and original president Tommy Hough, who is now the club's endorsed candidate in the San Diego City Council D-6 race.
Please welcome new San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action president Cody Petterson, V.P. for programs and outreach Sara Kent, fundraiser Micah Perlin and board member at-large Joe LaCava as part of our line-up of new club officers:
Cody Petterson, president
Sara Kent, vice president for programs and outreach
Fred Rogers, vice president for political action
Brian Elliott, vice president for policy
Alex Kiwan, membership
Brett Fisher, treasurer
Micah Perlin, fundraising
Cara Furio, secretary
Richard Ram, communications
Joe LaCava, board member at-large
Tommy Hough, ex-oficio (immediate past president)
By Fred Rogers
Thanks once again to all of our club members for taking time out of their weekend to join us at the IAM Local 1125 Machinists Hall in Kearny Mesa to help us selected another outstanding group of newly-endorsed environmental Democrats. Congratulations go to:
A big thanks once again to Council of Clubs pesident John Loughlin for providing the club with photos of candidates and meeting attendees from throughout the day.
By Fred Rogers
Congratulations to incumbent Assemblymember and AB-805 hero Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (AD-80), and candidates Sunday Gover (AD-77), Ammar Campa-Najjar (CA-50) and Marggie Castellano (SD-36) on winning club endorsements at the San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action endorsement meeting at the Machinists Hall in Kearny Mesa on Jan 6.
Jordan Beane, Dr. Jennifer Campbell and Bryan Pease were rated Acceptable by club members in the San Diego City Council District 2 (D-2) race. No endorsement was issued in Assembly District 76 (AD-76) between Tasha Boerner Horvath, Michelle Cassel Gomez and Elizabeth Warren.
A big thanks once again to Council of Clubs president John Loughlin for providing the club with photos of candidates and meeting attendees from throughout the day.
By Tommy Hough
When I entered the race for San Diego City Council District 6 in October, I knew I would have to step down as president of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action because of the time needed to run an effective campaign, and to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest. It is appropriate to do so.
I am so proud to have co-founded this club three-and-a-half years ago, and I did so with immeasurable help from friends and fellow board members Fred Rogers and Cara Furio, and our two other original board members, Lori Kern and Kathleen Connell. In that time we've welcomed aboard Brian Elliott, Brett Fisher, Richard Ram and Alex Kiwan to our executive board.
I'm thankful to have met and welcomed so many great Democrats, environmentalists, community leaders and engaged San Diegans – and I'm excited to see where this club goes and what happens next.
This is a great opportunity for San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action to fulfill what I believe is its role as a clearinghouse for environmental issues within the San Diego County Democratic Party, and to serve a cross between a political action entity and an environmental non-profit.
I've always been a Democrat, and as long as I can remember – going back to my days first experiencing the wild in the Laurel Highlands of Western Pennsylvania and the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia – I've always been an environmentalist. I've had a variety of personal and professional environmental endeavors, from Surfrider to Oregon Wild to my Treehuggers International show, but serving as president of this club has been the most rewarding and satisfying of any of those experiences. I'm so proud of what this club has been able to achieve and what we've accomplished. And there's so much ahead of us.
We've gone from 20 original members in a hot and stuffy room at the county party office to over 370 members today – one of the biggest affinity clubs in the county party, and the only affinity club in any county Democratic party in the state focused solely on the environment other than Sacramento County.
Today, our candidates and elected officials don't mention the environment anymore out of a sense of obligation – they mention it because we are here, because we have carved out and staked a claim for our planet in our party – and you a part of that. You're part of something very special in San Diego, and every person here tonight has had a role in our club's success and what it can continue to do.
I see an incredible opportunity with the new club members and e-board members we've ushered into the fold tonight, and I know we are well-equipped to go to the next level. We're just getting started.
So tonight, I am stepping down as president of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action. I didn't plan on stepping down so soon, but I will always have the Enviro. Dems.' back and consider this my home club, and I'm pleased to announce that my wife Cory and I are the club's newest patron members.
And no matter how awful the news is today – and it's bad – with the administration's abandonment of the Paris Climate Accord, yearlong wildfires and rising sea levels, our National Monuments defiled and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge threatened, I tell you, THIS is not the end of the story. The end has yet to be written, and it's up to us, and you, to visualize and take the action in our club's name to make that happen.
Here's to soaring Redwoods and Sequoias, clean water, energy choice and saving our planet's climate and old-growth from ourselves.
Here's to the hope that all animals will live lives free of burden and cruelty, from the snail to the eagle, and that our wildlife truly have the room they need to roam and be free.
Here's to wilderness for all, from desert basins to the summits of the Sierras to our miles of coast. And here's to ridges and meadows ripe for wandering, room to explore, and time to connect with each other and the better vibrations of our home planet.
My friends, we will write the ending. Thank you for the last three-and-a-half years of allowing me to serve as your president.
I am, as always, environmentally yours.
Resolution in Opposition to Proposed Admission Fee Increases at National Parks and National Park Service Sites
Submitted by Tommy Hough, president of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action
Adopted by San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action on 12/13/17.
WHEREAS, the U.S. Department of the Interior, at the behest of the Trump Administration, has suddenly and without any precedent or public input proposed raising admission rates for National Parks and National Park Service (NPS) sites as high as $70 per vehicle to ostensibly pay for decades of negligently deferred maintenance and planned improvements to parks instead of making any effort to access the general fund or utilize other appropriate funding avenues, and with the burden of the higher rates falling on working Americans
WHEREAS, National Parks and other NPS sites are intended to be accessible to Americans of all economic levels so they may see, enjoy and come to understand the nation's most extraordinary natural formations and locales in their most wild, primitive state in which man is only a visitor, and gain an appreciation for conservation and the value of America's natural heritage in the process
WHEREAS, the Interior Department is already working in tandem with resource extraction interests and fossil fuel corporations in subverting the integrity of National Monuments, many of which are managed by the NPS, in order to roll back boundaries to enable mining, drilling and fracking, thereby weakening America's heritage of conservation and protection of wilderness, special places and important cultural sites
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action strongly supports keeping admission fees for National Parks at current levels so parks do not suffer from lost attendance and become a playground for the rich only, thereby giving the Trump administration fodder to further erode the standard of protection National Parks and related NPS sites extend to America's special places, protected over the course of a century for the good of the American psyche and in the best interests of recreation and ecological conservation.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this resolution shall be distributed to all of San Diego County's U.S. congressional representatives and California's two U.S. senators, so that they may pressure the Trump administration, in conjunction with their congressional colleagues, to keep entrance rates at reasonable levels and to utilize alternate and available sources for funding the NPS and addressing decades of backlogged maintenance in our federal parks.
Submit your comment to the National Park Service here.
Download a document of the resolution here.
Photo by Tommy Hough
By Tommy Hough
The Cadiz Water Project is a decades-long scheme to drain an aquifer located beneath the Cadiz Valley in Mojave Trails National Monument, in order to pump water to coastal Southern California so Orange County residents can water their lawns.
Given the current subversion of our government, from the nihilism of the 115th Congress to the sheer ignorance and greed of the Trump Administration, it will come as no surprise that a former Cadiz Inc. lobbyist named David Bernhardt is now the second-in-command at the Interior Department behind Secretary Ryan Zinke, who himself has already carved out a record as the worst Interior chief in our nation's history in less than a year on the job.
Environmental organizations didn't take kindly to Bernhardt's appointment, in part because of his role at Interior a dozen years ago during the first term of George W. Bush. At that time, Bernhardt served as Interior's solicitor general under Secretary Gale Norton (another one of our worst Interior chiefs), and wrote a now-dismissed legal opinion that would've made it easier for the Interior Department to dismiss endangered species recommendations.
Along with loading federal agencies with idiot savant surrogates and destructive minions like Berhardt and Zinke, the Trump administration has done two specific things in order to facilitate the Cadiz Water Project.
One, in local conjunction with Congressman Paul Cook of Yucca Valley, they've recommended reducing the boundaries of dozens of long-standing National Monuments around the nation in order to create the precedent to change the boundaries of Mojave Trails National Monument in San Bernardino County in order to access the Cadiz Valley and get at the aquifer.
Two, the Trump Administration has re-written federal right-of-way railroad laws in order to facilitate the project so "red tape" that would otherwise slow the approval of the water pipeline across federal land – in part because water infrastructure doesn't "further a railroad purpose" – would no longer apply.
Fortunately, San Bernardino County is located in California, and the State Lands Commission gets a say because the pipeline would cross state education lands set aside in 1857 by the federal government in the interest of the-then new state of California.
The commission has already determined a lease to cross state lands will require additional environmental review, and that will likely trigger a public process. That's good, and it demonstrates how poorly the Interior Department's original environmental review was, because they didn't even have the right land agency and land ownership indicated in their materials.
The shame is that legislation could've been passed to prevent this. AB 1000 would've stopped the Cadiz project, but unfortunately, even though it was signed off by Governor Brown and nearly every Democrat in the legislature, it was held up by none other than Sen. Kevin DeLeón, who has otherwise been a solid environmental champion. DeLeón allowed the bill to die in committee in September, before announcing his intent to challenge fellow Democrat Dianne Feinstein for her incumbent U.S. Senate seat.
According to Bettina Boxall in the Los Angeles Times, in June "Cadiz donated $5,000 to a DeLeón campaign fund, according to state records. Cadiz and [Cadiz Inc. founder Keith] Brackpool, a long-time friend of former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, have together contributed nearly $85,000 to Villaraigosa's gubernatorial campaign."
From the environmentalists I've spoken with, state lawmakers can take the case of AB 1000 back up in January, and the Trump Administration still has the State Lands Commission to deal with. How voters opt to handle Sen. DeLeón's role in killing AB 1000 is another matter.
Photos by Chris Clarke (top) and David Lamfrom (bottom).
"On our trips to the Arctic Wildlife Range we saw clearly it was not a place for mass recreation. It takes a lot of territory to keep this living wilderness alive, for scientific observation and aesthetic inspiration. The Far North is a fragile place." – Arctic explorer Olaus Murie, 1963
By Tommy Hough
American conservation suffered a devastating blow Thursday, as the Senate voted to "raise revenue" by authorizing wholly unneeded and unnecessary oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in northeast Alaska, passed as part a sneaky provision included in the overall federal budget for the upcoming fiscal year. There is no reason to expect Mr. Trump will not sign it when it reaches his desk.
Not since the decision to build Hetch Hetchy Dam in Yosemite National Park has such a significant component of America's environmental identity been undone with such sudden, cowardly severity. We've lost the Arctic, and we lost it on our watch.
An amendment to pull Arctic drilling from the budget was offered by Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington, but the vote failed almost entirely on party lines 52-48, with the exception of Republican Susan Collins of Maine, who voted for the amendment, while Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia voted against it.
The largest National Wildlife Refuge in the country, there has been a long and lengthy campaign to preserve ANWR – one of America's last, great, intact, pristine wildernesses – and it's now going to be opened to drilling without even the kind of national discussion we're having on other issues, like guns, Puerto Rico, kneeling for the National Anthem at sports events, and the usual horrible things uttered by the president on a daily, even hourly basis.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was first set aside by President Eisenhower in 1960, and later expanded by President Carter in 1980 with the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which designated eight million acres of the refuge, or just over one-third, as Wilderness – the gold standard of American conservation.
Interestingly, the refuge was preserved with the intention of only opening it up for drilling if the nation suddenly found itself in a severe oil shortage, as was the concern in 1980 when the nation was still on the heels of the 1979 Energy Crisis.
Of course, in 2017, we're in the midst of an oil glut. Oil is cheaper now that it used to be, in part because of natural gas and renewables, but oil companies have been desperate to pry the Arctic open for decades, despite the clear, present and criminally obvious danger such activity poses to the region's sensitive, Arctic environment.
Every Alaska politician going back to Ted Stevens has wanted to open ANWR to oil drilling, and while there was some concern that Lisa Murkowski would use the political capital she earned by voting against repeated Obamacare repeals to earn Democratic support for drilling, other than Joe Manchin the Democratic bloc held firm. They should be thanked and applauded for doing so. We need more of them in the Senate.
With today's Senate vote, conservationists have lost a decades-long fight in the blink of an eye, and we stand to lose an enormous area of habitat and fragile ecosystem that affects land and water, as well as native Alaskans. We cannot continue to have our long-standing, public land conservation icons and landmarks picked off one by one by a Congress devoid of pride or honor, and who will not have to live with the consequences of the rising sea levels and global warming which they themselves are enabling.
In the Senate, we are only a few votes away from consolidating our natural heritage and protecting it as it has been protected for decades – our Wilderness areas, our National Parks, our National Monuments – but that threshold seems very far away on days like this.
When we say call your senators or your congressmen, or when we say something is all-hands on deck or a full court press, we're not crying wolf. You may have friends or family in other states with other senators than those we can rely upon in California. Utilize those relations and networks to call their senators, Democrat and Republican alike. In the fight against a Republican party that, through their repeated actions, votes and rhetoric, abhors any notion of conservation of our natural heritage, we cannot be islands. We must be the change our environment so desperately needs, again and again.
Thank you to club member Michelle de Nicola for sharing a blog she wrote on our Green Blog page, and if you'd like to learn more or see photos of ANWR as the spectacular wilderness it is – and what may soon pass into myth – check out photos of the region from conservation photographers like Florian Schulz and Amy Gulick, or the photo archives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Photos by Steve Chase / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The blog component of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action welcomes content from SDCDEA members, guests and leadership.