It’s been a busy year for Defenders’ California office, but the hard work has resulted in a huge payoff for the Golden State’s wild ones. Here’s a recap of some key state successes:
Sea otter fund saved
Sea otters are threatened with extinction, but thanks to Defenders, an important lifeline keeping these charismatic marine mammals afloat remains intact.
We helped lead the charge to reauthorize the California Sea Otter Fund, which has collected more than $1 million over the past five years in donations from California taxpayers for scientific research and sea otter conservation. The critical fund was set to expire at the year’s end unless the California Legislature acted fast.
Defenders worked with Assemblyman Bill Monning and the Monterey Bay Aquarium to sponsor legislation (AB 971) reauthorizing the tax check-off fund for up to another five years.
We promoted the program through newspaper, TV and radio interviews, and public service advertisements featuring Philippe Cousteau, which were broadcasted on the airwaves and World Wide Web. The result: Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law on Sept. 1.
That ought to keep otter fans everywhere smiling.
Shark-finning: A fading fad?
The brutal practice that sees millions of sharks killed solely for their fins each year may soon become a thing of the past–at least in California, the largest market for fins outside of Asia.
Hopefully, the fin ban (AB 376) will help to curb the growing appetite for shark fin soup, a traditional Chinese delicacy once enjoyed primarily by a small, privileged class that’s now become an international status symbol served up at special occasions such as weddings and business dinners.
What’s worse is that overfishing has caused some shark populations to plummet by as much as 99 percent, and many shark populations worldwide are in distress.
But beginning in the new year, the ban will come into effect in the Golden State, phasing out the selling and trading of fins over the next year and a half–making 2013 the year of the shark.
Harvesting the sun’s energy
There’s no more debate: Climate change is real and it’s happening in a big way. And experts agree that we must quickly transition to clean energy sources, such as the sun and wind, to avoid the worst impacts of a warming world on people and wildlife alike.
But renewable energy projects can also carry a high price tag for the environment if they’re not designed to avoid destroying habitat or harming imperiled wildlife, like desert tortoise or golden eagles.
That prompted Defenders and a coalition of conservation and agriculture groups to work together to pass a new law (SB 618) aiming to make it easier and less expensive for renewable-energy developers to build commercial-scale solar power plants on degraded farms.
The idea is to drive development away from sensitive habitat on public lands and prime agricultural lands–all the while, giving damaged croplands a second life as solar farms.