News and notes about birds and conservation in California
California Condor. Photo: Scott Frier/USFWS
As the Environmental Protection Agency signals its intent to roll back fuel standards for new vehicles, California officials are warning that any attempt to restrict its ability to set vehicle emissions standards will be met with fierce legal opposition:
Any decision to revoke California's federal waiver could spur a major legal fight, and the state has already retained former U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. The state will "vigorously participate and defend ourselves" on setting the state's own air quality rules, California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols said.
Automakers reportedly are pressuring the EPA to begin the process of limiting California's ability to set its own standards, which are widely adopted by other states, as well.
Audubon has made it a priority to ensure that our movement has a place for everyone, but we still have a way to go to make sure that everyone feels welcome. This recent article in Outside Magazine really hits the nail on the head, and even quotes Audubon President David Yarnold making this point:
"We need to operate differently, recruit differently, and hire differently. And to make that possible, we need to become the kinds of organizations that are truly open and inclusive, organizations in which people of all backgrounds see themselves represented, welcomed, and valued."
News of proposed budget cuts at the Environmental Protection Agency bode ill for conservation in San Francisco Bay and San Diego, as two major programs are on the chopping block.
In San Francisco Bay, the EPA looks to cut its entire $4.8 million budget for clean water and wetlands restoration programs. This is particularly bad news, as San Francisco Bay has never received a proportionate share of federal restoration funding.
Last year, residents of Bay Area communities approved Measure AA, which will raise about $500 million over the next 20 years for wetlands restoration. Leaders had intended to use this money to leverage greater investment from the federal government.
The EPA is also proposing to cut the $3 million it spent last year on cleaning up pollution in the Tijuana Estuary down to $275,000. This area is the last remaining large wetland in Southern California, and is an Important Bird Area. Endangered Ridgeways Rails and Light-footed Rails make great use of the area.
In addition to cuts specifically targeting California, we also learned of proposed cuts that will go into effect nationwide, but will certainly impact things we Californians care about, such as gutting programs that test coastal water quality, educate our children about nature, address climate change, and reduce pollution in communities suffering the most.
On his first day, Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke has rescinded the previous administration's effort to phase out the use of lead ammunition and lead fishing weights. Audubon California was a key partner in the effort to require nonlead ammunition for hunting in California because of the documented danger it posed to both people and birds. One bird is was particularly a danger for was the endangered California Condor. We had hoped that the federal requirement would be sustained and we're disappointed in this decision.
Here's the full statement from the National Audubon Society.
Our colleagues at Altacal Audubon Society originally called attention to the poaching of a rare Long-tailed Duck in Oroville earlier this year. In the wake of the incident, a number of questions are being asked about whether social media accounts of the sighting drew attention to the bird. Nevertheless, conservation and hunting organizations are condemning the action -- and working to figure out how this can be avoided in the future.
Humboldt Bay Harbor District OKs controversial oyster farming project. Reversing a decision from just a few weeks ago, the Humboldt Bay Harbor District last night approved a controversial proposal to expand oyster farming in the bay. Audubon California has opposed this project from the very beginning out of concern that the proposal jeopardizes the eelgrass beds and mudflats that make Humboldt Bay one of the most important places for migratory birds along the coast. Last night's decision was not the final step in the process, and we will be tracking developments carefully. Stay tuned ...
Restoring coastal sage scrub at the Audubon Starr Ranch Sanctuary. This is how you involve the community in protecting endangered and sensitive birds. Audubon Starr Ranch Junior Biologists recently gathered together to seed new coastal sage scrub on the sanctuary. These plantings by the road will not only help Coastal California Gnatcatchers and other native birds, but will also reduce the potential of fire spreading from vehicular traffic. Most fires spread from roadsides and travel fastest in the "flash" fuels comprised of dried grasses but less rapidly in shrub vegetation.
Audubon California News comes to your email inbox every month with updates on our activities throughout the state, as well as other important conservation news.