On behalf of Audubon California Policy Team, we would like to extend a sincere “thank you” to all of our chapter network members who participated in our first ever Virtual Advocacy Day.
This was a unique and collaborative effort of the Audubon California network where together, we demonstrated that we could still advocate successfully and meaningfully while doing our part to keep our membership safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For example, nearly 400 chapter members registered for our Virtual Advocacy Day – nearly three times the average registration rate. In our four-part webinar series we reached hundreds of viewers which lead to nearly 50 meetings with state representatives in every major region of California. Additionally, for the three digital action alerts sent during the build-up to Advocacy Day we recorded over 16,000 engagements!
Victories in the State Budget and Legislature
This year, the COVID-19 pandemic offered unprecedented challenges for environmental advocates. Not only were we faced economic recession that threatened dire budget cuts to essential environmental programs but the state legislature also was on recess to prevent spread of the coronavirus which in turn, significantly altered the regular legislative timeline.
Nevertheless, Audubon’s network has again proven that our advocacy make a positive impact for birds and communities. We’ve continued to hold firm in our belief that California must continue its leadership on clean water, clean air, and climate policy to the fullest extent appropriate and practicable during these crises.
In order to protect California’s ecosystem and communities, environmental programs must stay adequately funded. To this end, our Advocacy focused on several agencies that provide integral environmental protection services to birds and communities. Highlights of these departments and victories include:
- Department of Water Resources
- This year’s state budget includes $9.6 million allocation and 37 positions to further develop the states Sustainable Groundwater Management Program. Successful implementation of these plans will provide multiple benefits for community drinking water resources and for habitat, particularly managed wetlands that support both native and migrating species.
- Additionally, California is allocating $19.3 million to address the air quality and habitat restoration goals in the Salton Sea through the North Lake Pilot Project.
- Department of Fish and Wildlife
- The state budget rejects baseline funding cuts and instead is investing $23.4 million to existing programs and additional funding to implement mandates in recent legislation.
- State Parks
- Access to green space for Californians of all backgrounds is a key priority for Audubon California. This year we entered with the request to reject $30 million General Fund cut to Parks that is proposed a base line cut to state programs. The approved budget increases funding to state parks including $20 million to establish the Outdoor Equity Grands Program which will support underserved populations to participate in outdoor environmental education. Furthermore, California is also allocating $5 million from the General Fund to support the establishment of a new state park.
Audubon California’s sponsored bill, AB 3030 presents an unparalleled opportunity to address habitat restoration, and equitable community access to green spaces in California. Authored by Assemblymember Ash Kalra, this bill will create a state goal of conserving 30% of our lands and waters to support natural climate solutions, which are improvements in how we protect and manage land to use nature to capture carbon, reduce emissions, and create more habitat for wildlife.
In mid-June AB 3030 cleared the California Assembly and will begin a round of committee hearings in mid-July. If the bill passes the remaining committees and floor vote, Governor Newsom will have to sign the bill be the end of August to officially become law.
Still Much Work to Do
While we take a break to celebrate our hard-fought victories, we look toward the remainder of the legislative session. Audubon California will continue to monitor legislation with the potential to harm vulnerable birds and neighborhoods while championing the policy suited need to protect and enhance the quality of life for vulnerable birds and neighborhoods.
Stay tuned for more updates and opportunities to engage!