AB 3030 would set a state policy that helps protect California’s lands, waters and oceans, while also ensuring that everyone benefits from these efforts.
By Drevet Hunt, Special to CalMatters
Drevet Hunt is a senior attorney at Natural Resources Defense Council, a sponsor of Assembly Bill 3030, email@example.com.
Just because you say it, doesn’t make it true. Assembly Bill 3030 does not restrict fishing or hunting access, even though that’s what opposition material would have you believe. Instead, this timely bill brings together the important goals of protecting and conserving biodiversity and increasing opportunities for access to nature for all.
A basic reading of the plain language in the bill reveals there is no mandate to close fisheries. Instead, AB 3030 includes an affirmative requirement to improve access for recreational fishing and hunting, and is silent on commercial activities.
Read AB 3030’s definition of protection. It does not prohibit recreational or commercial fishing. It specifically requires that for an area to be “counted” as part of the 30% goal, it must be managed with enduring measures that provide for thriving biodiversity, contribute to climate resilience, and provide ecosystem services. Fishing could be allowed in areas that meet these criteria.
AB 3030, introduced by Assemblymember Ash Kalra, a San Jose Democrat, builds on California’s leadership on coastal and ocean conservation. The bill expressly acknowledges that “(h)istorically, California has been a leader in conservation working with stakeholders to develop exemplary programs and regulations that support and protect biodiversity in marine and terrestrial environments in California.” The opposition conveniently ignores this language even though it was included in the bill at their request.
Finally, in a direct response to the fishing community, AB 3030 clarifies that the 30% goal for ocean waters is not a goal to protect 30% of California’s state oceans – rather it is a broader national goal that could be met without affecting a single square inch of ocean off California’s coast.
Opponents to AB 3030 miss what this bill really stands for: Increasing access to natural areas for all, as California leads efforts to reverse the extinction crisis. With AB 3030 California can show the world that biodiversity conservation provides benefits for everyone and that we can correct previous wrongs in which communities of color and disadvantaged communities, who suffer the worst impacts from environmental injustices, can now benefit equitably in our efforts to protect nature.
This could not come at a more important time. As cities shut down and stay-at-home orders were implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Californians explored parks, hiking trails and beaches, to reap the physical, emotional and psychological benefits of being outdoors. What quickly became apparent as persons of color were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic is their limited access to nature.
A recent report notes communities of color in the U.S. are three times more likely than white communities to live in nature deprived neighborhoods. In California, 62% of people of color are more likely to reside in a community that lacks green space.
Exacerbating the problem is the rapid loss of natural areas in California and throughout the U.S., largely due to human activity such as mining, deforestation, and oil and gas development. In a 2019 report, the United Nations warned that our ecosystems are on the verge of collapse, jeopardizing the air, water and food systems all of us rely on.
California is at a critical juncture as marginalized communities lack access to nature and as wildlife continues to decline. The energy around a renewed conservation movement is palpable and now is the time for California to show leadership in protecting nature in a big and bold way.
As we continue battling COVID-19, individuals will continually seek solace in the outdoors, and it’s up to California to ensure these natural spaces are easily accessible and welcoming to all. AB 3030 would set a state policy that helps protect California’s lands, waters and oceans for future generations, while also ensuring that everyone, not just the privileged, benefits from these efforts.