Environmental leader urges support for lawsuit against MLPA Initiative

author: 
Dan Bacher

"If successful, the United Anglers lawsuit will invalidate all Marine Protected Areas created by the illegal and corrupt process financed and run by the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation on California’s South Coast and North Central Coast, probably leading to the invalidation of Marine Protected Areas declared on the Central Coast and proposed for the North Coast," emphasized Lewallen.

Environmental leader urges support for lawsuit against MLPA Initiative

by Dan Bacher

John Lewallen, a longtime environmental leader on California's North Coast, is urging everybody concerned about true ocean protection in California waters to support the lawsuit by United Anglers of Southern California, the Coastside Fishing Club and Bob Fletcher against Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative.

"A California Superior Court lawsuit challenging the authority of the state to let the private Resources Legacy Fund Foundation operate a process of setting up Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in violation of the 1999 Marine Life Protection Act, the California Environmental Quality Act, the Coastal Act, and other state laws, deserves the support of all Californians," said Lewallen.

"United Anglers of Southern California, et.al., versus the California State Fish and Game Commission, has an excellent legal team which has won a string of victories, and is headed for a July 11 hearing to discuss the heart of the case: whether the state has operated under the proper authority to issue the regulations that it did," Lewallen stated.

In 2010, this legal team won a case establishing that the privatized Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF) had to follow public meeting laws, specifically the Public Records Act. BRTF public records clearly showed that routine illegal private meetings were held in the process of setting up Marine Protected Areas on the South Coast and North Central Coast.

A March 10, 2011 California Superior Court ruling required the BRTF to pay all legal fees incurred by the plaintiffs in the 2010 Public Records Act lawsuit.

Early this year, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Ocean Conservancy tried to intervene on the side of the Fish and Game Commission, according to Lewallen.

On May 27 this year, Judge Ronald S. Prager of San Diego Superior Court ruled that these foundation-funded corporations "have not established they have a direct and immediate interest in the outcome of the litigation."

"The brief our attorneys provided was exceptionally good," said Robert C. Fletcher, a party to the lawsuit. "The result is there will not be more attorneys involved and more money being thrown into the defense of this lawsuit."

"If successful, the United Anglers lawsuit will invalidate all Marine Protected Areas created by the illegal and corrupt process financed and run by the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation on California’s South Coast and North Central Coast, probably leading to the invalidation of Marine Protected Areas declared on the Central Coast and proposed for the North Coast," emphasized Lewallen.

Lewallen, the co-founder of the Ocean Protection Coalition and the North Coast Seaweed Rebellion, has been in the forefront of grass roots campaigns against oil drilling, the clear cutting of ancient forests, wave energy projects and military testing off the coast and other environmental battles for over three decades. Unlike some well-funded initiative advocates who support greenwashing under the privatized MLPA process, Lewallen sees the MLPA Initiative for what it truly is- a resource grab by corporate interests.

Lewallen is the author of "Ecology of Devastation: Indochina" (1971) and a handbook for environmental organizing on the North Coast (1975). He has written numerous articles on environmental issues for an array of publications since then.

"For news on this vital case, and to contribute to the excellent, but expensive, legal team defending public government in California, see http://www.OceanAccessProtectionFund.org," urged Lewallen. To contact John Lewallen, call (707) 895-2996 in Philo, California.

Point Arena summit kicked off campaign against corrupt MLPA Initiative

In June 2009, Lewallen and his wife, Barbara, organized the historic "Point Arena Sustainable Fisheries Tour" to kick off the campaign against the MLPA Initiative on the North and North Central Coasts. The summit featured talks by North Coast environmental leaders, including Judith Vidaver of the Ocean Protection Coalition and longtime salmon restoration advocate Craig Bell, as well as commercial fishermen, Native American activists, recreational anglers, seaweed harvesters and environmental justice advocates.

At the summit and many times since then, Lewallen criticized the key role that Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association and an ardent advocate of new oil drilling off the California coast, played in the MLPA process. Reheis-Boyd was chair of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast, as well as serving on the North Central Coast and North Coast Task Forces. Lewallen believes Reheis-Boyd's position as an "oil industry superstar" is a conflict of interest with her leadership role in developing so-called marine protected areas (MPAs).

"By setting up these no-take marine reserves and kicking fishermen, Indians, seaweed harvesters and other ocean food providers off traditional areas of the ocean, the Schwarzenegger administration is paving the way for offshore oil drilling," Lewallen said. "Twenty-three percent of the nation's offshore oil reserves are off the coast of California. The Point Arena Basin off Mendocino is on track now to be leased for drilling by the Mineral Management Services."

Ann Maurice, Sonoma County Native American activist, who has worked for years to stop state-imposed closures from taking away traditional ocean harvesting areas vital to the survival of Kashia and other Native cultures, gave her complete support to the Point Arena “Seaweed Rebellion" at the summit.

"Native Americans have been systematically deprived of the right to sustainably fish and harvest intertidal food," Maurice said at the event. "Now the same thing is being done to you. Make no mistake about it."

Yurok Tribe: Commission fails to recognize tribal rights

More recently, the California Fish and Game Commission accepted a "preferred alternative" on Wednesday, June 29 that "failed to affirm traditional tribal gathering" in the North Coast Study Region MLPA Initiative, according to a press release from the Yurok Tribe.

According to Option 1, tribal members would have to use a state fishing license in addition to a Tribal ID for those sixteen or older and be limited by state regulations.

“I cannot accept the part about the fishing license. The Fish and Game has taken an unjust and patronizing step,” said Yurok Tribal Chairman Thomas O’Rourke Sr. “No one can separate these resources from our culture.”

Option 1 states “tribal gathering to continue in SMCAs (not SMRs), by specific tribal users, where a factual record can be established that shows ancestral take or tribal gathering practices by a federally-recognized tribe in that specific MPA (marine protected area), and by allowing only those tribes to take specified species with specified gear types.”

The Northern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association and the Inter-Tribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council, which represent all of the recognized tribes in the study region, proposed a motion that would have affirmed traditional tribal harvest managed by individual Tribal governments.

The motion states: “Consistent with the tribal gathering general concepts described in Option 1…Traditional, non-commercial tribal uses shall be allowed to continue unimpeded within the proposed SMCAs and SMRMs in the MLPA’s North Coast Study Region for all federally recognized tribes that can establish that they have practiced such uses within a specific SMCA or SMRMA.”

For more information about the Yurok Tribe, please visit http://www.yuroktribe.org.

MLPA Initiative Background:

The Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) is a law, signed by Governor Gray Davis in 1999, designed to create a network of marine protected areas off the California Coast. However, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004 created the privately-funded MLPA "Initiative" to "implement" the law, effectively eviscerating the MLPA.

The "marine protected areas" created under the MLPA Initiative fail to protect the ocean from oil spills and drilling, water pollution, military testing, wave and wind energy projects, corporate aquaculture and all other uses of the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

The MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces that oversaw the implementation of "marine protected areas" included a big oil lobbyist, marina developer, real estate executive and other individuals with numerous conflicts of interest. Catherine Reheis Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association who is pushing for new oil drilling off the California coast, served as the chair of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast.

The MLPA Initiative operated through a controversial private/public "partnership funded by the shadowy Resources Legacy Fund Foundation. The Schwarzenegger administration, under intense criticism by grassroots environmentalists, fishermen and Tribal members, authorized the implementation of marine protected areas under the initiative through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the foundation and the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG).

Tribal members, fishermen, grassroots environmentalists, human rights advocates and civil liberties activists have slammed the MLPA Initiative for the violation of numerous state, federal and international laws. Critics charge that the initiative, privatized by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004, has violated the Bagley-Keene Open Meetings Act, Brown Act, California Administrative Procedures Act, American Indian Religious Freedom Act and UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

MLPA and state officials refused to appoint any tribal scientists to the MLPA Science Advisory Team (SAT), in spite of the fact that the Yurok Tribe alone has a Fisheries Department with over 70 staff members during the peak fishing season, including many scientists. The MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force also didn't include any tribal representatives until 2010 when one was finally appointed to the panel.

Barbara Stephens-Lewallen harvests the tips of sea palms on a low tide in Sea Lion Cove, an area where the Schwarzenegger administration banned sustainable seaweed harvesting and fishing. Photo by Dan Bacher.