Skip to comments.Death of the environmental movement?
Posted on 12/06/2004 7:24:40 AM PST by ZGuy
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One day, I would like to have an "earthship" home. I like the designs. I like reusing materials. Mostly, I like the idea of not having to pay, monthly, for heating, lighting and trash trucks.
The environmental movement has always been dead from the neck up. Maybe scum rots from the head down, same as fish.
We should BE so lucky. ...but I doubt that it's even close to time for breaking out the champagne.
Sadly, by my count, logic and reason are still WAY behind radical environmentalism nationally, much less in THIS left-coast state, and very little was done to address the problem of a left-leaning judiciary (which continually panders to the eco-idiots), during Bush's first four years.
Do we have any cause for hope that things will change any time soon?
In light of the recent elections, a lot of environmentalists and other progressives are asking, "What went wrong?" Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus believe they have the answer. And I think they're on to something.
The Death of Environmentalism, their recently published paper (download from The Breakthrough Institute), is a compelling indictment of the modern environmental movement from two of its own. The paper was published a few weeks before the election, but subsequent events have made its call to action more timely than ever.
In their treatise, they argue that "modern environmentalism is no longer capable of dealing with the world's most serious ecological crisis." The reasons are many and varied, and their readable 35-page paper lays them out well. In short, the problem is that today's environmental leaders are addressing tomorrow's problems with yesterday's tools: regulatory and policy fixes. And because serious global problems like climate change and the looming water crisis have been narrowly defined as "environmental," their equally narrow solutions are easy to marginalize and dismiss by conservatives, cynics, and other nonbelievers.
Shellenberger and Nordhaus suggest that the time is ripe for U.S. environmental leaders to "take a collective step back to rethink everything." Specifically: how to reframe issues and build coalitions around big ideas and values, not specific programs, much as the conservative movement has done over the past 40 years. To do this will require moving beyond pure environmentalism to join forces with civil rights, labor, and progressive businesses -- all of whom stand to lose by the current rightward leaning of the electorate, and all of whom stand to gain by a well-thought-out effort to recast climate change and other issues beyond that of planetary doom and gloom.
Not surprisingly, Shellenberger and Nordhaus have a solution: the Apollo Alliance (which Shellenberger and others formed earlier this year), a coalition within the labor, environmental, business, urban, and faith communities "in support of good jobs and energy independence."
Self-serving, perhaps, but earnest. The Death of Environmentalism offers an intriguing view of what's wrong . . . and what's possible. Companies, nonprofits, and others would do well to read it and join in on the debate about how to create an innovative, compelling, and effective strategy for transforming the national conversation about the what, up to now, has been referred to as "the environment."
The 85-acre slough had come up for sale when the owner went bankrupt. While relatively small, the parcel contained a prime example of riparian oak forest, a type of landscape rapidly vanishing from California.
Biologists for the conservancy were dispatched to check it out.
"They came back with stories of a wild river, sandhill cranes, salmon in the river," said the conservancy's Mike Eaton.
The idea of creating a sizable wetlands and woodlands preserve along the Cosumnes, the last undammed river flowing from the Sierra to the Central Valley, "quickly rose to prominence within The Nature Conservancy," Eaton said.
That kernel of land since has grown to 46,163 acres south and east of Elk Grove, land permanently protected from development as part of the conservancy's Cosumnes River Preserve.
Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, the preserve functions as a key link on the Pacific Flyway, providing shelter and food for myriad species of migrating waterfowl, including sandhill cranes.
"The future still has a lot of risk for the cranes, the Swainson's hawk and the chinook salmon, but their prospects are a lot better than they were 20 years ago," Eaton said.
The Cosumnes River Preserve is the most sizable local example of a growing phenomenon in which private land trusts - both local and national in scope - are taking on more responsibility for purchasing and managing open space and recreation lands, a task once largely shouldered by government.
Assembled with help from a variety of public and private entities, including Sacramento County and the federal Bureau of Land Management, the Cosumnes River Preserve is more than nine times the size of the American River Parkway, long considered Sacramento's open space jewel.
Its expanse takes in wetlands and rice fields near Galt, as well as an entire island in the Delta and easements on a cattle ranch near Rancho Seco. Only a small portion of the property is accessible to the public.
With government budgets tightening, private groups such as The Nature Conservancy are expected to play an even larger role in protecting open space in coming years.
"Due to lack of funding, it has become increasingly difficult for government to steward these projects," said Jill Ritzman, deputy director of Sacramento County parks. "These nonprofits are very efficient."
Private land trusts come in all sizes. The Nature Conservancy, based in Arlington, Va., is an ecological powerhouse with nearly 117 million acres in its worldwide portfolio. But locally grown land trusts also have stepped up to protect rural land from urban and suburban growth. New land trusts are forming at the rate of two every week, with most of that growth in the West, according to the Land Trust Alliance in Washington, D.C.
In the Sacramento region, the Sacramento Valley Conservancy in 2003 cobbled together $11.4 million from various public and private sources to purchase the 4,060-acre Deer Creek Hills property in eastern Sacramento County. The conservancy also has protected an additional 1,415 acres in the county, including a sizable vernal pool preserve.
In Yolo County, the Yolo Land Trust has placed conservation easements on more than 3,500 acres of land, ensuring they will remain in farming.
A 2004 report issued by Valley Vision, a Sacramento nonprofit that advocates regional planning, found that land trusts have protected 61,137 acres in the region.
Some of this land was set aside as part of state and federal requirements that developers provide acreage to replace natural habitat lost to new subdivisions. The Natomas Basin Conservancy has preserved thousands of acres this way.
The Placer Land Trust, which has preserved about 200 acres of farmland, woodlands and wetlands, could see its holdings increase dramatically as a result of Roseville's planned expansion. The city designated the nonprofit group as the recipient of as much as $85 million in developer fees to buy vernal pools and grasslands.
Aimee Rutledge, executive director of the Sacramento Valley Conservancy, said land trusts often can pursue deals more quickly than government agencies, an important consideration in a region where development consumes thousands of acres every year. Rutledge said she feels a sense of urgency to move fast.
"I feel like we have this short window of opportunity on the private, nonprofit side. The start line is when people begin to realize we're losing a lot of what we have and the finish line is when it's all developed."
The concept of having private land trusts acquire open space is not new, although the pace of acquisitions has accelerated. In the past, private groups often raised money for land acquisition, then turned the property over to government to manage.
But these days, government agencies often don't have the resources to hire rangers or maintain new trails. Under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the state has said it will refuse to take possession of some new park lands, to avoid increased operating expenses.
Increasingly, land trusts are left to manage properties themselves, often relying on volunteer power.
The Sacramento Valley Conservancy, for example, has trained 20 docents to lead hikes of Deer Creek Hills; the group is trying to raise about $200,000 to complete work on a management plan for the property.
Deer Creek Hills is owned partially by Sacramento County, which contributed $3.7 million in state bond funds toward its acquisition. But it's unclear what role the county will play in managing or maintaining the oak woodland.
If the Sacramento Valley Conservancy remains in charge, it will need to find other funding sources before it can afford to open dawn-to-dusk trails for hiking. For the time being, access is limited to docent-led tours.
Finding money to buy land is generally easier than finding money to maintain it or open it up for public access. California voters have passed numerous parks bonds that can be tapped for purchases but can't be used for operations.
And large private donors tend to gravitate toward fund raising aimed at protecting a particular forest, mountain or stretch of coastline. "It's much more sexy to allocate money to a thing, a piece of land, some pretty trees, as opposed to the lights in the parking lot or the restrooms," Eaton said.
As an international organization with donations from around the country, The Nature Conservancy is in a better position than smaller nonprofits to manage its lands and provide recreation.
"We're able to distribute resources to areas that need them, even when funds aren't available locally," Eaton said.
The Cosumnes River Preserve has a visitors center and four miles of public trails. About 50,000 people visit each year. The preserve employs 10 people who perform duties ranging from volunteer outreach to weed science. One is paid by Sacramento County, three by the federal Bureau of Land Management and six by The Nature Conservancy.
At this point, other local preserves can only dream of such resources. The 6,000-acre Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is open to the public two Saturdays a month.
"We'd like to be providing more," said preserve manager Tom Harvey. "The main limitation is the availability of staff and infrastructure."
Rutledge and Eaton both serve on a citizens group looking at ways to raise money for open space management in Sacramento County. One possibility would be an open space district, in which voters approve a special property tax assessment.
Such districts have proved important funding sources for open space in Northern California. The Solano Land Trust, for instance, relies on assessment districts in Fairfield and Solano County for two-thirds of its operating budget.
"It costs money to preserve open space and the community has to be willing to step up," Rutledge said. "It means preserving it as well as buying it. "
As promised...eye opening link!
Aunt B and Farmfriend, while I'm giving out free information, thought perhaps you to would have some better information to pass on to KC?
Years ago, I used to think environmentalists buying up land themselves was a better idea than having the taxpayers do it. Then at least private property rights could be maintained. However, when armed with wetlands law, EPA, endangered species act, and clean water act, these "purchases" are enabled at much lower cost. It is time to over turn the maize of environmental laws and put the land back into the owner's hands.
When I read about Bruce Willis haveing to return an island in a lake on his property I was incensed. PS. In conjunction with partners I own some redwood forested land in northern California, we have successfully conducted a thinning harvest but were lucky. The spotted owl was nesting far enough away to allow us to carry out our plans. But we still can't go near the river and clear brush and plant grass.
The only way to end it is to destroy the government schools, kids are preached that garbage day after day.
Don't ever count the Sierra Club out. Years ago the chairman stated that their desired end result was to eliminate all humans west of the Rockies.
You would be surprised how much damage black bears do to trees. I would much rather see a black bear rug in my trailer than try to clean and cook a spotted owl. (Lets see, they taste a lot like ...)
You are right about forests taking work. I'm just a retired engineer/teacher, but my partners in this little property are foresters. They are continually walking the property, monitoring the crop trees and non-crop trees that provide the much needed nitrogen. Id'ing trees for thinning, (trees that won't grow to maturity or that are blocking other trees from the sun).
We love this little undeveloped piece of heaven, and even though the highest and best use is probably one to two acre housing tracts (it is along a major highway), we will probably keep most of it out of development and used it for annual camping and a place we can sharpen the shooting eye.
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