Helping Wildlife Thrive in California

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A flurry of California environmental legislation introduced this year will push the state to recognize and address concerns raised by communities and activists alike. While there were some “wins” there have also been some stumbles along the path.

The consequences of unregulated rodenticides have long impacted our state. While we know that predator species like bobcats, coyotes, mountain lions and raptor species like red tailed hawks and owls are affected, we’ve ignored the problem of unregulated poisons because we fail to see the final results. An example of a species in serious jeopardy is the San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpus macrotis mutica). Weighing in between five and six pounds, this is the smallest fox in North America. Although it received state protections in 1971 due to increased agricultural expansion, rodenticides used by the agriculture industry continue to exact their toll and now this small fox teeters on the verge of extinction.

AB 1788 would ban specific rodenticides (rat poisons) in most applications but this legislation became a two-year bill after being pulled from the Senate Appropriations Committee by the bill’s author, Richard Bloom. The bill, also supported by California Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, has been given another opportunity at becoming law in California. In the meantime, activists are petitioning Gov. Newsom to impose a moratorium on rodenticides while details of AB 1788 are being worked out in the legislature. If you’re interested in signing one of these online petitions or getting more information, go to friendsofgriffithpark.org.

AB 273 recently passed and signed into law by Gov. Newsom makes California the first state in the nation to outlaw fur trapping. The fur industry had been dwindling in this state for many years, and in 2017 a mere 133 trapping licenses and four dealer licenses were issued. When San Diego Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez originally proposed the legislation, she argued fur trapping is a cruel industry that decimates vulnerable wildlife. In the end, buttressed by environmentalists, Gonzalez’ bill prevailed. As Brendan Cummings from the Center for Biological Diversity commented, “the overwhelming majority of Californians value our wildlife alive…” Along with this act, AB 44 the Fur Products Prohibition Act would ban the sale of fur products in California, with limited exceptions; for example, used furs or fur products used for specified purposes.

California loves its monarch butterflies. Unfortunately these brightly-colored pollinators are rapidly diminishing across the board for a variety of reasons. AB 2421 would establish a rescue program designed to address and implement recovery efforts for these and other pollinator species.

While there are many other environmental legislative bills under consideration in California, one that will impact future generations enormously is AB 792 introduced by San Francisco’s Phil Ting. This would set a high bar for the plastics industry, and is aimed at reducing the effects plastics are having on the environment. Two earlier bills were unable to garner sufficient support among lawmakers but if AB 792 clears hurdles and finally arrives on the governor’s desk, it will have a huge impact the industry, requiring plastic beverage containers to utilize 10% recycled plastic by 2021, 25% by 2025 and 50% by 2030. As Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin says “This is the most aggressive recycled-content mandate not only in the United States, but in the world.”

~Kathryn Louyse

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