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Environmentalists, Fishermen to Protest MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force


by Dan Bacher

February 27, 2010 -- A peaceful community demonstration and informational tabling beginning at 8:30 a.m. next Monday, March 1, at the entrance to the C.V. Starr Center at 300 Lincoln Street in Fort Bragg, is being organized to greet Marine Life Protection Act Initiative (MLPAI) Blue Ribbon Task Force for the North Coast.
The initial demonstration organizers are Barbara and John Stephens-Lewallen, Mendocino County's leading environmental activist couple, David Gurney, fisherman and community activist, Craig Bell, chair of the Mendocino Fish and Game Commission and longtime salmon restoration advocate, and Michael Carpenter of the Albion Harbor Regional Alliance.
"We want to show there is strong public opinion that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's MLPA Initiative should be stopped," said the Stephens-Lewallens. "It's a deceptive privatized process that has nothing to do with what the law was originally intended to do - to protect marine resources. We are asking the financial sponsor of the Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Resource Legacy Fund Foundation, to pull out of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the state of California and to halt the initiative."
The Blue Ribbon Task Force is the key decision-making group in the MLPAI process. "In October, this Blue Ribbon Task Force will reveal its Integrated Preferred Alternative, which probably will be selected by the California State Fish & Game Commission for the new Marine Protected Areas from Point Arena to the Oregon Border," said the Stephens-Lewallens. "These closures of fisheries, tribal harvest areas, and intertidal food-gathering sites will impact every community member."
Environmentalists, fishermen, Indian Tribes, seaweed harvesters, cities, counties and local elected officials have criticized the MLPA process for its many conflicts of interests, violation of tribal sovereignty and traditional seaweed harvesting and fishing rights, corruption of the democratic process and mission creep.
The task force that guides the MLPA Initiative includes oil industry, real estate, marina development and other corporate interests. It is no coincidence that Katherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association, is chair of the task force for the South Coast and serves on the North Coast panel at a time when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the oil industry want to install more oil rigs off the California coast.
Reheis Boyd is really advancing the cause of the oil industry, commented the Stephens-Lewallens. 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."
They emphasized that twenty-three percent of the nations offshore oil reserves are off the coast of California - and the Point Arena Basin off Mendocino is on track now to be leased for drilling by the Mineral Management Services.
Dan Hamburg, former North Coast Democratic Congressman and the current Green Party Candidate for the Board of Supervisors of Mendocino County, has also blasted the privatization of public trust resources that has occurred under the MLPA. "We will work with Humboldt and Del Norte Counties to stop privatization efforts such as the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative (MLPAI) - a private-foundation takeover of marine life that threatens local coastal businesses that harvest the ocean for food," vowed Hamburg.
The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), at their annual session from October 11-16 in Palm Springs, passed a strongly worded resolution blasting the MLPA process for failing to recognize the tribal subsistence, ceremonial and cultural rights of California Indian Tribes.
The NCAI does hereby support the demand of the tribes of Northern California that the State of California enter into government to government consultations with these tribes; and that the State of California ensure the protection of tribal subsistence, ceremonial and cultural rights in the implementation of the state of Marine Life Protection Act, the resolution stated.
The Kashaya Pomo Tribe of Sonoma County will lose some of its ancestral harvesting grounds when the North Central Coast marine protected areas (MPAs) go into effect on April 1. "One of the closed places is Stewarts Point, a spot that our creation story identifies as the first place our people set foot on the Earth," Reno Franklin, Kashaya Pomo Tribe historic preservation officer, told Kurt Madar of the Crescent City Triplicate on January 16 (http://www.triplicate.com/20100116107962/News/Local-News/With-MPAs-on-horizon-tribes-seek-united-front).
"Despite the fact that some of the tribes historic harvesting areas are still open, Franklin said the Kashaya Pomo are going to take it to the next level, which could involve legal action," according to Madar.
In spite of a plea by former tribal chair Lester Pinola before the Fish and Game Commission to keep the Stewarts Point open to seaweed, mussel and abalone gathering and fishing, the Commission voted to close the area during its meeting on August 5, 2009. To hear Pinola's great testimony, go to: http://www.astral-arts.com/audiomovie/openthecoast.mp3.
The stench of corruption, privatization and denial of tribal harvesting rights permeates the MLPA Initiative, so it's time for people to speak out and protest against this unjust process.
"Community members are invited to participate in the demonstration," urged the Stephens-Lewallens. "The Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting will begin at 9:00 A.M. Please come and sign up for the Blue Ribbon Task Force public comment period beginning at 1:15 p.m."
For more information, contact John and Barbara Stephens-Lewallen, 707-895-2996.