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Environmental leader applauds OAL decision, MLPA lawsuit
by Dan Bacher
Wednesday Sep 14th, 2011 2:33 PM
"Hopefully all these products of a privatized process rife with secret meetings, bad science, conflict of interest and scorning of state meeting and administrative law will be invalidated," said John Lewallen, North Coast environmental leader and longtime advocate for democracy and transparency in government.

Photo: Over 300 people, including members of 50 Indian Tribes, recreational anglers, immigrant seafood industry workers, commercial fishermen, conservationists and environmental justice advocates, marched through the streets of Fort Bragg on July 21, 2010 to protest the privately funded MLPA Initiative. The protesters peacefully took over the meeting of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force to protest the violation of tribal gathering rights under the MLPA. To date, the California Fish and Game Commission has refused to acknowledge tribal gathering rights on the California coast under the MLPA Initiative, a process overseen by a big oil lobbyist, agribusiness hack, real estate executive, coastal developer and other corporate operatives.

“Any attempt to institutionally diminish our right to gather coastal resources is essentially an act of ethnic cleansing,” Yurok Tribal Chairman Thomas O’Rourke said in a news release on June 27, 2011. “We depend on these traditions to carry on our culture for the rest of time.”

Environmental leader applauds OAL decision, lawsuit against MLPA

by Dan Bacher

John Lewallen, North Coast environmental leader and longtime advocate for democracy and transparency in government, on September 14 praised the Office of Administrative Law's disapproval of so-called "marine protected areas" in Southern California.

"On September 2, the State Office of Administrative Law (OAL) disapproved all of the new Marine Protected Areas (MPA) proposed for California’s South Coast by the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative," said Lewallen. "In a five-point rejection statement, the OAL said that the California Fish & Game Commission had failed to follow public notice requirements, to show a necessity for the new MPAs, to submit all documents relied on, to provide reasons for rejecting alternatives, and to adequately respond to all public comments."

Lewallen also said the legitimacy of the corrupt MLPA Initiative process also is being challenged in state court, with a hearing scheduled September 26 in San Diego on the validity of MPAs in effect on the North Central Coast since May 1, 2010. For information on this lawsuit vital to the rights of all Californians to be governed by state agencies which comply with state law, see: http://www.oceanaccessprotectionfund.org.

"Fishers, seaweed harvesters, tribal food gatherers, all ocean food providers have been hurt badly by the new North Central Coast MPAs," emphasized Lewallen.

He noted that "marine protected areas," established in 2007 under the privately funded MLPA Initiative, are also in effect on the Central Coast, while a plan for new MPAs on the North Coast is in process.

"Hopefully all these products of a privatized process rife with secret meetings, bad science, conflict of interest and scorning of state meeting and administrative law will be invalidated," said 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. Lewallen is the author of "Ecology of Devastation: Indochina" (1971) and co-authored with James Robertson a handbook on environmental organizing, "The Grass Roots Primer" (1975), published by Sierra Club Books. He has written numerous articles on environmental issues for an array of publications since then.

Lewallen exposed role of big oil lobbyist in creating MPAs

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 has 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 in 2009. "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."

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.