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DFG Volunteer Academy: training MLPA Initiative spies?
by Dan Bacher
Sunday Mar 11th, 2012 6:40 AM
The announcement of the launch of the academy in Los Angeles and Orange Counties takes place at a very curious time - just two months after so-called "marine protected areas," created under the "leadership" of a big oil lobbyist under the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative process, went into effect in Southern California waters.

DFG Volunteer Academy: training MLPA Initiative spies?

by Dan Bacher

The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), under the helm of DFG Director Chuck Bonham, announced on March 1 that it is "recruiting applicants for the "Natural Resource Volunteer Program (NRVP)" to serve in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

The DFG will hold a "NRVP training academy" in Los Alamitos from April 19 to May 2, Monday through Friday. Graduates of this academy will become volunteers for DFG.

The announcement of the launch of the academy in Los Angeles and Orange Counties takes place at a very curious time - just two months after so-called "marine protected areas," created under the "leadership" of a big oil lobbyist under the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative process, went into effect in Southern California waters. The privately-funded MLPA Initiative is "proudly" backed by the Western States Petroleum Association, Safeway Stores and Walmart.

In an overt conflict of interest, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association, chaired the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast, as well as serving on the task forces for the North and North Central Coast. The task forces also included a real estate executive, marina developer and other corporate operatives with numerous conflicts of interest.

It appears to me that this academy is wasting DFG staff time and money, when the state is in its biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression, to bolster the increasingly repressive surveillance society in California, rather than constitute any genuine effort to "protect" the environment. The news of the program's launch occurs less than a year after a widely-deplored campaign of surveillance of student protesters conducted by state officials was exposed at UC Davis. (http://blogs.alternet.org/danbacher/2012/02/23/uc-davis-students-file-lawsuit-over-pepper-spray-fiasco)

The DFG claimed in a news release that the Natural Resource Volunteers "have no law enforcement authority and are trained to be educational ambassadors for the department, donating their time in a variety of areas."

Yet in the next sentence, the DFG said these "volunteers" will be "patrolling" the so-called "marine protected areas" - described by the Department as "ecological reserves."

"Some of these areas include responding to human/wildlife incident calls, instructing at NRVP academies, representing DFG at community outreach events, patrolling DFG lands, ecological reserves, and coastal and inland fishing areas, and disseminating useful information to the public," according to the DFG.

"The NRVP provides conservation and enforcement education through public service while providing biological, enforcement and administrative staff support to DFG," the release noted.

People interested in applying for these volunteer positions will go through a selection process that "includes initial screening, application, interview and background check." (You can bet that anybody who criticized the MLPA Initiative or other DFG policies won't be selected).

If selected, individuals attend an 80-hour conservation course to prepare them for a "monthly service commitment" of at least 24 hours. After completing the academy, volunteers work with a trained "volunteer mentor" implementing their newly acquired skills during a six-month probationary period.

While training volunteers to assist the Department in "patrolling DFG lands, ecological reserves, and coastal and inland fishing areas" at first may sound like a noble thing, it's ramifications become clear when you realize that the "ecological reserves" created under the corrupt MLPA Initiative fail to protect the ocean from oil drilling and spills, military testing, wind and wave energy projects, pollution, corporate aquaculture and all other human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

Big oil allowed to kill marine life in a 'Yosemite of the Sea'

The collusion between the oil industry, MLPA Initiative and corporate "environmental" NGOs was revealed in a March 10 article in the Santa Barbara Independent (http://www.independent.com/news/2012/mar/10/coastlines-new-rules/). The official language for a new marine protected area in the Isla Vista area of Santa Babara County reads, “Take of all living marine resources is prohibited, except for take pursuant to operation and maintenance of artificial structures inside the conservation area … ”

"The caveat, allowing marine resources to be taken near artificial structures, exists to allow oil production representatives the ability to maintain equipment, including pipelines, located in this area," the article stated.

So the "protection" created under this glorious "Yosemite of the Sea" and "underwater park" off Isla Vista doesn't extend to the operations of the oil industry! This evidence of the corrupt MLPA Initiative letting ocean industrialists off scott-free demonstrates that the MLPA Initiative has nothing to do with marine protection - and everything to do with corporate greenwashing of the oil industry and the Wall Street one percent.

While the oil industry, military, municipal polluters and ocean industrialists will continue to do business as usual in and around these "marine protected areas," volunteers will be "patrolling" marine protected areas and legal fishing areas.

This volunteer program is likely to lead to many instances of harassment and abuse of law abiding recreational and commercial fishermen, especially since the knowledge of Fish and Game regulations by many paid DFG officials and staff is already notoriously lacking. This is evidenced by any one who has ever called a DFG office inquiring about the status of fishing regulations in an area. It is isn't hard to imagine what will happen when even less knowledgeable "volunteers" are helping the DFG to "patrol" DFG lands, ecological reserves, and coastal and inland fishing areas!

The same Department that is sponsoring this questionable volunteer program did nothing to stop the largest-ever fish kill in the Delta pumps in 2011, prodded by record water exports out of the Delta, and backs the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral canal. If built, the peripheral canal would likely result in the extinction of winter run chinook salmon, Delta smelt, Central Valley steelhead and other imperiled fish species.

The DFG's limited staff time and funds should be spent addressing the slaughter of millions of splittail, striped bass, Sacramento River chinook salmon and other species in the Delta export pumps and stopping the peripheral canal, rather than setting up a volunteer program that extends the repressive surveillance society to ocean waters. For more information about last year's record fish kill at the Delta pumps, go to: http://blogs.alternet.org/danbacher/2011/09/09/over-11-million-fish-salvaged-in-delta-death-pumps-since-january-1.

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Lost ConnectionsBeelineTuesday Mar 13th, 2012 12:17 PM