02 • 19 • 2021

Moving 30x30 Forward in California

By jsavage

California is considered one of 36 “biodiversity hotspots” in the world due to the state’s high concentration of unique species that are also experiencing unprecedented threats. Leaders consider the 30x30 approach as a way to move beyond desperately trying to protect endangered species hovering at the brink of extinction to a more proactive approach aimed at keeping the state’s biodiversity – its plant and animal communities – healthy and resilient to climate change. 

The Path to 30x30

But there has been some confusion about California’s two highest-profile 30x30 efforts, which consist of an attempt at legislation followed by executive action. Initially, during last year’s legislative session, Assemblymember Ash Kalra introduced AB 3030, a bill calling for protection of 30% of California’s lands and waters by 2030. The bill passed the State Assembly but failed in the State Senate and is now dead.

In October 2020, following the bill’s failure, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an Executive Order (EO) calling for 30% of California’s lands and ocean to be protected

The California Biodiversity Collaborative

The EO establishes the California Biodiversity Collaborative to “bring together experts, leaders and communities from across California to advance a unified, comprehensive approach to protecting our state’s biodiversity.” (More on specific goals here.) The Biodiversity Collaborative is tasked with creating a “Pathways to 30x30” strategic report by February 2022 that will provide a baseline assessment of currently protected areas (both land and ocean), opportunities and best locations to increase protection, funding and policy tools, and the answer to the question, “What is conservation?” (aka “What should we count?”).

To support that collaborative effort, the state has created the California Biodiversity Network, a coalition of key environmental leaders and experts supporting the Collaborative, and which is actively encouraging new members

Assembly Bill 564 – the Biodiversity Protection and Restoration Act of 2021

On Feb. 11, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) and joint author Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), along with co-sponsors Social Compassion in Legislation and the Center for Biological Diversity, introduced Assembly Bill 564 – the Biodiversity Protection and Restoration Act of 2021. This bill seeks to ensure all state agencies prioritize the protection of biodiversity in executing their statutory directives. AB 564 reinforces the EO by requiring that all state agencies, boards, and commissions utilize their authority to consider and prioritize biodiversity. The bill will also help slow the loss of biodiversity and natural lands by requiring public agencies to not approve projects that are inconsistent with or would impair the implementation of the strategies developed by the Resources Agency to meet the state's 30x30 goal.

California’s Marine Protected Area Network

California currently has an MPA network protecting 16% of our state waters (9% are “no take” – those areas are being counted as conserved. At the same time, the MPA network is about to undergo its 10-year review to be completed by 2022. The state is not talking about adding MPAs until that review is done. (See recent post about California’s MPA network’s history and success.) In the meantime, the state will look at the existing Areas of Special Biological Significance (ASBS), estuary programs and National Marine Sanctuaries to determine what more needs to be done.

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