Will California privatize its state parks?
David Gurney, independent journalist, slammed the state of California’s winter closure of Sugarloaf Ridge State Park in Sonoma County – and pondered whether state parks proposed for closure will be turned over to private interests, as some have proposed.
“In the first ring of a dismal peal that signals the death knell for our revered State Parks system, Sugarloaf Ridge Park east of Santa Rosa has now closed,” said Gurney in his latest column on his Noyo News Blog.
“Some say this is the beginning of the privatization process for California public lands, as the State heedlessly closes our recreational and money-making parks,” said Gurney. “Will our publicly owned parks be turned over to private interests? Will the people be barred from their own public lands, or forced to pay private interests to enter? Noyo News asks – why?”
Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, located near Kenwood, contains the headwaters of Sonoma Creek. The creek runs through gorge and canyon, across the meadow floor, beneath scenic rock outcroppings, and is surrounded at times by redwoods and ferns. A 25-foot waterfall flows after the winter rains.
According to the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, “Sugarloaf, Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa, Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen, Austin Creek State Recreation Area in Guerneville and the Petaluma Adobe are all slated to close July 1, as are several parks in Lake and Mendocino counties. Parks officials contend closing 70 parks statewide will achieve $22 million in annual savings demanded by Gov. Jerry Brown last year to help solve a $26.2 billion deficit.” (http://www.watchsonomacounty.com/2011/12/featured-articles/state-shuts-sugarloaf-ridge-park/)
Proposals to privatize state parks take place in the context of the drive by Wall Street-backed politicians and big corporate environmental NGOs and foundations to privatize the public trust.
The state of California has already allowed the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) implementation to be privatized through a Memorandum of Understanding between the shadowy Resources Legacy Fund Foundation and the Department of Fish and Game. The result is the creation of so-called marine protected areas under the MLPA Initiative that fail to protect ocean waters from oil drilling and spills, pollution, corporate aquaculture, military testing, wave and wind energy projects and all other human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.
The other result of privatization of the MLPA process is the domination of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces that oversee the “implementation” of marine protected areas by corporate interests, including a big oil lobbyist, marina developer and coastal real estate executive.
Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), served as the chair of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force to create “marine protected areas” on the South Coast that are set to got into effect on January 1, 2012. She also served on the North Coast and North Central Coast panels to create these “marine protected areas.” Her leadership role, in and of itself, makes the MLPA process completely illegitimate.
When not chairing or serving on these rigged panels, Reheis-Boyd has been busy lobbying for new oil drilling off the California coast, tar sands drilling in Canada (http://www.calgaryherald.com/business/Alberta+oilsands+green+enough+California/5530495/story.html?cid=megadrop_story), and for the weakening of environmental regulations throughout the West.
Likewise, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), another corrupt “public” process designed to construct a peripheral canal to export more water from the imperiled California Delta water to southern California and corporate agribusiness, is dominated by operatives from the Westlands Water District, State Water Contractors Association and other corporate interests who will make huge profits at the expense of the imperiled Delta.
Delta advocates believe the peripheral canal or tunnel, if constructed, is likely to lead to the extinction of Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other imperiled species. Of course, the Brown and Obama administrations have completely excluded Delta residents, California Indian Tribes, recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, family farmers, environmental justice advocates and all of those who truly care about the Delta from the BDCP Management Committee.
Whether we’re talking about state parks, marine protection or plans for the Delta, privatization is horrible public policy that will result in the destruction of our public trust resources. Privatization is part of a well orchestrated campaign by the 1 percent to take away public resources from the 99 percent.
Residents of Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley recently organized a three-day occupation of Hendy Woods State Park in an effort to save it from closure.
Will increasing numbers of people upset by the economic crisis engineered by Wall Street banksters and their political servants in the Obama and Brown administrations, Congress, the Senate and the State Legislature take the lead from the Occupy movement and start to occupy state parks slated for closure?