Hog Island Oyster Co. and the Environmental Action Committee (EAC) of West Marin have resolved their differences over Hog Island’s expansion plans, as the California Coastal Commission voted unanimously on Feb. 8 to approve the oyster farm’s permit application.
In a joint statement, Hog Island and the EAC noted that the respective organizations have teamed up on coastal-cleanup days the past few years and that the EAC’s objections to the Hog Island proposal were keyed in on “areas concerning the standard for review of development permits and habitat protections for species of biological significance, like eelgrass.”
The EAC had previously submitted supportive comments to a commission staff report that had green-lit the Hog Island proposal. Working with the EAC, the business worked with commission staff and created a new, 1.2-acre area for potential habitat “that overlaps with mapped eelgrass in three lease areas.”
Eelgrass plays a critical role in aquatic ecosystems, the release this week noted, and the grass is especially susceptible to ruination from human impact. Morgan Patton, the EAC’s executive director, says in a statement that “many species of birds and fish, including Pacific herring, coho salmon, Dungeness crab and black brant, depend on Tomales Bay’s extensive eelgrass beds.”
John Finger, CEO of Hog Island Oyster Co., expressed relief that a lengthy process had finally come to a conclusion favorable to the popular business strung along Highway 1 in West Marin. “We now have updated permits that allow us to continue to sustainably raise shellfish, expand our farm, and continue to safeguard the natural resources of our beloved Tomales Bay.”
The company’s been around since 1983 and was founded by marine biologists. Their oysters are, objectively speaking, delicious.
This week, a coalition of California energy providers, local governments and environmental organizations released a so-called policy roadmap outlining a new push to deal with a very large elephant in the living room: the continued and rampant burning of fossil fuels in homes and buildings.
The Building Decarbonization Coalition put out a press release through the Oakland-based Sunshine Strategies consulting firm. The release notes that homes and buildings are responsible for 25 percent of annual greenhouse-gas emissions in the state every year, “but unlike other high-emitting sectors, no comprehensive plan exists to help the state cut those emissions, the majority of which are caused by fossil fuel appliances like space and water heaters.”
The coalition put out a report on Feb. 12 that emphasizes an urgent need to accelerate the development of zero-emission homes and buildings, if it’s to meet the state’s ambitious GHG reduction plans.
Paris Is Burning
Speaking of climate change, North Coast U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman was one of 56 lawmakers to introduce the Still in Paris congressional resolution this week that reaffirms Congress’ support of the Paris Agreement to combat climate change. President Donald Trump unilaterally exited the Paris Agreement in 2017. The resolution is being promoted as a “bipartisan” reaffirmation of the United States’ participation global efforts to combat global warming. Pennsylvania Republican Brian Fitzpatrick is the only member of the House GOP caucus to co-sponsor the House resolution.
Huffman was recently named to the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and also introduced a resolution this week that seeks to push back against Trump’s efforts to open Alaska’s arctic wilderness to oil and gas drilling—and he dutifully blasted Trump’s selection of industry lobbyist David Bernhardt’s nomination to head up the Department of the Interior. The bill to restore Arctic National Wildlife Refuge protections was also promoted as a bipartisan bill. One hundred lawmakers co-sponsored the bill and, yes, the only Republican co-sponsor was again Brian Fitzpatrick.
Unrest in the Forest
The USDA Forest Service reported this week that it had added 18 million dead trees to its register of more than 147 million trees that have died in California since the advent of the 2010 drought, now a distant memory. The drought ended in the winter of 2016–17 but, reports Cal Fire, below average rainfall in 2017–18 “slowed the recovery of the state’s surviving trees,” and many more perished.
Cal Fire director Thom Porter notes that while it’s encouraging that the rate of tree mortality slowed in 2018, “18 million trees are an indication that the forests of California are still under significant stress.”
He cited numerous factors that would continue to stymie state efforts to restore and rehabilitate its forests—wildfire, drought, bark beetles. The state’s 2019 strategic fire plan for California impels Cal Fire to continue thinning forests and engaging in prescribed burns; 2018 saw the state Forest Service restore some 313,000 acres, including more than 63,000 acres of prescribed burns, the most ever for a single year since 2001.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has made forest management a priority. He’s called for a five-year, $1 billion forest management plan in his 2019–20 budget.
Mr. Ag Man
Speaking of conservation, North Bay State Sen. Bill Dodd introduced SB 253 this week, which sets out to offer incentives and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers who would adopt practices that help wildlife and the environment.
In a statement, Dodd notes that California’s ag sector is a $54 billion industry that generates at least $100 annually in economic activity. Conservation efforts in the state have tailed off and his bill aims to revitalize the program.
“In recent years, especially during and after the drought, conservation practices have decline, driven in part by the rising cost of agricultural production, including energy and water costs.”
The program envisioned under SB 253 would provide assistance to farmers and ranchers who “want to voluntarily make wildlife-friendly improvements on their land.” The program would give money and help to ranchers and farmers “to create fish and wildlife habitat.” Cropland, rangeland, pasturelands and other farm or ranch lands are welcome to participate, but first the bill has to pass. It’s supported by the Nature Conservancy and the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts.
Jennifer Malone is leaving her post as executive director of Marin’s Spahr Center after 16 years of service to the county’s LGBTQ community and those living with HIV-AIDS. The Corte Madera facility is the only HIV-AIDS community provider in the county and offers a range of services to residents, ranging from medical and housing assistance, benefits advocacy and financial assistance. The nonprofit is also a gathering place for members of the Marin LGBTQ community and offers all sorts of support groups, classes and “cultural competency training.”
According to county statistics, there were 1,382 persons in Marin County who were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS between 2001 and 2015; 585 of those persons were still living at the end of 2015, and almost all of them (86 percent) were white men who had contracted HIV through male-male sexual contact. The county averaged 18 new community HIV diagnoses between 2004 and 2015, while an average of 10 persons a year died from the disease over that time. “With more new cases than deaths,” Marin Health and Human Services reported, “the number of persons living with HIV increased to nearly 600 by the end of 2015.” Meanwhile, San Quentin had 641 inmates with HIV/AIDS over that time and 308 inmates were living with HIV/AIDS at the prison at the end of 2015.