By David Gurney
On Monday evening, the “Monitoring Enterprise” (ME) for the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act Initiative (MLPAI) came to Fort Bragg, the first of three stops on a vast stretch of California coast from Pt. Arena to the Oregon border. All told, thirty-five souls attended. The trio of PhD’s for the “ME” was led by Dr. Liz Whiteman. They will be in Eureka today, and Crescent City on Thursday.
The purpose of the meeting was for administrators to announce that $4 million dollars, from the California Ocean Protection Council, will be used to establish a “baseline” for gauging the effectiveness of the new North Coast Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s).
That there should have been a baseline BEFORE putting MPA’s into effect seems to be lost on these semi-brilliant scientists. Assemblymember Wes Chesbro’s aid Tom Weseloh astutely questioned whether the ME is a “project-driven,” rather than a “need-driven” enterprise.
The MLPAI was funded with tens of millions of dollars from undisclosed sources. It is now set to permanently close 13.3% of North Coast state waters to fishing and food gathering. Though little if any scientific evidence exists to justify the need for these closures, the heavily funded MLPAI political steamroller has had its day.
The new MPA’s were created by an outlaw public/private partnership, using a heavily funded and skillfully manipulated “Regional Stakeholder Group” to add a sense of legitimacy to the boondoggle.
That these “stakeholders” were chosen by Kearns and West, a public relations firm with deep ties to natural gas and energy interests, bothered no one. That the president of the Western States Petroleum Association sat on the board overseeing the entire MLPAI project, also caused no concern to those who collaborated – despite the very loud outcry raised by Noyo News and others. They knew, and chose to do nothing.
The reality is that K&W exists to manipulate the public into accepting public/private partnerships in taking control of public resources, a process of privatization that is rapidly becoming the “new normal” as government processes, resources and infrastructure are turned over to direct corporate control.
Kearns & West has been involved in permitting processes for underwater energy turbines to be placed in the East River of New York. They were also present to “facilitate” public meetings, during Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s controversial plans to exterminate wild mustangs in the Western States, on BLM land slated for cattle grazing and natural gas development. They list as clients a host of other natural gas and energy interest corporations.
The Kearns & West facilitators and the entire 45-member MLPA “Initiative” staff have declared in court records, that not only were they not a legitimate government agency, they were not even a legal entity of any kind. The thirty-three member “North Coast Regional Stakeholder Group” (NCRSG) has also been declared a non-legal committee – and so has been exempted from open meeting laws.
Similarly, the MLPAI “Monitoring Enterprise” is also a “public/private partnership” – and will presumably be free from the encumbrances of obeying the law.
This means that once the four million dollar “baseline” money is spent, the floodgates of corruption will be wide open. Open meeting laws will not apply, and Public Records Act requests will not be honored. The subsequent “research” conducted by the Monitoring Enterprise will no doubt be heavily funded by private corporate sources, including the oil industry.
When a grant-giving gravy train rolls into town, the institutional PhD’s are never far behind. In a roomful of thirty-five people, at least six laureates were present. But so were other, less credentialed hopefuls who would also like to get their hands on a slice of grant-pie.
Pat Higgins, a Humboldt Bay Harbor Commissioner, made the trip all the way from Eureka to extol the MLPA process and make his bid to collaborate with the new enterprise, for cash. Higgins was successful in leveraging a $200,000 private grant from the corrupt MLPA “Initiative,” during its coercive two-year process. The private sources who provided this grant are the same that funded the so-called “Initiative” itself. He claimed to want to establish links to the Albion area, and the entire North Coast, for “research projects” that he hopes will provide jobs for coastal residents. No one told Mr. Higgins that members of the Albion community were boycotting the public/private ME meeting – in droves.
Other people present expressed hopes that data collected in the closed areas will at least be truthful, impartial and beneficial. Many had hopes that the ME will distribute a few crumbs of the $4 million to outside participants, who can come up with “Requests For Proposals” (RFP) that the ME administrators had come to advertise. It’s clear that the scientists themselves do not have a plan for what to do in the unnecessary MPA’s. Dr. Whiteman also made it abundantly clear, that once the $4 million “baseline” money is gone, the will be no more “Requests For Proposals” from outside the institutional grant-culture machine.
The experience of this reporter has revealed that the MLPAI public/private partnership has operated outside the law throughout the course of it’s three-year run on the North Coast. From striking and killing a large blue whale with an unpermitted, illegally operating mapping vessel, to egregious violations of the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act, to illegal secret meetings, to blatant examples of graft, bribery and conflict of interest.
As veteran Sacramento reporter Dan Bacher has stated: “In over thirty years of reporting on fish, water and environmental politics, this is the most corrupt process I have ever seen.”
During the MLPA boondoggle, Northern California tribes rallied to assert their sovereignty, to avoid what they immediately recognized as an unnecessary, illegal and corrupt attempt to take away their ocean. They were successful in getting the message across – that the MLPAI was not going to remove their birthright to manage, use, and be a part of the ocean, and the natural world itself.
What seems to be lost on tribal governments is that with all their independent “international” negotiations with the MLPAI, they were dealing with an outlaw “agency,” that was not an agency at all, and not even a legal entity. It was run by a private outfit, by those willing to bend and break the law as they saw fit. It is my opinion that any collaboration with these outlaws will not produce good results.
We lost our court battle trying to get the MLPA “Initiative” to abide by open meeting laws. While the “Initiative” administrators publicly claimed they were “the most open and transparent process ever” – they are liars. Power, money and greed has won, at the expense of justice and common sense.
The MPA’s for our region are primarily located in remote, inaccessible areas of the North Coast – areas that if not closed by wind, wave and weather, were already closed by DFG regulations to any fishing deeper than 120 feet. These fish populations have already been protected for the last ten years. The area of North Coast hardest hit by the privatized process is the “Lost Coast” – a marine region naturally protected from subsistence fishing by extremely harsh geographic and maritime conditions.
So the question soon becomes: what are these phony Marine Protection Areas protecting against, and who, in reality, are they protecting it for? Are they protecting these areas as unlimited access zones for privately funded scientific study and research? Are they job creation zones for the legions of hopeful marine biology majors, that are being churned out of degree-mills in state and national university systems? And who will fund the private research that is slated to take place in the new MPA’s? Who will this research benefit? Is it not beneficial to the oil industry and others, to have the “eyes and ears” of the ocean – the fishermen and their economic interests - out of the picture, a thing of the past?
But the ocean is still there. The phony environmentalists, who claimed after the fact to have given us “underwater parks,” will now get the chance to venture out on a rough stretch of ocean to – collect data. We wish them luck.
It’s doubtful that honorable tribal people or locals will be willing to contribute. The tainted grant money to fund the studies will likely produce results already set beforehand. A few overly “educated” marine biology majors will find jobs on the ocean – that they have thrown simple fishermen off of to acquire.
Will the MPA’s and western science help save the ocean? Doubtful. Especially not corrupt western science.
Ron LeValley, the Co-Chair of the “Science Advisory Team” that created the “science” for North Coast marine protected areas, is presently under indictment for embezzling close to a million dollars from the Yurok Tribe of Northern California.
This reporter’s hopes – that the MLPAI and its “Monitoring Enterprise” will turn over a new leaf, and produce honest results in an honorable way – are non-existent.
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