Natural Resources Secretary Laird announces MLPA ‘Partnership Plan’

Brown-Laird-SalazarJohn Laird (center), California Secretary of Natural Resources, flanked by Governor Jerry Brown and former Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, speaks in the press conference in July 2012 to promote the proposed Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels, a process intimately linked with the MLPA Initiative through leadership, greenwashing goals, funding and violation of Tribal rights. Photo by Dan Bacher.


by Dan Bacher

If you just yearn to hear proponents of corporate greenwashing, neo-liberal environmental policies and the alleged “marine protected areas” created under the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative spout their disinformation, you should attend the next meeting of the California Ocean “Protection” Council (OPC) at the Secretary of State’s Office in Sacramento on Tuesday, December 2.

John Laird, the California Secretary for Natural Resources and Chair of the Ocean Protection Council, announced that the final Draft MPA (Marine Protected Areas) Partnership Plan is now available online and will considered for adoption at the meeting.

“I am happy to announce that the final DRAFT version of ‘The California Collaborative Approach: Marine Protected Areas Partnership Plan’ (Partnership Plan) is now available on the OPC website,” said Laird.

Yes, I bet Laird is very “happy” that the draft plan for the “Partnership Plan” that attempts to legitimize the questionable “marine protected areas” created under the privately funded MLPA Initiative is now available.

One thing that you can be sure won’t be discussed at the upcoming OPC meeting is the fact that Ron LeValley, the co-chair of the MLPA Initiative “Science” Advisory Team for the North Coast that oversaw the crafting of alleged “marine protected areas” that violate the gathering and fishing rights of the Yurok and other Tribes, is now in federal prison for conspiracy to embezzle over $850,000 from the Yurok Tribe!


Rather than discussing this draft plan, the members of the Commission should instead ask for a review of the alleged MLPA “science” in light of the fact that LeValley, the head science official for the North Coast MLPA process, was involved with a scheme to embezzle money through false invoices for scientific “spotted owl surveys” that were never conducted!

Nor will you hear any of the OPC members or MLPA Initiative proponents demand that the fake “marine protected areas” be made into authentic ones by banning fracking, offshore oil drilling, pollution, military testing, corporate aquaculture and other industrial and government impacts on the ocean and marine life. Isn’t it time that the OPC show a little courage and finally put the “protection” into “marine protected areas?”

Laird and other MLPA Initative advocates have continually claimed that the process “respected” Tribal gathering rights, but that claim has no basis in fact, since the MLPA Initiative prohibits Tribal fishing and gathering in the State Marine Reserves created under the Initiative.

In the 2014 election edition of the Yurok Today newsletter, Yurok Tribe Vice Chairperson Susan Masten summarized the position of the Yurok Tribe, the largest tribe in California with over 5000 members, regarding the MLPA Initiative:

“The State of California is beginning to implement the so-called Marine Life Protection Act. From the very start, the Tribe has not supported this initiative because it does not recognize the Tribe’s inherent hunting and gathering rights. Also, the Act lacked the sophistication required to properly steward the diverse ecosystems on the Yurok coastline. 

Since time immemorial, the Yurok Tribe has practiced a highly effective method of marine resource management, which has ensured an abundance of sea life to sustain our people. The Creator gave us the right to properly harvest marine resources in the coastal areas within Yurok Ancestral Territory. With this right, comes a great duty to protect and conserve these resources. To that end, we are developing our own marine life management program, based on our traditional knowledge of ocean ecosystems as well as western science.”   

The MLPA Initiative, called an “open, transparent and inclusive” process by Laird, other state officials and corporate “environmentalists,” was anything but. The process was characterized by its private funding by the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation; its failure to create authentic marine protected areas; numerous conflicts of interests including the leadership of the South Coast process by the President of the Western States Petroleum Association; incomplete and terminally flawed science; and violation of traditional Tribal gathering rights.

The problem is that “the California Collaborative Approach: Marine Protected Areas Partnership Plan” while it makes for some interesting reading, does nothing to address any of these “inconvenient truths.” The 46-page plan accepts as legitimate the questionable “marine protected areas” created under an illegitimate process – and serves to only greenwash a process based on bad science and public policy, rather than attempting to deal with the MLPA Initiative’s “inconvenient truths.”

For example, the use of private funding, the basis of the Initative’s myriad of problems, will be encouraged in the monitoring phase, according to Page 33 of the plan:

“Private philanthropy actively supported the design and designation phases and now the management of California’s MPA network. There is an opportunity for private philanthropy to become involved in financially supporting management of various scales. Currently, private donors can support registered 501(c)(3) organizations that are partnering to support management. In the future, however, additional mechanisms may be established to increase opportunities for giving.”  

That sounds just “great.” All we need is more Walton Family Foundation-funded groups like the Ocean Conservancy and Nature Conservancy to be overseeing the monitoring of MPAs!

Laird’s leadership role in pushing the creation of fake “marine protected areas” that fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling, pollution, corporate aquaculture, military testing and all human impacts on the ocean other than sustainable fishing and gathering is part of the overall Brown administration neo-liberal “environmental” vision that favors Big Oil, corporate agribusiness, corporate polluters, greedy billionaires and the 1 percent over the public trust and the people of California.

Laird is one of the worst Secretaries or Natural Resources for fish, water and the public trust in California history. Besides greenwashing fake marine “protection,” Laird has been a relentless proponent of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels, the most environmentally destructive public works project in California history.

He also presided over the record water exports and a record massacre of Sacramento splittail, a unique fish species found only in the Central Valley and Delta, in 2011. He has also presided over the catastrophic decline of Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other species in the past several years, due to massive pumping of Delta water to corporate agribusiness interests, Southern California water agencies and oil companies conducting fracking and steam injection operations during a drought.

He is also a big advocate of policies that have emptied Northern California reservoirs during a drought, further imperiling already struggling populations of Sacramento River winter run Chinook, spring Chinook and fall and late fall Chinook salmon populations.

The final draft of the “California Collaborative Approach: Marine Protected Areas Partnership Plan” is now  available at:

For more information about the MLPA Initiative, read my investigative piece, The Five Inconvenient Truths of the MLPA Initiative:

Here’s the memo from Laird with the OPC meeting agenda:

TO:                  California Ocean and Coastal Community

FROM:            John Laird, Secretary for Natural Resources and Chair, Ocean Protection Council

DATE:            November 21, 2014

SUBJECT:      Final Draft MPA Partnership Plan available on OPC Website

I am happy to announce that the final DRAFT version of “The California Collaborative Approach: Marine Protected Areas Partnership Plan” (Partnership Plan) is now available on the OPC website. Please see Item 5 on the agenda for new materials regarding the Partnership Plan: 

The final draft will be considered for adoption, along with the proposed Resolution, at the December 2, 2014 OPC public meeting in Sacramento, CA.  The agenda is below, and I hope to see you there. The Partnership Plan will also be considered for endorsement by the Fish and Game Commission on December 3, 2014 in Van Nuys, CA. 

OPC Meeting Agenda

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

1:00 pm

Secretary of State’s Office – Main Auditorium

1500 11th Street, Sacramento, CA 95814


John Laird, Secretary for Natural Resources, Council Chair

Matt Rodriquez, Secretary for Environmental Protection

John Chiang, Chair of the State Lands Commission

Fran Pavley, State Senator

Toni Atkins, State Assemblymember

Geraldine Knatz, Public Member

Michael Brown, Public Member


1.      Welcome and Council Member Announcements

Secretary Laird, Council Chair

2.      Report from the Executive Director

Cat Kuhlman, Executive Director, OPC

3.      Report from the Science Advisor

Skyli McAfee, Executive Director, California Ocean Science Trust


4.      Consideration and possible selection of two new members to the Ocean Protection Council Science Advisory Team

Skyli McAfee, Executive Director, California Ocean Science Trust


5.      Consideration and possible approval of the “The California Collaborative Approach: Marine Protected Area Partnership Plan”

Liz Parissenti, Sea Grant Fellow, OPC and Cyndi Dawson, Marine Protected Areas Policy Advisor, OPC

6.      Consideration and possible selection of grants for the second round of the Local Coastal Program Sea-level Rise Grant Program; consideration of an interagency agreement for the California Coastal Commission to manage these grants on behalf of the OPC.

Abe Doherty, Climate Change Policy Advisor, OPC


7.      Update on the Thank You Ocean Campaign – Miho Umezawa, Project Manager,   Thank You Ocean Campaign

8.      Public Comment on non-agenda items

9.      Arrangements for Next Meeting and Adjournment

Date and Location TBD.


Agenda items may be re-ordered at the discretion of the council chair.

Please fill out a Request to Speak card to provide public comment on non-agenda items or on a specific agenda item.  Comment on agenda items will be taken following each item.

Comments may be sent by email to: Written public comment must be received by 4 pm on November 24 to be included in the materials provided to the council prior to the meeting.  Materials received after that date will be distributed to the council at the beginning of the meeting. Oral and written comments will be accepted at the meeting. 

Questions about the meeting or agenda can be directed to Joanna Stone at (916) 653-0537

Any person who has a disability and requires accommodation to participate in this council meeting should contact Ms. Stone no later than five days prior to the meeting.


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