Officials Approve California Coastal Conservation Plan

(CN) – California officials laid out an ambitious and sweeping plan Wednesday to combat the climate crisis threatening the state’s coast.

The California Ocean Protection Council officially green-lit on Wednesday the Strategic Plan to Protect California’s Coast and Ocean for 2020-25, a new state agenda that aims to provide several crucial solutions to the climate issues threatening the coastal Golden State.

The plan tackles a host of key climate issues, such as rising sea levels, increasingly acidic oceans and how to encourage meaningful and universal coastal access. Each issue has been treated to a detailed analysis that outlines exactly what kind of solutions exist and what can be done to implement them.

Van Damme State Park, Little River, California. (Chris Marshall / CNS)

Wade Crowfoot, Ocean Protection Council chair and California Natural Resources secretary, says that meaningful plans like this have become desperately needed as climate issues continue to worsen and consequences of climate change become more real by the day.

“From record temperatures in Antarctica to the recent kelp forest collapse off our own coast, climate change is impacting our ocean and coast in alarming ways,” Crowfoot said in a statement. “California is responding by charting bold action to protect our coast and ocean amid these accelerating threats.”

The core thrust of the plan is found in four main climate goals California officials hope to meet: safeguard marine life, create more equal and effective coastal policies, continue California’s rich history in biodiversity and advance the goals of what officials call a sustainably “blue” economy that directly improves oceanic health.

Taken together, officials believe that reaching these goals could greatly improve the climate well-being of California’s vital coastal communities and could begin to turn the tide on much of the damage that climate change has brought to California’s doorstep.

In order to meet these goals, the plan outlines a number of specific targets state officials hope to reach in the near future. One of the most notable is to prepare for future sea-level rise, an event that many researchers have suggested is an inevitability. The plan states that California hopes to become protected from at least 3.5 feet of sea-level rise within the next three decades.

The plan also prioritizes the maintenance of new California wetlands, as well as efforts to keep such land free of polluting trash and plastics – all of which can be done in only a few years.

The goal is to draft a statewide microplastics strategy by as early as next year, create up to 10,000 acres of new coastal wetlands within the next five years and completely eliminate trash in California waters in the next ten years.

While these goals are certainly going to require robust California resources, the plan seems to have a solid start in ensuring it is properly funded. Some initial funding had already been established by state bonds, and future funding is detailed by a new bond proposed by Governor Gavin Newsom in his recently announced 2020-21 budget.

Mark Gold, executive director of the Ocean Protection Council, says that while kind of funding is paramount, it is not the only thing the plan needs to truly succeed.

“Funding will help pay for critical research, restoration and coastal resilience needs, but we need unprecedented collaboration between state agencies and key partners such as tribal communities and local governments to achieve the plan’s ambitious targets,” Gold said in a statement.

Officials note that the pacing of some of their goals are likely to change in the upcoming years as more resources become available and certain environmental priorities rise. But they insist that while its timeline may change, the positive and forward-thinking vision that it offers for California’s climate future will not.

Officials say California has already taken meaningful steps to solving much of these problems, but it has become clear that such steps have simply not been enough to solve them in the long term.

The plan asserts that it has become increasingly apparent with each passing year that the urgency and complexity of the issues at hand have necessitated only the boldest and most sweeping approaches possible.

“This Strategic Plan for California’s coast and ocean is bold because it must be,” the plan states. “Climate change impacts are contributing to devastating ecosystem collapse, as seen in North Coast kelp forests, and the specter of the impacts of sea-level rise and ocean acidification on our beaches, bays, subtidal marine ecosystems, tide pools, and wetlands is daunting.

“The need for immediate strategic action to stem these threats, build in coastal resiliency, and provide access and equity to the coast and ocean for all Californians has never been greater. Implementation of this Strategic Plan will drive California toward achieving the vision of a healthy, resilient, productive coast and ocean, providing benefits to current and future generations.”

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