[env-trinity] Name Change Won't Alter Resources Agency's Dark Mission

Dan Bacher danielbacher at fishsniffer.com
Thu Feb 5 09:13:51 PST 2009


Name Change Won't Alter Resources Agency's Dark Mission

by Dan Bacher

The Resources Agency on January 1 adopted a new name, the California  
"Natural" Resources Agency, to give the agency a more "green" veneer.  
Unfortunately, nothing has changed at the agency that has presided  
over the collapse of the state's salmon, steelhead and other fish  

A press release from the agency in late December claimed that the  
name change was adopted to "better reflect its mission."

"Since 1961, the Resources Agency has been responsible for the  
safeguarding and stewardship of California’s precious natural  
resources," according to the release. "From water and wildlife  
management and conservation to wildland fire protection, energy,  
ocean and coastal policy, land stewardship, climate change  
adaptation, sustainable living, and the promotion of outdoor  
recreation, the agency oversees most all of the state’s functions  
designed to protect California’s natural resources."

In July, Governor Arnold "Fish Terminator" Schwarzenegger signed  
Senate Bill 1464 (Maldonado) authorizing the Resources Agency to  
change its name. "The new Agency logo will remain largely the same  
and the change will be phased in gradually as new supplies are  
ordered," the release stated. "In this way there will be little or no  
cost to the Agency or any of its departments, boards or commissions  
save for any replacement costs that would normally be incurred."

California’s Natural Resources Agency is responsible for the  
state’s natural resource policies, programs and activities. It has  
17,000 employees and oversees 25 departments, commissions, boards and  
conservancies, including the Department of Fish and Game, Department  
of Water Resources and California Water Resources Control Board.

However, wouldn’t it be more appropriate for the Resources Agency to  
adopt a name that truly reflects its REAL primary mission? Based on  
my years covering California fisheries, this mission appears to be  
engineering the collapse of Central Valley salmon fisheries, driving  
the California Delta's pelagic fish populations to the edge of  
extinction, building a peripheral canal, constructing more dams,  
slashing funds for salmon and steelhead restoration, and instituting  
massive closures of public trust fisheries throughout the state’s  
ocean waters.

Considering all of this, wouldn’t “the Natural Destruction  
Agency” be a more appropriate name for the agency? Other potential  
names for the agency could be “Bureau of Corporate  
Greenwashing,” “Raping of Natural Resources Agency,” “No More  
Natural Resources Agency,” “The Fish Termination Agency,” or  
the “Water Exports Agency.” Readers of my articles have also  
suggested the "Final Legislative Usurpation of Significant Habitats,  
FLUSH," and "The Death Star" as more appropriate names for this  
agency with such as legacy of environmental destruction behind it.

More recently, Karuk Tribe Vice Chair Leaf Hillman proposed that the  
name of one of the agency's member departments, the Department of  
Fish and Game (DFG), be changed more accurately to reflect its  
"mission" after DFG Director Donald Koch rejected a petition by the  
Tribe, California Trout and Friends of the North Fork to restrict  
suction dredge gold mining in order to protect salmon and steelhead  
populations. "I guess DFG really stands for Department of Frontier  
Greed," Hillman quipped.

While the name of the agency has changed, pelagic (open water) fish  
populations of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta continue to  
collapse.There is nothing "natural" about this unprecedented and  
catastrophic species decline.

The delta smelt population has declined to its lowest level ever,  
according to the latest data from the DFG's fall midwater trawl  
survey. The DFG studies the health of these populations by compiling  
an "index," a relative measure of abundance. The index declined to 23  
in fall 2008, down from the previous low level of 28 in fall 2009.

American shad also reached a record low level in 2008. The index was  
271, compared to 533 in 2007 and 9360 in 2003. Threadfin shad also  
declined to a record low population level, down to 450 from 3177 in  

The Sacramento splittail, a native minnow, declined to the lowest- 
ever level this fall. In fact, no splittail were observed in the fall  
survey, while only one fish was documented the previous autumn.

Only the striped bass and longfin smelt showed an increase, though  
the population levels are still precariously low. The striper index  
rose to 220 in 2008 from 82 in 2007, both alarmingly low numbers. In  
contrast, the index was 9500 in 1971, when the population was still  
healthy before the fish-killing state and federal pumps went into  
full operation.

The longfin smelt abundance index rose from a record low of 13 in  
fall 2007 to 113 this fall. By comparison, the index was 6654 in 1998.

These fish populations have declined to unprecedented low population  
levels because of the deplorable water and fishery management  
policies of the California "Natural" Resources Agency under the  
Schwarzenegger administration, combined with extremely bad management  
by the federal government. State and federal fishery biologists have  
pinpointed three major causes of the fishery decline - increased  
water exports, toxics and invasive species. More recently, increases  
in ammonia releases through sewage treatment plants have been cited  
by scientists as a possible factor.

Record water export levels occurred in 2003 (6.3 million acre feet),  
2004 (6.1 MAF), 2005 (6.5 MAF) and 2006 (6.3 MAF). Exports averaged  
4.6 MAF annually between 1990 and 1999 and increased to an average of  
6 MAF between 2000 and 2007, a rise of almost 30 percent, according  
to the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance.

The crisis in Delta fisheries will not be solved by changing the  
agency's name - or taking more water out of the Delta through the  
peripheral canal proposed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the  
Department of Water Resources, Senator Diane Feinstein and the Nature  
Conservancy as a "solution" to the Delta's problems. The canal and  
more dams that Schwarzenegger and Mike Chrisman, Resources Secretary,  
are campaigning for will only exacerbate the imperiled status of  
these fish populations, driving them over the precipice of extinction.

The only way the Resources Agency can live up to its new "natural"  
name is to abandon the mad campaign for a peripheral canal and more  
dams, mandate water conservation by corporate agribusiness, adopt  
tough agricultural water pollution standards and require the  
retirement of toxic selenium-filled soil in the Westlands Water  
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