Something’s Rotten On Our Beach

by Michael Koepf, January 7, 2010

A day may come when ordinary people — who earnestly care about nature — will come to realize that we’ve lost control of our shoreline.

Let’s consider the MLPA, the Marine Life Protection Act, passed by a predominately progressive state government, and signed into law by a once conservative actor who has learned to dance with liberals. Significantly, the MLPA was signed on April 1, 2003; yes, that’s April fool’s day, folks. But the fools aren’t Arnold or the per-diem parasites that receive free cars, and get drunk in Sacramento on our tax money. The fools are in our mirrors.

The MLPA stipulates that unnamed sections of California coastline must be set aside as sanctuaries to protect the state’s marine life, habitat, and ecosystems. These zones are called MPA’s for marine protection areas. Regrettably, in the giddy, green zeal of passing this law, somebody overlooked one essential and glaring fact: the California Department of Fish and Game already has a boat load of laws and regulations that protect the state’s marine life, habitat, and ecosystems. Had nobody in Sacramento ever heard of a No Fishing sign? Had nobody ever seen a game warden in a jolly green suit? Was fishing license a foreign term? Did closed seasons not exist? Were there no areas closed to fishing; no prohibitions on the taking of impacted or endangered species? When most of us go fishing; abalone picking; urchin collecting; smelt jumping; seaweed harvesting; kayaking, or simply walking along a beach, most of us follow the rules. We love our sea and beaches, and we’ll do everything we can — including everything we can’t — to keep it the way it is.

Do we need the MLPA? It may sound like a dangerous drug, but it’s really a bad idea, for its ultimate purpose is to place No Trespassing signs on selected sections of our coastline. Initially, fishing of any kind will be forbidden, but, candidly, and tucked away on the MLPA’s own website we learn that the organization has “chosen not to discuss limiting other uses.” Fellow, coastal fools, this is what they call the fine print, and one can bet their finest abalone shell that in the future other uses will be included. It’s that old foot in the door; foot in the butt routine. Think: no swimming; no paddling; no scuba; no sea shells; no seaweed; no abalones; no surfing; and especially no walking along the beach, you evil, bird frightening, heavy-footed, sand-flea killer.

So, who’s behind this needless thing? The usual suspects come to mind: planet zealots, and politicians and bureaucrats mindful that new laws require new monies and additional state employees. And then, of course, there’s always that handy shibboleth — BIG OIL. In fact, our girly-man, conservative governor appointed Catherine Rehis-Boyd, chief of staff for the Western States Petroleum Association, to the blue ribbon task force that oversees the MLPA. However, the task force also includes an environmental academic — Meg Caldwell; a former progressive, pro-environment politico — Virginia Strom-Martin, as well as other recycled bureaucrats. And, the significant, non-stoner question is this: why would big oil help to establish a gulag of protected marine sanctuaries along our northern coastline? To pay out more in lawsuits, if these sanctuaries were drenched in oil?

There’s something sinister about the MLPA, and I think it’s a new phenomenon. There’s a power behind the scenes that seeks to control our coast without first seeking to solicit our vote.

We must follow the money to expose this scheme. Initially, the MLPA was funded by a puny $250,000 — hardly enough to hire a couple of rent-a-cops to keep out kids with fishing poles. Then, miraculously, $18 million washed up upon the beach! The MLPA was a going concern. The money came from the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation (RLFF) but, in fact, the RLFF is simply a money drop for the Packard Foundation, which was founded by David Packard, a billionaire world-war-two inventor and defense contractor who later served as Richard Nixon’s deputy secretary of defense. The Packard Foundation is the sixth largest foundation in America, and has more money than the combined county governments of northern coastal California. However, if you’re thinking vast right-wing conspiracy manipulated by the ghost of Richard Nixon, you’re fishing with a bare hook. The Packard Foundation funds the Stanford Children’s Hospital; reproductive health; science; and restoration of natural resources with a special emphasis on: (pay attention now) the end to both over fishing and destructive fishing methods. Taking fish with dynamite is bad. So are 20 miles of set lines adrift on ocean currents; or killing whales for hungry pets, but what about a kid who baits a hook; or a bucket of tasty muscles to add to the bouillabaisse; or that native, tribal person who gathers cockles for her lunch? Hidden behind the scenes, should monies from a private foundation be used to control our coast?

The political-foundation-complex may be a bad marriage in the making. For instance, let’s follow the sticky web on Colburn Wilber, past president and current Packard Foundation board member. Wilber is also the director of yet another foundation: PVF: the Philanthropic Ventures Fund. PVF has $10 billion in the bank, and they award grants to yet other foundations, including the Tides Foundation and Tides Center which promotes a multitude of daffy agendas, including organizations that seek to exclude humans from public and private lands; ACORN; the National Lawyers Guild, and the banning of firearms ownership. The Tides Center also acts as a legal firewall for radical environmental groups seeking legal protection from loggers and farmers they’ve put out of business.

That’s not to say that Cole Wilbur at the Packard Foundation is culpable in these foundation shenanigans that impact our political process, but he does hand out the money. However, he must know Michael Sutton, also formally of the Packard Foundation, and who is presently the vice president of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. In fact, the Packard Foundation funds 90% of this spectacular fish tank. I may be just another fool walking along the beach, but does anyone see where this is going? Isn’t a perfect MPA, or marine protective area, in fact, an aquarium? Presently it costs $29.95 to enter the Monterey Bay Aquarium. In the future, will there be tollgates at our beaches?

So, what’s to be done when the MLPA comes to town, and the Foundation funded stooges divide us into user groups to fight amongst ourselves? I say, tell them to walk due west on the nearest beach until their hats and hairdos float.

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