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California Business, Environmental and Government Leaders Forge Action Plan to Protect Habitat and Guide Growth

September 14, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - California business and environmental leaders have laid important groundwork for the healthy growth of communities around the state. Through the California Environmental Dialogue (CED), California business, environmental and government leaders have agreed to a set of recommendations to guide development to appropriate areas in order to support the state's growth while protecting wildlife, natural areas and working landscapes. The "Economic Growth and Habitat Protection" Recommendations are based on a shared understanding that costly and divisive acre-by-acre battles over proposed development projects put both our economy and our environment at risk.

"Contrary to popular mythology, California businesses understand the need to protect natural areas and ecosystems, and California environmentalists understand the need to guide quality growth in the state," said Michael Hertel, Director of Corporate Environmental Policy, Southern California Edison. "These business community leaders recognize that economic growth and environmental protection can go hand in hand. Business and environmental leaders want to work together with state and local leaders to find practical ways to simultaneously plan for habitat protection and plan for development. These new recommendations from the California Environmental Dialogue create a foundation for developing sound public policy and planning that help both the environment and the economy thrive."

The California Environmental Dialogue's Economic Growth and Habitat Protection Recommendations call for state and local policies that:

  • Direct and facilitate development projects toward suitable areas and away from ecologically significant areas, based on scientific assessments.
  • Reform permitting to provide incentives for growth in more suitable areas.
  • Secure sufficient resources for long-term protection of natural areas.
  • Encourage private landowners to maintain and restore their land to support healthy habitat, water quality and wildlife protection.
  • Ensure that adequate information, agency staff and other public-sector infrastructure are in place to support both appropriate development and appropriate protection of wildlife and natural areas.

"To make real progress, we have to create solutions that recognize the fundamental realities facing California," explained Michele Perrault, International Vice President of the Sierra Club. "We know that a healthy natural environment is critical to the state. We know the population is going to grow. We know there's going to be more residential and commercial development. If we're smart about where new development occurs and how it occurs, we won't pave our way out of existence."

Steve Gross, Director of State Relations for the Wine Institute, agreed. "The current system is contentious and costly for all concerned, and the piecemeal protection of habitat is not sufficient to sustain healthy ecosystems. By proactively steering development to appropriate areas and addressing ecological protection from the beginning, California can avoid eleventh-hour, no-win surprises for businesses, environmental and community advocates, and public officials during the project approval process. This approach will save everybody time, money, and headaches while making sure that wildlife and natural areas are protected."

"Private landowners play a crucial role in maintaining healthy ecosystems," said Sarah Connick, Associate Director, Sustainable Conservation. "Many businesses, farmers and other private landowners want to be good environmental stewards. These new recommendations ask California's state and local governments to support the responsible efforts of private landowners—particularly those who seek to go above and beyond what they are legally required to do in protecting and restoring healthy habitat. That may mean easing the path for projects located in appropriate areas that incorporate sufficient protection of healthy habitat for wildlife."

"The state government has to support balanced growth proactively," said Vic Weisser, President, California Council on Economic and Environmental Balance. "That means having sound policies and planning processes in place. It also means hiring, training and equipping the staff necessary to carry out key functions in the areas of ecosystems and land use planning. We're asking California leaders to plan wisely for the growth we face, to preserve the state's natural health and wealth for tomorrow and future generations."

The "Economic Growth and Habitat Protection" Recommendations were developed by the California Environmental Dialogue's Habitat Prosperity Working Group over a period of two years, following the publication of "Habitat and Prosperity: Protecting California's Future" in 1998 and "Land Conservation in California: Needs for the Next Decade" in 1999. The Recommendations are based on the realities:

  • Natural resources are critical to California - A healthy natural environment provides clean air and drinking water; enhances the state's ability to attract and retain businesses and skilled workers; supports agriculture and working landscapes; sustains commercial fisheries; and supports tourism and recreation.
  • The population will grow - By 2020, the state is expected to add one Californian for every four current residents, primarily from births to existing residents.
  • Permitting processes should be shortened to guide growth - A variety of permits are required for development. Through comprehensive planning the state should identify ways to shorten permitting without harming environmental quality to guide growth to more suitable areas.
  • Private landowners play a crucial role - Private landowners control roughly 50% of the landbase in California. If they act as responsible stewards of our natural resources, there will be more healthy habitat and cleaner air and water.
  • Adequate public policies and resources must be in place - Currently California allocates less than 1% of the state budget ($117.3 billion) to investment in natural resources. Chronic under funding of state agencies responsible for natural resources has hindered business growth and fallen short of required—and necessary—protection of wildlife and natural areas.

Based on the "Economic Growth and Habitat Protection" Recommendations, members of the California Environmental Dialogue will work with Governor Schwarzenegger, California legislators, state and federal regulators, and other stakeholders to develop a balanced, effective process of proactively planning for both habitat protection and economic development around the state.

Background:

Economic Growth and Habitat Protection was prepared by the California Environmental Dialogue (CED). The mission of the CED is to engage California business, environmental, and government leaders collaboratively to produce timely and improved environmental protection while reducing costs to business, government and society. By engaging in a formal dialogue, CED builds relationships and trust, which allow its members to pursue public and private policies leading to enhanced environmental outcomes and economic efficiencies.

Read CED's Economic Growth & Habitat Protection report (PDF).