AB 975: Logging Companies & Dam Builders Lobbying Against a River Protection Bill

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Please contact your Assemblymember TODAY and urge him or her to vote YES on AB 975.

We also need hundreds of emails to Assemblymembers throughout the state to let them know that AB 975 is an essential part of California’s “green shield” to protect the environment against the attacks of the Trump Administration and the ruling majority in Congress.

Logging companies and dam builders are lobbying hard to oppose AB 975, Friends of the River’s and Assemblymember Laura Friedman’s modest but important bill to improve the management and protection of California’s Wild and Scenic Rivers.

AB 975 passed the Assembly Natural Resources and Appropriations Committees. It will be voted on by the full Assembly in the next few weeks. Unfortunately, logging companies, agribusiness, and water developers are opposing the bill and making outrageous claims about its potential impacts.

AB 975 will be voted on by the full Assembly as early as this Thursday, May 4, 2017 (the day after California Rivers Day). Please contact your Assemblymember TODAY and urge him or her to vote YES on AB 975.

Background

Friends of the River is sponsoring AB 975, introduced in the California Legislature by Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) and co-authored by Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica). This bill will make modest but important improvements in the protection and management of the 1,398 miles of rivers and streams in the California Wild and Scenic Rivers System. AB 975 accomplishes this by bringing state management more in line with the higher level of protection provided to rivers in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The bill is supported by more than 22 conservation and recreation organizations, as well as two Native American tribes.  

Both the state and national river systems protect free flowing rivers by prohibiting new dams and diversions on designated segments. Rivers in the national system enjoy a protected corridor that averages 320 acres per mile. But rivers in the state system are protected only up to the first line of riparian vegetation. Defining a Wild and Scenic River as ending at the first line of riparian vegetation fails to protect the adjacent riparian and upland areas that are critical to the biological functions of the river and that possess important recreation, historical, and cultural values.

Ecologists, biologists, and hydrologists agree that river ecosystems stretch beyond the river bed to include adjacent riparian habitat and upland areas. The lands adjacent to rivers protect water quality by filtering sediment and pollutants, provide critical habitat for fish and wildlife, provide popular river-based recreation opportunities, and are typically rich in historical and cultural values associated with past human use of the river and its corridor.

Both the state and national systems require government agencies to protect not only the free-flowing character of rivers (by prohibiting dams) but also the specific river-based values that make the rivers eligible for protection. In the national system, this includes outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreation, fish, wildlife, historical, cultural, geological, and “other” values (often defined as ecological, botanical, or hydrological). The state system only recognizes extraordinary scenic, recreation, fish, and wildlife values. AB 975 brings state protection more in line with the federal system by recognizing extraordinary historical, cultural, geological, ecological, botanical, and hydrological values.

Reconciling state and federal protection of rivers in California is important because technically, the state is responsible for the management of 1,274 miles of rivers that enjoy both state and federal protection. This was because the entire state system first established in 1972 was placed in to the federal system in 1981 upon the request of Governor Jerry Brown and the approval of Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus during the Carter Administration. The incorporation of the state rivers into the federal system used an obscure provision of the federal law that allowed state governors to petition the Interior Secretary to add state protected rivers to the federal system without approval by Congress and the state’s legislature. But that provision requires states to manage the federally protected rivers.

When California’s state-protected rivers were added to the federal system in 1981, the California Legislature reacted viciously by gutting the state’s Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Management by state agencies to protect designated rivers was weakened, the river-area protected was limited to the first line of riparian vegetation, and the requirement for state river management plans was abolished. Friends of the River successfully amended state law to require state agencies to protect state-designated rivers in 2004. AB 975 is another step in our long-term strategy to improve protection of state rivers by expanding the protected river area to the federal standard and increasing the number of recognized extraordinary rivers values to be protected.

With more pressure than ever before on our river systems from population growth, development, drought, and floods, it is crucial that California improve management of its Wild and Scenic Rivers to ensure that these waterways are preserved and protected for present and future generations.


Take Action

Please take action TODAY by sending an email to and calling your Assemblymember urging him or her to vote “yes” on AB 975 when it comes to the Assembly floor.

Call Your Assemblymember TODAY And Urge Them To Vote YES On AB 975!

If you don’t know the name or phone number of your Assemblymember, go to http://www.legislature.ca.gov/legislators_and_districts/legislators/your_legislator.html. Type in your address and then click on the name of your Assemblymember. It will send you to the appropriate Assembly web site. Call the State Capitol office phone number provided on the page (typically in a side bar to the right and below), identify yourself as a constituent, and urge your Assemblymember to vote YES on AB 975.

For more information about AB 975.

Contact Steve Evans, FOR consultant, email: sevans@friendsoftheriver.org, phone: (916) 708-3155.

Sponsored by
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Sacramento, CA