Gov. Gavin Newsom in late June signed a nearly $215 billion budget for the State of California. With public funding a key part of our organization’s strategy for protecting and preserving California’s redwood forests, Save the Redwoods League plays an active role in the budget process, advocating for our priorities. As one would expect, there are many interests at play in these negotiations. While the Legislature didn’t approve funding for all of our priorities, there were some significant victories.We were greatly pleased to see the Legislature provide $24.5 million to the California Department of Parks and Recreation for deferred maintenance. With so many acres of wild and beautiful landscapes held in the public trust by the department, including some of our most treasured redwood forests, this funding is essential for keeping forestlands resilient to wildfire and the impacts of climate change.
One key request that didn’t make the cut was a $10 million request by State Sen. Mike McGuire and Assembly Member Jim Wood to partially fund the Redwood National and State Park Visitor Center at the Orick Mill property, at the southern gateway to the world’s tallest trees. The site was purchased by Save the Redwoods League in 2013.
As always, competition to allocate dollars from the multi-billion-dollar State Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund was intense. These funds are to be dedicated to climate-beneficial projects, and Save the Redwoods League has contended that forest protection and restoration are a key part of the state’s effort to meet its carbon reduction goals. While we would have liked to see more funding dedicated to natural resources this year, lawmakers did approve $220 million to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection for important healthy and resilient forest management, as well as $3 million for to the California Coastal Commission and San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission for coastal resilience.
Thanks to California voters, the recently passed parks and water bond, Prop. 68, provides vital funding for parks and natural lands – including dollars Save the Redwoods League needs to continue protecting our redwood forests. In the current budget, legislators appropriated and the Governor approved $127 million for the Wildlife Conservation Board to support conservation and restoration projects, as well as $28 million to the California Natural Resources Agency to support the creation of river parkways, new trails, and other recreation projects.
Proposition 64 in 2016 created a framework for some legalized cannabis use and production in California. One of the key tenets of that measure was that specific portion of the tax from sales and permitting would go toward restoring damage in nature – frequently in the northern California redwood range – from illegal cultivation.
While the Legislature did not technically provide Prop. 64 allocations in its budget legislation, funding will be made available to administering agencies. This includes nearly $24 million to the Department of Fish and Wildlife for clean-up, remediation, and restoration of damage in watersheds affected by illegal cannabis cultivation, and enforcement aimed at preventing further environmental degradation of public lands. There will be another $16 million to the Department of Parks and Recreation identify and restore areas of illegal cultivation on parkland. Another $5.3 million will go to the California Natural Resources Agency to support youth community access grants.