Corey Costelloe mug

Corey Costelloe

You would think that during a pandemic, when most of the words coming from Sacramento are regulatory in nature and reactionary to the spread of COVID-19, that us outdoorsman-types would be left alone while problems were actually solved. Think again.

If you enjoy outdoor recreation for fun or hunting and fishing as a means to provide for your family, then you may have been given a recent heads-up about California Assembly Bill 3030. AB 3030 is titled “Resource Conservation: land and ocean conservation goals.” In short, it aims to “protect 30 percent of California’s land areas and waters and to help advance the protection of 30 percent of the nation’s oceans by 2030.”

Sounds valiant enough, right? But then again reading the details, or glaring lack thereof in the case of this bill, authored by Assemblyman Ash Kalra, D-San Jose, this is nothing more than a veiled attempt to severely limit hunting, recreational and commercial fishing access in many of California’s lands and waters.

To make matters even more politically motivated, this bill does so under the guise of increasing protected lands to allow for more outdoor access to minority communities. The proposed text states: “Improving access to nature for all people in the state, with a specific emphasis on increasing access for communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities.”

So let me get this straight. We are going to solve the perceived “problem” of not enough minorities enjoying our natural resources (many located not that far from some of California’s largest cities, by the way), by slapping new regulations on lands and waters, with very few details of what that actually means?

I understand that sometimes enjoying the great outdoors can by pricey, but isn’t that a socio-economic issue and not a race issue? Or since it is 2020 does everything automatically default to race? What about working with outdoors-focused nonprofits that encourage outdoor activities for inner-city youth? When I lived in Bakersfield, Major League Baseball started the “Reviving Baseball in the Inner-City,” or R.B.I. program. It sought to address the lack of young people in disadvantaged communities playing baseball due to cost. I volunteered as a coach at the Bakersfield Police Activities League, and we provided a free baseball league to many kids who could not afford the cost of other leagues.

Guess what? Not one single bit of California legislation was required to start that program. It was a private venture led by the MLB and its community partners. The same can be done in this case, although there is a much larger environmental agenda at play here, one that discretely seeks to halt hunting and fishing on certain lands under the term “protected.”

This bill has been approved in the Assembly (thanks by the way to our own Assemblyman Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield, for voting "no" twice on this bill), it was amended once again late last week and is going to the State Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee to start the final approval process.

This bill is vehemently opposed by outdoors groups, hunting groups, recreational fishing groups as well as the commercial fishing industry due to the fact that it lacks any definition and includes nothing but “broad and ambiguous statements.” But given we are talking about Sacramento in 2020, I expect nothing less, and unfortunately the party in power will approve as such.

Other than seeking to limit outdoor activity for those of us who pay a pretty penny every year for hunting and fishing licenses, registration of recreational vehicles and so on, this bill has an ambiguous price tag as well. With all the ecological goals listed, it lacks another thing: funding. Initial analysis by several legislative groups put the price tag in the ballpark of $50 million.

$50 million? For what? A veiled attempt at “protecting” California lands while limiting access to the taxpayers that currently fund them through property taxes and license fees? Given the bloated spending related to COVID-19 in this state, where will we find $50 million to fund this other than from our own pocketbooks?

Although the bill has not been scheduled yet in the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee, as it currently reads there is no choice for the outdoorsman, fisherman or hunter but to oppose this environmental land grab. You can email opposition letters to sntr@sen.ca.gov or mail them to Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee, California State Capitol, Room 5046, Sacramento, CA 95814.

While we are distracted with COVID-19, we are being robbed of our own outdoor spaces behind our backs. Please help put a stop to another poorly produced political attack on the outdoor way of life.

Corey Costelloe has covered NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides in Tehachapi. He can be reached at corey.costelloe@gmail.com. The opinions expressed are his own.

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