Secret California Park Give-Away

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

Secret California Park Give-Away

Back Door Proposal to Transfer Lands from Tolowa Dunes State Park

SAN FRANCISCO - Conservation groups are protesting a proposed transfer of interest
in approximately 1200 acres of the Tolowa Dunes State Park by the
California Department of Parks and Recreation to the California
Department of Fish and Game. The deal, which will open up the lands to
hunting, is moving forward without any public notice or environmental
review.

"The Governor apparently intends to save State Parks by
disposing of them," said Karen Schambach, California Director for
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). "While State
Parks can't be sold, Fish and Game lands don't enjoy that same
protection. Is this the first step towards selling our parklands off to
private interests?"

Tolowa Dunes State Park is located in Del
Norte County in the northwest corner of California. The Park includes
approximately 1200 acres near Lake Earl, the largest coastal lagoon in
California. For the first time this year, the long-standing ban on
hunting in State Parks is being enforced. This apparently has provided
the impetus for the proposed land transfer, which will reportedly be
completed in mid-November to accommodate the duck hunting season.

In a letter sent last week to State Parks Director Ruth Coleman
protesting the proposed transfer, Friends of Del Norte, the
Environmental Protection Information Center, and the Center for
Biological Diversity accused the Departments of Parks and Recreation
and Fish and Game not only with proceeding with the transfer in
secrecy, but with deliberately ignoring environmental laws.

"These
unique wetlands should be protected by State Parks; not traded away as
a political favor," said Lisa Belenky, senior attorney with the Center
for Biological Diversity. "If State Parks wants to change the status of
the public lands entrusted to its care, it must do so through an open
public process."

"The contemplated giveaway of these dune swale
ponds is particularly outrageous because they are unique in the
California state parks system, and have a tribal heritage that goes
back thousands of years," said Scott Greacen, Executive Director of the
Environmental Protection Information Center. "We were shocked to hear
about this transfer because State Parks in this region is otherwise
doing a good job of protecting tribal cultural resources."

Tolowa Dunes State Park and the adjoining 5,500-acre Lake Earl wetland
complex provide habitat for at least 43 rare and federally and state
listed species, including peregrine falcon, brown pelican, western
snowy plover, marbled murrelet, sand dune phacelia, Oregon silverspot
butterfly, seaside hoary elfin butterfly, greenish blue butterfly,
steelhead, and coastal cutthroat trout. In addition, over 300 different
bird species use Lake Earl with as many as 100,000 birds found there
during seasonal migrations.

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Read the letter protesting the transfer

Look at financial problems facing California parks 

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Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.

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