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Saving ForestsTop 10 Biggest Environmental Wins In California’s History

Top 10 Biggest Environmental Wins In California’s History

Top 10 Biggest Environmental Wins In California’s History

Rating the victories that saved priceless landscapes and environmental features

California is mostly referred to as an environmental leader, however the state has also faced tremendous environmental degradation and destruction. I chronicled my “top 10” worst environmental decisions within the state’s history last yr.

But what concerning the good things state policy makers have done? Here is my list of probably the most significant environmental wins in California because the state’s founding. To qualify, as with the last Top 10 list, the motion needed to preserve a uniquely beautiful environmental feature (landscapes and plants). You’ll see that a lot of these decisions sought to reverse the destruction highlighted in my original negative list.

10. San Francisco’s Embarcadero Freeway Removal

The Embarcadero freeway was a double-decked freeway eyesore circling downtown San Francisco. Following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, it became structurally compromised. While some wanted it re-built, city leaders ultimately decided to tear it down, opening up a ravishing, walking/biking/transit-friendly promenade and revitalizing the Ferry Constructing through improved access. It’s a success story about what might be completed after we undo the car-oriented infrastructure mistakes of the past.

9. Avoiding Latest Power Plants With Energy Efficiency

Appliance Efficiency Regulations - Title 20

For the reason that Seventies, California has instituted a series of energy efficiency mandates on recent buildings and appliances which have collectively helped the state avoid constructing dozens of latest power plants, while at the identical time saving consumers lots of money. Imagine our coastline and disadvantaged communities with all those polluting power plants that ultimately weren’t needed. It also signifies that today we’d like to develop less land for brand new solar and wind installations, because of the foresight of the state’s energy efficiency visionaries.

8. Protecting the California Coastline

California Coast Vital To Pacific Ocean's Top Predators | KPBS

Concerned about development and privatization along the state’s sensitive coastal lands, California voters in 1972 approved Proposition 20, which led to the legislature adopting the Coastal Act. The Act and its commission ensures that the general public all the time has a right to access the state beaches, in addition to placing environmental protections on any recent proposed development. Consequently, the state has ensured environmental protection across 1.5 million acres of land and 1,100 miles of California coastline from Oregon to Mexico, including nine off-shore islands.

7. Establishing Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes by Land and by Sea. Where Holsteins, herons, and hidden… | by Rachel Levin | Airbnb Magazine | Medium

Point Reyes is a natural wonderland just 40 miles north of San Francisco, with beautiful, historic coastal areas and graceful cypress forests and valleys in the inside. It was under threat of housing development when local leaders convinced the National Park Service in 1962 to ascertain the Point Reyes National Seashore as a 53,000 acre recreational area, which in 1976 grew a further 25,370 acres with the Phillip Burton Wilderness Area there. Consequently, the realm is protected against further development and maintained as accessible open space for residents of the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.

6. Protecting the California Desert

Five Reasons to Protect the California Desert | The Pew Charitable Trusts

The Mojave Desert is a shocking landscape within the high-altitude plain outside of urban Los Angeles, stretching to the Colorado River. Mountain peaks punctuate forests of Joshua trees, sand dunes, and wide vistas brimming with flowers within the spring. When under threat of development, including mining and off-roading, state and native leaders convinced Congress in 1994 to guard this land with Sen. Feinstein’s California Desert Protection Act, which created two national parks (Joshua Tree and Death Valley) and the Mojave Preserve, protecting greater than 9.6 million acres.

5. Preserving the Santa Monica Mountains

Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area---American Latino Heritage: A Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary

The Santa Monica mountains form a backbone through much of the guts of urban Los Angeles, from the Hollywood hills through Malibu and out to the Pacific Ocean, briefly resurfacing as a number of the largest Channel Islands. They provide beautiful climbing, historic and sacred Native sites, commanding views, and spring wildflowers and waterfalls. Threatened by development given their prime location and views for the rich who can afford to live there, state leaders formed the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to guard them as a natural respite for Angelenos for generations to come back.

4. Saving the San Francisco Bay

Restoration of San Francisco Bay wetlands is now crucial to local climate resilience

The San Francisco Bay is the biggest estuary on the West Coast of the USA. Historically it was teeming with birdlife, fish, and shellfish, together with densely populated Native villages. Industrialists filled in much of the bay and its coastal wetlands, including for real estate and other development. Within the Nineteen Sixties, local activists formed Save the Bay, resulting in successful efforts to preserve the remaining wetlands from further development.

3. Rescuing the Last Old Growth Redwoods

The Race to Save California's Last Old-Growth Redwood Forests | KCET

California’s coastal redwood trees are the tallest on Earth, reaching as high as 330 feet and living for over a thousand years. These treasures are only found from the Oregon border south to Big Sur, though loggers felled over 95% of them inside a century to fulfill the region’s insatiable demand for lumber. Together with the Save the Redwoods League and a few local landowners, state and native leaders managed to preserve groves throughout the state, culminating more recently in a deal to preserve the Headwaters Forest in 1999.

2. Ending Sierra Nevada Hydraulic Gold Mining

17 of California's Richest Gold Mining Locations - How to Find Gold Nuggets

Gold mining brought much economic activity and immigration to California, however it led to war and genocide of the Native people, in addition to significant, long-lasting pollution in our agricultural lands and waterways. Mercury from the mines still plague our waterways. But in 1884, federal judge Lorenzo Sawyer put a stop to hydraulic mining within the name of protecting agricultural land from the sediment runoff, within the case Woodruff v. North Bloomfield Gravel Mining Company. Consequently, the Sierra Nevada mountains now not face destructive hydraulic mining and our waterways are cleaner.

1. Establishing Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park Established - HISTORY

Yosemite National Park is arguably the crown jewel of America’s park system. It features stunning glacial-carved Valleys, including Hetch Hetchy and the namesake Yosemite Valley, with incredible geologic features comparable to Half Dome, El Capitan and Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in North America, together with priceless Sequoia tree groves. President Lincoln signed laws in 1864 to guard much of the Valley and the essential Sequoia grove, setting the precedent for the founding of the primary national park at Yellowstone in 1872. Then Scottish immigrant and Martinez resident John Muir convinced Teddy Roosevelt during a 1903 camping trip to expand national park protection for Yosemite, allowing visitors from all around the world to enjoy more of the wonders of this world-class treasure.


While it’s easy to lament all that was lost in California’s environmental history, these 10 wins remind us that wherever there was destruction and injustice, reformers and visionaries have also been present to fight back. (And after all there have been more victories that didn’t make this list, comparable to saving Mono Lake and fighting off the draining and highway-strewning planned for Lake Tahoe.) These successes didn’t occur on their very own, and in actual fact in lots of instances happened within the face of serious opposition from entrenched interests. We owe a debt to those activists and leaders who helped preserve much of California’s environmental heritage for future generations.

Embarcadero Freeway, energy efficiency, Mojave Desert, Point Reyes, Redwoods, San Francisco Bay, Santa Monica Mountains, Yosemite


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