The Loma Prietan - May/June 2009

Message from the Chair

by Charles Schafer

Chapter Chair

Welcome to another edition of my ramblings. This time around I would like to talk a bit about how our conservation activities are structured.

Our conservation committee, which is responsible for coordinating all of our conservation efforts, is chaired by longtime activist Diane Allen. It is composed of representatives from our various local issue committees and meets once a month. Its mission is to coordinate the activities of the local issue committees, provide support for their initiatives, and link the activists and the Executive Committee, which ratifies our official policy positions.

For the most part, the local issue committees are grouped (oddly enough!) according to the relatively narrow issue they have an interest in. For example, our Water Committee focuses on issues such as the quality of our drinking water, damming of our rivers and streams, and restoring riparian habitat. The other committees are...

• Forest Protection Committee: working to preserve the ecological integrity of our forests, stopping clearcutting, and promoting Forest Stewardship Council-certified lumber.

• Transportation Committee: focused on issues such as the high speed rail system, high-occupancy toll lanes for our freeways, and improving our local mass transit systems.

• Sustainable Land Use Committee: working to promote building high density developments near major mass transit hubs to preserve open space and discourage the use of automobiles as the sole means of transport.

• Pesticide Committee: educating the public about the least toxic methods of pest control and the laws that regulate pesticide use.

• Wilderness Committee: protecting our state parks and promoting responsible management of wilderness areas and public wild lands.

• Coastal Committee: preserving the undeveloped San Mateo County coast, promoting beach clean-ups, and protecting coastal habitat.

• Wetlands Committee: protecting Bay wetlands from development and restoring wetlands.

• Zero Waste Committee: working on issues related to composting, recycling, landfills, and waste-to-energy, among other issues.

The major exception to the single-issue rule is our Climate Action Campaign which, while working on one issue, relates to many other issues. This Campaign is our largest area of effort these days, given the size of the problem and the need to move quickly. Our primary focus is on our Cool Cities Teams. These teams, consisting of local residents, work with their city governments to reduce their carbon footprints and those of their residents. Initially, the target was getting the cities to sign on to the Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement. This year, our spotlight is on the connection between land use and climate change, and getting cities to adopt sustainable general plans and green building policies. Some of our activists are now sitting on blue-ribbon panels that advise on global warming issues and are working with planning commissions as they update their long-range city plans.

I am very proud of the diversity of conservation issues my fellow volunteers are working on and the difference we make in protecting our local environment. And as new issues arise they are often picked up by the respective issue committee, or in some cases by a single activist who has a burning desire to jump into the fray! The beauty of a grassroots organization is that if you want to jump in and make your voice heard, there is a way to do it. So do it!