We’re all aching from the sudden shift in the economy. I doubt there’s a single person out there that hasn’t felt the effects of the recession. So there’s no need to launch into a sob story, but what is happening in California at least merits discussion, if only because it’s interesting.
In late December, while still waiting on budget to be passed, the California Department of Finance froze use of state bond money for general programs statewide. (As a simple explanation, the state ran out of money.) The ripple effect of this was immense. Many organizations utilize this money. At Ducks Unlimited this instantly suspended many DU wetlands restoration projects and all payments for recently completed project work.
Bond monies fund a great many things, some might argue that work on state wildlife management areas and federal refuges is the least of these things. All the same, over $7 million in DU project work has come to an ordered and screeching halt.
There are plenty of other organizations suffering over this and many without the national support and diversified funding of Ducks Unlimited. It’s just bad news for conservation in California in general. There are projects out there halfway finished and now sitting that will have to be started over, meaning they will cost more money. (When you get halfway through the removal of an invasive plant species and then let the land sit fallow for 6 months… well you get my drift.)
Over $2.6 billion is now owed to organizations using bond funds for projects, and at least $20 billion in overall public project work is on hold. So now that the budget’s passed, the crisis has been averted, right?
Not so fast.
The state has to start selling bonds again before bond funding projects can get rolling again. And the state doesn’t really have the credit to do that right now. There’s some cleaning up and straightening out that has to be done. Then they are going to start working down the list to get money flowing as is available and conservation isn’t at the top of that list. So many projects are probably not going to start up again until this summer at the earliest. In the mean time, organizations out there are letting people go or at the very least not hiring the people to do this work.
Interesting times in California.
So what you do? Now is perhaps the the most important time since the depression to support your favorite nonprofit conservation organization. (For me that’s hands down DU and not because I work there, I’ve extolled the virtues of DU for years.) If you can spare the gift, give it. If you can’t at the very least keep your eye on what’s happening with State and National policy. Changes are coming at us in rapid succession and not all of them are good for the long term. Make sure you educate yourself and make your voice heard. We need you more than ever.