Here in Santa Cruz County, we have codified our relationship with Nature in the County’s General Plan and County Code. These documents are intended to guide county government projects, plans and procedures toward protection and conservation of natural areas, open spaces and natural habitats and to conserve natural resources.
Measure C – Decade of the Environment
Measure C was adopted by the voters of Santa Cruz County on June 5, 1990, as an ongoing ten-year program that designated the 1990’s as the “Decade of the Environment.” Measure C served as a guide to Santa Cruz County government in carrying out actions to help protect and restore the local environment, and to confront, on a local level, those environmental crises that are global in scope. Chapter 16.90 of the County Code, which provides for implementation of Measure C, directs County government to work toward accomplishing the following:
- To provide for efficient use of renewable energy and recycled resources;
- To protect biological diversity and human health, through the protection and restoration of the environment;
- To encourage agricultural practices which are protective of the natural environment and human health;
- To promote and encourage economic development strategies in Santa Cruz County which are consistent with both environmental protection and restoration, and which will help create a local economy based on the use of renewable resources;
- To ensure that future growth and development in Santa Cruz County adheres to the natural limits and carrying capacity of the Santa Cruz County environment; and
- To take local actions which can help reverse, reduce, and eliminate practices which are contributing to global environmental crises.
Measure C also established a series of eleven principles and policies to guide local government efforts related to: offshore oil drilling; global warming and renewable energy resources; protection of the ozone layer; forest protection and restoration; greenbelt protection and preservation; recycling; toxic and radioactive materials; endangered species and biological diversity; development of a sustainable local economy; future growth and development; and education and outreach.
As requested by the Board of Supervisors, the Planning Department prepared an annual report on the Measure C “Decade of the Environment” Program, which identified new initiatives throughout County government that have been undertaken to further program objectives related to energy conservation and environmental protection, as described in County Code Chapter 16.90.
Chapter 16.92.010 of Santa Cruz County Code – Environmental Principles and Policies to Guide County Government extended Measure C from 2000 to 2009, stating the following purpose:
“To urge all the elected officials who represent the people of Santa Cruz County, at the city, State and Federal levels of government, to take any and all actions in their power which can assist in the protection and restoration of the environment of Santa Cruz County, and which can help reverse, reduce and eliminate those actions and practices which are contributing to environmental crises which are global in scope.”
Measure C also served as the policy basis for the 1994 Santa Cruz County General Plan, especially Chapters 2, 5 and 7.
General Plan Chapter 5 – Conservation and Open Space consists of a conservation element “for the conservation, development, and utilization of natural resources,” and an open space element covering “any parcel or area of land or water which is essentially unimproved and devoted to an open-space use…”
General Plan Chapter 7 – Parks, Recreation and Public Facilities “… designates parks and other facilities … water quality and quantity issues, energy and other resource topics.”
These regulations are pretty clear on paper, or even on a computer screen, aren’t they? Unfortunately, Measure C was never extend beyond 2009, and knowledge of its existence has dwindled to nothingness.
Do these regulations effectively curtail destruction of natural resources and natural habitats in Santa Cruz County?
Just like any other government, our local government is dominated by Supervisors, Commissioners and staff who have little, if any, environmental awareness, training or experience. Their focus and concerns are directed toward the needs and desires of human residents of the county, especially those humans who vote and contribute to political campaigns. We are constantly frustrated, Jean and I, by the seeming inability of government officials to understand how necessary it is to protect and preserve non-human species and their habitats, even though their own regulations direct them to do so.
It is up to us, the politically and environmentally aware citizens of this county, to bring these regulations to the attention of county and municipal decision-makers at every opportunity. We do this by being knowledgeable about county and municipal governments, by staying involved in the political process, through websites, emails, phone calls, letters to the editor, standing up at public meetings, meeting one-on-one with public officials, meeting with our neighbors and fellow travelers to spread the word, raise awareness and encourage political activism.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”