California Urged to Rethink 40 Years of ‘Piecemeal’ Freshwater Protections

Courthouse News Service –

When wet weather mercifully returned to California in 2017, it not only stabilized a booming farming economy and pulled millions of residents from drought – it also staved off an extinction event brewing in the state’s majestic snow-fed rivers.

Ultimately the drought had relatively minor impacts on most urban Californians who suddenly had to do things like let their lawns go brown or – gasp – ask for water while dining out. But under the surface, 18 fish species including coho and chinook nearly disappeared for good from California rivers and streams.

The bitter drought validated scientists’ warnings that despite longstanding endangered species protections, the state’s outdated and overtaxed water management plans are failing in the face of climate change.

With an ever-increasing demand for water and the threat of larger droughts looming, a report released Thursday by the Public Policy Institute of California recommends the state stop prioritizing individual species recovery plans and adopt holistic management methods that improve entire freshwater ecosystems.

“While this approach has prevented extinctions, it also places an emphasis on reducing harm to listed species, rather than improving overall ecosystem condition necessary to recover their populations,” the PPIC report states.

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