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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Blue Ribbon Taskforce Meeting

California Marine Life Protection Act Initiative Announcement
Who:  MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF)

What:  Addressing confusion regarding public comment at the reconvened BRTF meeting

Where:  See statement below and attached in PDF

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Public Comment at the Reconvened MLPA
Blue Ribbon Task Force Meeting on November 10, 2009

The California Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative is committed to an open and transparent processto help the State of California develop an improved system of marine protected areas (MPAs). A key element of the MLPA Initiative is creating opportunities for effective stakeholder and interested public participation.

The MLPA Initiative includes a regional stakeholder group in each study region that develops MPA proposals with the assistance of the task force, a science advisory team, the California Department of Fish and Game, California Department of Parks and Recreation, and a team of staff and contractors, as well as significant input from the interested public.

The MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force has received three MPA proposals from the MLPA South Coast Regional Stakeholder Group (SCRSG) and determined on October 22, 2009 that all three should be forwarded to the California Fish and Game Commission, along with a preferred alternative that could be one of the three or an integrated blend of them.

The task force received over ten thousand written comments and over six hours of formal verbal public comment related to the Round 3 SCRSG MPA proposalsand the individual MPAs within different geographies, which have significantly helped inform the decision making process. These public comments are in addition to the over fifteen hours of formal verbal public comment, and hundreds of hours of informal input and feedback, received by the SCRSG during its deliberations.

On October 22, 2009, the task force incorporated information from public comments in its deliberations about potential MPA options to consider for the preferred alternative. Throughout its deliberations, the task force requested input from SCRSG members who are intimately familiar with the interests, concerns and values taken into consideration in developing the MPA proposals. At the end of the day, the task force had identified a subset of MPAs to be potentially included in a preferred alternative (referred to as “common MPAs”) and several key geographies where agreement had not been reached (referred to as “MPA options under consideration”); as a result, the task force recessed and will reconvene on November 10, 2009 to continue its deliberations on the preferred alternative. Members of the SCRSG have been invited to again participate in the meeting and their direct input will be an important element of the task force deliberations.

The public has also been offered an additional opportunity for submitting written comments during the nearly three week recess. In the key geographies with MPA options under considerationby the task force, the public has continued to provide written input, with up to several hundred comments each day since October 22; some of those comments are quite specific, with details about suggested boundary shifts, regulation changes, or new information that has not been previously submitted to the process, which are the most helpful types of comments to the task force at this point in time. Members of the public have been clearly indicating if they are writing about MPA options in a specific geography being considered by the task force or the Round 3 SCRSG MPA proposals.

Consistent with the long-standing practice of taking public comment on action items, the public will have an opportunity to provide verbal comment to the task force prior to a vote to adopt a preferred alternative. The task force has previously heard significant public comment on this subject at the first part of its meeting on October 21; therefore, the task force will request that comments on the motion to adopt a preferred alternative be specific to the action item and focused on any new information that has not been previously disclosed. Members of the public with new information to share with the task force are requested to designate a spokesperson who can represent their viewpoint; speakers will be asked to indicate on their comment card the details of the new information to be presented. The task force will also look to SCRSG members to actively provide a voice for public interests.
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