Environment Now Celebrates over 30 Years of Stewardship for California’s Environment
Founded in late December 1989, Environment Now celebrates over 30 years of working to protect and enhance California’s waters, coast, forests, and air. While the work continues, we commend and thank our partners for their incredible successes over these last three decades. We outline some of these shared victories below, and we commit to continued vigilance and support for California’s environment in the future.
Environment Now’s partners have held off the extinction of numerous California species and destruction of waterway habitats through litigation, science, and administrative advocacy. Partner work has contributed to a ten-year average reduction in water capture from the threatened Bay-Delta – critical to both California’s ecological and water supply health – of 1.24 million acre-feet (MAF), the equivalent of water use at roughly 3.72 million California households. Environment Now further built and strengthened water quality enforcement capacity by supporting the growth of California’s Waterkeeper movement coastwide and inland, as well as across Baja California, Mexico. Finally, Environment Now has worked to reduce water demand and use, contributing to a reduction in statewide water consumption of almost 22% (1.82 MAF) since 2013, and securing new commitments of over 0.5 MAF of reclaimed water by 2030.
- In 1993, Environment Now launched the Santa Monica Baykeeper (now LA Waterkeeper), the first Waterkeeper in Southern California, to identify sources of coastal pollution and take action to stop it. Over the next 13 years, Environment Now helped establish a picket line of Waterkeepers along the entire Southern California coast, with San Diego Coastkeeper, Orange County Coastkeeper, and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper also launching in the 1990s.
- Hand-in-hand with establishing the Waterkeepers, Environment Now recognized that stormwater runoff is one of the most significant sources of pollution along the Southern California coast. We partnered with NRDC to take on major stormwater pollution cases under the Clean Water Act and began to win, leveraging these lessons toward helping each new Waterkeeper to create and fund their own signature Clean Water Act enforcement campaigns.
- In 1995, partners NRDC and Santa Monica Baykeeper won a federal judgment against Caltrans to manage stormwater discharges from its transportation corridors and activities in compliance with the Clean Water Act. Tests of some Caltrans drains found contamination so virulent it qualified as hazardous waste. However, Caltrans engaged in nearly a decade of legal maneuvering to avoid responsibility for filtering runoff from its roads.
- Santa Monica Baykeeper filed suit against Los Angeles in 1998 over leaking sewer lines and ongoing sewage spills, an action the City fought until Baykeeper achieved a landmark settlement agreement six years later.
For decades, California’s national forests were being rapidly cut down by commercial timber companies denuding public forests at taxpayer expense. In response, Environment Now has established and supported a network of national forest defenders throughout the state, working to protect these 20 million acres of federal land. These partners have successfully challenged harmful logging and chaparral-clearcutting projects on every national forest in California. As a result, logging levels on California’s national forests have decreased by 87% since Environment Now was founded in 1989, from almost 2 billion board feet of trees cut to 256 million board feet. The work continues, with a goal of fully protecting California’s national forests from commercial logging.
- Environment Now’s involvement with forest protection grew out of efforts to protect the old-growth redwoods in northwestern California after the Maxxam corporation took over a local timber company and dramatically increased logging. Environment Now funded innovative legal strategies to protect these redwoods. In 1999, many giant redwoods were acquired as federal public land and became the Headwaters Forest Reserve.
- In 1992, Environment Now co-sponsored the Sierra Now! conference, which brought together hundreds of experts to explore solutions to environmental challenges in the forests of California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range.
- As part of its growing interest in protecting Sierra Nevada national forests, Environment Now was a plaintiff in a lawsuit against six logging projects on three national forests in 1994.
Starting with the 1990s Dump Dirty Diesel campaign, Environment Now and its partners swept across Southern California and then the state with projects that have moved California dramatically from reliance on highly polluting diesel engines and vehicles, to far cleaner alternative fuels, including natural gas and more recently hydrogen and electric power. Advocacy over this 20-year program has resulted in replacement of tens of thousands engines and vehicles in the public sector (transit and school buses, trash vehicles, street sweepers) and in private industry (ports, supermarkets, construction, mining, shipping), dramatically reducing diesel and other air pollution throughout California and significantly improving local air quality.