Wildlife lovers and animal advocates were up in arms when, about six weeks ago, a young, male mountain lion that wandered into Santa Monica was killed during attempts to return it to the wild.

City Hall received hundreds of complaints from animal lovers who blamed its death on police and wildlife officials. I wrote in my June 4 My Write (”A real cat-astrophe,” page 4), that “the public’s anger should be redirected to the reasons why wild animals — bears, pumas, coyotes — are turning up in civilized areas more frequently and meeting fatal consequences: the diminishing of their natural habitat.”

I declared that,¬†”the real villains in this story are developers, real estate interests and¬†speculators who¬†buy¬†up untouched property adjacent to¬†national and state parks and erect developments that¬†deprive¬†wildlife of its homeland.¬î

A male cougar’s home range can easily be a couple hundred square miles and therein is the crux of the problem. According to wildlife experts, the cougar killed in a Downtown courtyard was probably searching for a new home territory away from older and more dominant male cougars in the Santa Monica Mountains.  

“Anger over the loss of wildlife habitat — not limited just to mountain lions — should also be directed at state and federal lawmakers who aren’t doing nearly enough to protect wildlife and natural habitat — not at law enforcement for protecting public safety,” I wrote. Enter Chula Vista Assemblyman Ben Hueso (D-79th) 

Hueso authored AB 2226, a bill that will make it easier to develop the entire California coast. It would undermine restrictions on environmentally unfriendly projects such as the 156-acre compound that U2 guitarist “the Edge” (his real name is David Evans) wants to build on a prime, environmentally sensitive Malibu ridge top that had previously been turned down by the California Coastal Commission (CCC).

Hueso, a former coastal commissioner,¬†told the Los Angeles Times (June 16, 2012) that ¬ìhe introduced the bill to rein in what he sees as an overzealous bureaucracy that uses arbitrary standards to block development …¬î He added that¬†his legislation was not designed to¬†”advance the interests of the U2 guitarist¬î although that¬ís exactly what it would have done.

The CCC, which overseas coastal development, closely scrutinizes larger multi-structure proposals. Tract developers often try to “cheat the system” by claiming that each of their building sites has different owners.

They even form limited liability corporations for each site to hide the identities of the real owners. Evans had falsely claimed each of the five mansion sites in his proposed compound had different owners.

AB 2226 required that the regulatory agency take claims that the entity holding the deed to a property(s) is the actual property owner at face value. If the state wanted to challenge ownership, it would be held to the same burden of proof that would apply in a court of law. Producing evidence of real ownership would therefore be difficult or impossible because, unlike the courts, the CCC lacks subpoena power, can’t conduct depositions, engage in discovery and demand sworn testimony.

Passage of Hueso’s bill would make it much easier for developers to scam the system. It would lead to larger and more environmentally destructive developments and further threaten critical wildlife habitat.

It’s also special interest legislation like Huseo’s that results in the low opinion most Californians have of their lawmakers.

The good news is that Hueso’s bill, which was quickly approved in the Assembly by a wide margin last April 26, was killed in a Senate committee, last Tuesday. It became a dead issue after word got out about how damaging it could be for undeveloped coastal areas. The bad news is wealthy developers and speculators will find some other Sacramento patsy to further their agenda by writing legislation to make it easier to develop natural lands.

I called Betsy Butler’s (D-53rd) Sacramento office and was told that initially legislators, including Butler, supported it when it was before committee April 17 because there was no opposition from wildlife, environment or conservation groups at the time. Butler is running for the 50th Assembly District seat this November.

When¬†various citizens began looking at AB 2226 and¬†realized that it would prevent the CCC from restricting environmentally damaging projects, they informed legislators. Butler¬†changed her position on the measure to ¬ìabstain”¬†(unfortunately, instead of voting ¬ìno¬î) when it came before the full Assembly on April 26. By the time it reached the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, opposition to the bill had gone viral and AB 2226 was toast.

The real lesson here is public vigilance. Citizens need to stay informed. If we see legislation we don’t like, we must let the politicians know how we feel. Write, e-mail or call your congressman, state senator, state assembly person and/or city council person and give them a piece of your mind.

Never think you can’t make a difference. Share your thoughts with friends and co-workers. Send letters to the media. Go online and blog. 

Hold that grudge. Get even at election time. Work to defeat politicians who vote for measures you oppose. Remember, scumbags shouldn’t hold office.

Bill can be reached at mr.bilbau@gmail.com

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