OC natural lands and beaches
OC natural lands and beaches Credit: Melanie Schlotterbeck

Earth Day began on April 22, 1970 as a way to celebrate our planet. It was a grassroots effort that spontaneously responded to environmental problems sweeping the nation. Today nearly 200 countries worldwide, over one billion people across the globe, hold festivals, outdoor events, plant trees, recycle and work to promote a healthy, sustainable environment.

The environmental community in Orange County is thrilled to celebrate Earth Day this year, not just because we care about the environment, but also because we’ve made great strides in improving policies that protect important natural lands. While many people don’t realize that policies play an important role in conservation, they actually do.

These policies can determine where residential projects are built, the size, quantity of houses and impacts of those projects. These policies can direct a project away from important natural lands and focus them in more urban areas near transit centers, community amenities and jobs.

Parks are an important part of our community, just like roads and schools. They serve an important purpose. We rely on them for peace and quiet, for exercise and rejuvenation, as outdoor laboratories and more. Our wildlife also needs the natural lands to survive; it’s their home after all.

Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks (FHBP), a regional non-profit based in Orange County, has worked for nearly 20 years to protect the natural lands, waterways and beaches of Orange County. Our mission is to educate and inspire the residents of OC and ensure the protection and restoration of our natural lands.

FHBP has also been leading the way with conservation policies at a local and regional level. This month, the group led a 33 member Coalition to support a natural lands policy that covers Ventura, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, Imperial and Orange Counties. The policies focus on four topics: mapping important lands and their biological features, supporting regional mitigation programs, funding pilot projects for conservation, and implementing regional wildlife corridors.

As you can see, Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks is focused on how our habitat lands are interconnected and these policies were just adopted by decision makers at the regional level. We are doing our part for Earth Day. Now it is time to celebrate!

Melanie Schlotterbeck works as a consultant to Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks.  She leads multiple coalitions, coordinates conservation activities and assists local groups to find funding for land protection.

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at TSears@voiceofoc.org

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