The elephant in the state park |

The elephant in the state park

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – The 2010 California budget shortfall is predicted to approach $20 billion – hence the elephant reference. Having witnessed the collective impact to our region that a similar deficit caused last year, we’re holding onto our seats and wondering about the future of our state services, and especially, our state parks.

This week, while we’re celebrating our ski areas and 50 years of Olympic history, we need to understand the entire idea of outdoor recreation is rooted in the fight to keep and manage public lands. While run by different agencies, our land – whether state parks or national forests – is threatened by chronic underfunding.

But now, there is a group attempting to separate state funding from our public land, and we should be paying attention. The California State Parks Foundation is launching an initiative to pass the State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund Act of 2010.

This would create an $18 surcharge on motor vehicle licenses that would go into a trust fund, and could lead to $500 million each year to protect vital resources to our region (while freeing up similar amounts to more vital issues, like schools).

And to be clear, this measure will not cause the elephant to leave the room – that’s for a bigger discussion during the upcoming legislative session. But this measure could give us the ability to move the elephant, so we won’t have it blocking our ability to enjoy the land we respect and enjoy.

The initiative is looking for volunteers and will provide training to collect signatures in hopes of putting this on the 2010 ballot. For more information, contact Pam Armas, president of the California State Park Rangers Association, at (916) 320-9126.

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