Hear ye, hear ye: Environmental events that shaped our county in 2012

By Betsy Herbert

Santa Cruz Sentinel

Posted: 12/20/12, 12:00 AM PST

It's the time of year to pause and reflect -- I list below some of the 2012 events that helped shape our Santa Cruz environment.


  • City of Santa Cruz bans the sale of American bullfrogs, which are not native to California and known to eat native frogs. Local group Save the Frogs! sought the ban.


  • Arysta pulls controversial pesticide from the U.S. market. When state regulators approved methyl iodide, a carcinogen, for use in California, environmental and farmworker groups sued. As the judge was about to rule, the manufacturer Arysta pulled methyl iodide from the U.S. market.
  • County bans to-go plastic bags from grocery stores and mini-marts. Local group Save Our Shores and others sought the ban to keep plastic off beaches and out of Monterey Bay, where it threatens marine life. Supporters advocate statewide prohibition of single-use plastic bags.


  • Environmental hero Peter Douglas dies. For four decades, Douglas championed protection of the California coast and public access to it. He was instrumental in the formation of the California Coastal Commission, where he served 26 years as executive director.
  • Coastal Commission approves Coast Dairies land preservation deal to transfer 5,750 acres on Santa Cruz County's North Coast to the federal Bureau of Land Management. The deal prohibits timber harvesting, off-road vehicle use, and oil, gas and mineral exploitation.


  • County releases its draft Climate Action Strategy, outlining ways to reduce greenhouse gases and address vulnerabilities to climate change.


  • Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center opens in Santa Cruz, to educate visitors about ocean and local sea life.


  • A Stanford study reports organic food is no more nutritious than conventional food, setting off a firestorm of criticism charging researchers with ignoring the main health benefit of organic food: avoiding toxicity from pesticides and antibiotics
  • Feds announce Central Coast coho salmon recovery plan. Coho, which once spawned by the thousands in Santa Cruz County streams, were listed as endangered in 2005. The recovery plan, written by National Marine Fisheries Service, prescribes actions needed to bring coho back, including leaving more water in streams for the fish.


  • Santa Cruz Rail Corridor acquired. The Regional Transportation Commission closed a $14.2 million deal with Union Pacific, clearing the way for passenger rail service through the county and a bike/pedestrian trail.
  • Santa Cruz County bans the sale of most styrofoam products and requires collectors of electronic recyclables to dispose of them without burning or dumping overseas.
  • Hurricane Sandy's devastation to the Eastern Seaboard prompts local concerns about future climate change impacts in coastal areas like Santa Cruz.
  • City of Santa Cruz completes its Climate Action Plan, outlining actions over the next 10 years to reduce the city's greenhouse gases by 30 percent.


  • City of Santa Cruz voters overwhelmingly approve Measure P, blocking the city from constructing a proposed desalination plant without voter approval.
  • Statewide voters reject Proposition 37, which would have required labeling of genetically engineered food. In Santa Cruz County, 65.6 percent of voters supported Proposition 37. Proponents vowed to continue their nationwide drive to require such labeling.
  • New countywide restrictions on backyard burning are implemented to reduce air pollution during burn season, Nov. 30 to April 30. The Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District tightened rules most stringently in the San Lorenzo Valley.
  • City of Santa Cruz constructs solar project that will power both City Hall and the Police Department. The $2.5 million project covers two city-owned parking lots with hundreds of solar panels to produce 1,800 kilowatt hours/day of electricity.