Environmentalists will meet at the “Protecting Our Coast” panel on campus tonight to discuss the county’s recent rejection of the California Coastal Commission’s coastal plan changes.

The UCSB Coastal Fund and Environmental Studies Program will co-sponsor the forum from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in Bren Hall 1414. The event will include discussions from Dr. Glenn Russell, Paul VanLeer and Linda Krop about state and local control of land use along the coast.

According to Gail Osherenko, environmental studies professor and forum host, the panel will clarify both sides of the issue.

“This is a fairly confusing and convoluted issue for most people, and I think this panel will help to shed some light on both points of view,” Osherenko said.

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and California Coastal Commission are stuck in gridlock over proposed changes to environmental regulations that have been in place for nearly 20 years. Revisions would include stricter requirements for documentation from local farmers and landowners.

According to Krop, chief counsel of the Environmental Defense Center, the state limits the jurisdictional authority of the county along its coastal region.

“Normally, the land use requirements are under the jurisdiction of the county, not the state,” Krop said. “But under the California Coastal Act, all counties with coastal territories must consult with the state authority before making changes.”

Krop said progress between the county and state came to a halt after the board scrapped the state’s recent proposal offer.

“Although they were very slow-moving, there were in fact negotiations occurring between the county and the state,” Krop said. “But when the Board of Supervisors decided to vote four-to-one to simply reject the state’s proposals, it undid some of the progress that had been made.”

Russell, Santa Barbara County’s director of Planning and Development, said county and state authorities were able to compromise on many of the proposed changes.
“To be honest, the majority of the modifications were not problematic,” Russell said. “But the select few that pertained to animal laws and permit possession turned out to stall the entire process.”

Despite coastal landowners’ protests over the changes, Osherenko said the proposal’s revisions are already enforced throughout the state.

“Many of the changes that the Coastal Commission has proposed are all requirements that the rest of the state must abide by,” Osherenko said. “But it is the first time that farmers and landowners have been asked to meet those requirements in Santa Barbara County.”

According to Russell, the forum will act as a space for the public to communicate with county authorities about the process.

“This is a step in the right direction considering that the council is trying to engage the community in a bottom-up process,” Russell said. “We have not seen the last of this issue and we want to make sure that we are hearing the community’s voice clearly.”