Celebrating California’s Biodiversity

By: Deputy Secretary for Biodiversity and Habitat Jen Norris, Ph.D.

Happy California Biodiversity Day!

All week, we are celebrating California’s incredible biodiversity and sharing ways you can join us. As the California Natural Resources Agency’s Deputy Secretary for Biodiversity and Habitat, I have the great honor of working with partners across our state to protect this beautiful home we share.

NorrisCalifornia is considered one of the world’s 36 biodiversity “hotspots” – home to over 5,500 plants, animals, and other life forms of which 40% are found nowhere else in the world. Today, I received my advance copy of the Department of Fish and Wildlife second edition of the Atlas of the Biodiversity of California (stay tuned for how to get your copy!!). It is gorgeous! It shows how rich and special our biodiversity is and how like us, other species are threatened by climate change and its effects on ecosystems. Over 250 species in California are considered threatened or endangered. And hundreds more are at risk. The time to address the biodiversity crisis is now.

Last October, Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-82-20 recognizing the importance of protecting California’s biodiversity and addressing the climate change crisis.

The Executive Order includes the bold commitment to conserve 30 percent of our lands and coastal waters by 2030 (30×30). California was the first state to make the 30×30 pledge for lands and coastal waters, joining an international movement of over 60 countries. In addition to protecting biodiversity, California’s 30×30 initiative will advance several key Newsom Administration priorities like combating climate change, building climate resilience, and increasing equitable access to nature.

The California Biodiversity Collaborative is taking on 30×30 as its first major initiative. The Biodiversity Collaborative is a network of networks that we are tapping for ideas, insights, and counsel to inform our statewide biodiversity efforts. The Collaborative elevates and builds upon two existing organizations: the California Biodiversity Council and California Biodiversity Network.

By bringing together a wide array of partners, we are learning from the diverse perspectives and voices that will be key to our success. Quite simply, the biodiversity crisis is real, and we can’t solve it alone. We need all hands on deck.

The Biodiversity Collaborative has four priorities:

Understand our biodiversity and the threats it faces.

Protect California’s species and native ecosystems.

Restore and repair ecosystems and habitats; and

Engage and Empower all of California to sustain our natural places and common home.

30×30 is helping us drive on all of these priorities.  It is a call to work together in voluntary partnership to accelerate the good work we already do across California. Over this past year, we have been meeting with people all over the state to hear their ideas for how to achieve 30×30 and inform a document that will outline our approach, called “Pathways to 30×30”. Through regional and topical workshops, consultations with California Native American Tribes, discussion with dozens of community organizations, and input from thousands of individual Californians, we have been able to identify challenges and opportunities to realize this bold vision. We hope these conversations will engage and empower others to join in the movement to conserve our lands and coastal waters and protect the unique nature of California.  Check out what we’ve been up to at our new website where we will share our efforts and track our progress – californianature.ca.gov.

We are also excited for the upcoming launch of the CA Nature Geographic Information System (GIS). Currently in development, this series of web-based mapping applications will bring together statewide data on conserved lands and coastal waters, biodiversity, climate, and access into one place that we can all access and use. It will help us track our progress and understand where we can make meaningful conservation investments.

In other news, we are already making great progress to protect and restore ecosystems and habitats.  Our 2021 budget makes significant investments in acquisitions, like the recently protected 320-acre ridgeline near Chino Hills State Park.  Last week, our partners at the Wildlife Conservation Board awarded $20 million to support what will be the world’s largest-ever wildlife crossing, over 10 lanes of U.S. 101 in the Santa Monica Mountains. And our Cutting Green Tape initiative is moving forward, to ensure projects like these can be completed more quickly and cost-effectively.

2021 marks the third year of California’s Biodiversity Day celebration. It reminds us how far we have come, but also how far we have to go. I hope it will inspire you to get involved. Join us on our journey to 30×30, clean up or restore habitat in your neighborhood, become a community scientist, or just enjoy the beauty of the outdoors. We have so much to be grateful for, and together, so much to look forward to.