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Natural Resource Protection

The Attorney General’s office has a long history of taking action to protect our natural resources for the benefit of current and future generations using a variety of state and federal laws.

Natural Resource Protection - woman and child on a mountainside looking over a forest.

The Attorney General has been active in ensuring that the federal government properly evaluates the impacts of global warming on endangered species, as required by the federal Endangered Species Act. The Endangered Species Act prohibits federal agencies from taking any action that jeopardizes the survival of an endangered species or destroys or adversely modifies its habitat. Rising temperatures, drought, loss of habitat, loss of food sources, and extreme weather events are some of the ways climate change will affect species and their habitats.

In recent years, the Attorney General’s comment letters under the federal Endangered Species Act have contributed to the listing of the polar bear as threatened (read the comment letter, pdf; read the species profile ); and the listing of the black abalone as endangered (read the comment letter, pdf; read the species profile ). Both listing decisions relied in part on the effect of climate change on these species. The Attorney General has also recommended that the Fish and Wildlife Service, in its regular re-evaluation of the 58 listed land-based wildlife and plant species in California and Nevada, consider emerging information on the effects of climate change on these species. Read the comment letters.

The Attorney General is also concerned about the effects of plastics on the environment. Plastic pollution is a growing problem in our state waterways and our oceans. As California’s Ocean Protection Council states in a recent report:

    Since its invention over 50 years ago, plastic—being durable, lightweight and cheap—has undeniably transformed numerous industries as well as the daily life of individuals. However … the negative side of plastic becomes apparent as it accumulates on shorelines, in coastal waters, and on the seafloor. Plastic marine debris causes substantial economic impacts to coastal communities, documented in the millions of dollars spent in the form of cleanups or lost in decreases in tourism, as well as losses to commercial fisheries due to derelict fishing gear. Additionally, more than 260 species including turtles, fish, seabirds, mammals, and invertebrates have been reported to ingest or become entangled in plastic marine debris, often resulting in death.

To prevent consumers from being misled into improperly disposing of plastics, the Attorney General has sued certain plastic bottle manufacturers and sellers who label their products as “biodegradeable” in violation of California law. See “Greenwashing."

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