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The California Green Industry Protects Itself


The California Green Industry recently won a major effort to protect itself from future body blows like the one suffered during the drought of 1991-1992. One reputable study reported the industry had lost 4,500 jobs and $60 million in sales and services due to drought alone. But the Green Industry fought back, and has recently won a major victory in the fight to ensure that it never gets "sucker punched" again.

The Council for a Green Environment was formed at the height of the drought to fight for the water rights of the Green Industry and the gardening public. It is composed of the CEOs of some of California's leading Green Industry companies: Miles Rosedale, Monrovia Nursery Company; Mike Kunce, Armstrong Garden Centers; Richard Rogers, Pacific Earth Resources; James Joseph, Bandini Fertilizer; Mark Agnew, United Green Mark; Jurgen Gramckow, Southland Sod Farms; Richard Hunter, Hunter Industries; Stuart Sperber, Environmental Industries, Inc.; Mickey Strauss, American Landscape, Inc.; Lynn Strohsahl, Bordier's Nursery, Inc.; and Steve Thigpen, Hines Nurseries.

Since the drought, the Council has fought local ordnances that limit's people's choice of plant materials and policies that conveyed the message that "watering landscapes is useful."

In 1991, the Council entered the fray late. The council was limited to fighting a public relations war, using television and print media to convince people they were not bad citizens for watering landscapes.

The 1991 efforts revealed several things:

•It is up to the Green Industry to officially document what it knows to be true-- that landscapes have real social, environmental and economic benefits. And the council needs to publicize those benefits to the public and to policy makers-- the people who were drafting long term and emergency water allocation plans.

•The Council had to become a player at the negotiating table. Wherever water allocation plans were being proposed, the Green Industry had to participate and demand as much water as possible for landscapes.

•The Council realized it was up to them to develop an alternative to the worst type of landscape water conservation ordinance. The alternative would demonstrate real savings while protecting the needs of consumers who refused to accept a bureaucrat's definition of "appropriate landscaping."

The Council documented benefits by commissioning studies from Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and The University of California at Riverside about how much water is really used on landscapes, and the economic value of the industry. The MWD study of economic damages in Santa Barbara County from lost trees and landscaping found numbers so large, MWD backed away from publishing them. The UC Riverside study found that only 4% of the state's developed water supply went to landscapes.

Becoming a player at the water policy table has been an ongoing effort. California water policy is now being debated at the highest level in a process called CalFed. The possibility of creating more reliable supplies in California for urban users is greater than at any time in the last twenty years. And the Council made sure that the Green Industry was at the negotiating table.

Because all California's water supply alternatives demand increased conservation, and because other water planning mandates are forcing water districts around the state to draft drought and long term water conservation plans, the Council drafted one of its own. Actually, the White Paper on Water Conservation in the Landscape was based primarily on the programs used in the Irvine Ranch Water District and the Otay Water District in San Diego County.

The Council and the California Landscape Contractors Association convinced the California Urban Water Conservation Council to adopt as theirs the main components of the White Paper. The CUWCC is the organization of water conservation coordinators and environmentalists charged with drafting the new statewide landscape conservation program and certifying whether water agencies are in compliance. If they are not, water districts face the possibility of losing huge water allocations.

To make sure water districts implemented the new model (called a BMP for Best Management Practices), instead of a simpler plant list or other punitive plan, the council convened last January a conference which educated water districts and the green industry about the new BMP. It was phenomenally successful, in fact it was so full they had to turn people away at the door. A second one will be held in January 1999.

Currently the council is working to ensure a) California's water policy planning includes sufficient water for landscapes; b) we aren't tossed out as a sacrificial lamb to the environmentalists in exchange for water for agriculture or industry; c) all new statewide water supply programs consider the needs of urban gardeners; and d) he new BMP is implemented throughout the state.

For more information about the Council, call 916-442-7195.

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October 20, 2019, 5:58 pm PDT

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