Environment Now California Program

The world’s population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. Our planet cannot sustain life unless we preserve and restore coastal, freshwater and forest ecosystems and completely transform our food and energy systems to create vibrant, fully sustainable urban centers and landscapes. California has long been a vanguard in creating solutions and leading the way on environmental issues.  Given the growth of California’s population the state is an ideal home to incubate and implement permanent solutions for our environment.

LDF’s Environment Now California Program is focused on supporting local efforts to protect forests, coastal zones, and fresh water ecosystems as well as efforts to create a fully sustainable food infrastructure system . We are supporting pioneering innovators and grassroots leaders who are implementing new solutions and tackling the barriers to transformation. 

This bold work can serve as models to be replicated across the U.S. and the world.  It brings an entrepreneurial approach to building effective programs, and seeks to create leverage through means such as capacity building for our grassroots partner organizations, setting legal precedents, demonstrating the viability of sustainable alternatives and creating models for change. 

Our current industrial, fossil fuel intensive, agricultural system is incredibly polluting. Agriculture has become a major emitter of greenhouse gases --carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide --which are now responsible for a significant portion of total global emissions. Farming, if done properly, can actually decrease greenhouse emissions by increasing the soil’s carbon content while simultaneously increasing on-farm productivity. LDF partner The Carbon Cycle Institute is working with farmers in California to convert their farms to carbon farming models that can improve on-farm productivity and viability, enhance ecosystem functions, and have potential to even reverse climate change.

California has lost major rivers and lakes due to poor water management. The challenges of correcting these practices are compounded by the impacts of climate change today. Because climate change delivers some of the most devastating consequences and promising solutions through water, LDF’s California Water Program proposes 21st Century water solutions. We work with the state’s foremost researchers and advocates to ensure waterways are managed in a way that restores the environment’s natural functions, creates resilience through water efficiency, and eliminates pollution.

California is fortunate to be home to 20 million acres of national forests. These forests are support a remarkable variety of wildlife. They also provide numerous other benefits, such as being the headwaters for much of our drinking water and providing natural carbon storage to help solve the climate crisis. While national forests are public lands, the Forest Service still allows private timber companies to log them, even though this logging is damaging to forests and costly to taxpayers.  In contrast, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation sees national forests as providing the best opportunity to protect and rewild forest ecosystems in California on a large-scale in a cost-efficient manner. We support grassroots forest protection groups that challenge harmful logging projects, maintain and increase legal protections for public lands, and debunk the misleading claims used by the timber industry and Forest Service to try to promote more logging of our national forests. 


· LDF supports multi-benefit, holistic solutions that successfully replicate natural systems. This is especially effective in urban gardening which is a stark counterpoint to heavily industrialized farming with detrimental carbon impact, soil degradation, exploited work force, and a public health risk. Urban gardens can serve as multi-benefit spaces that build long term climate change resilience, food security, and provide job training. Community Services Unlimited is developing the South Central Growers Network which will support a growing number of urban farmers to share resources and sell their home grown produce to South L.A.’s First Organic Marketplace.

· Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association is the largest trade association of fishermen fighting for the rights of fishermen and fishing communities. PCFFA secured a court decision stating that groundwater is protected by California’s Public Trust Doctrine.

· The City of Los Angeles reduced institutional water consumption 25% and residential water consumption by 21% in 2017. They’ve also committed to reducing the purchase of imported water by 50% by 2024 and replacing that water through efficiency and local supplies.

· The John Muir Project (JMP) helps to protect national forests in the Sierra Nevada mountains and Southern California using several strategies. These include monitoring proposed logging and legally challenging some of the biggest and most destructive projects in California; publishing peer-reviewed scientific studies that refute the erroneous claims used by the timber industry and Forest Service to promote costly and damaging logging and; sharing the results of its monitoring and research with the public and policymakers to help develop genuine forest protection policies that are better ecologically and economically, and are more effective in helping communities safely coexist with fire-dependent forests.

· Surfrider Foundation helped pass the State of California’s plastic bag ban. One year later in 2018, plastic bag litter on beaches dropped from 9% of the waste picked up during Coastal Cleanup Day to just 1%.

Through collaborative partnerships, we support innovative projects that protect vulnerable wildlife from extinction, while restoring balance to threatened ecosystems and communities. Our work is divided into six main program areas – Wildlands Conservation, Oceans Conservation, Climate Change, Indigenous Rights, Transforming California, and Innovative Solutions.

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