CEO Corner

Follow our CEO, Manuel Oliva, for insights and inspiration on the direction of conservation science today.

Big News. Good News.

By Manuel Oliva, CEO

On Wednesday, October 7, Governor Newsom released an executive order that charges state agencies to produce a climate-smart strategy for addressing the global biodiversity and climate crises. This innovative approach spotlights the urgent need to protect and restore California’s most fundamental resource–our rich biodiversity. This strategy will help ensure that California maintains economic and food security, increases resilience to wildfire and other impacts of climate change, and expands equitable access to nature for all Californians. 

Ever since Point Blue was founded in 1965, biodiversity conservation has been at the heart of what we do. As a significant threat to loss of species everywhere on the planet, as well as a threat to the well-being of human communities, addressing impacts of climate change and developing nature-based solutions to climate impacts is a core focus of our approach. Based on our long history of co-creating solutions with communities and other partners, we commend the Governor’s recognition that large-scale problems like wildfire, climate change, and biodiversity loss can only be solved through collaboration with California Native American tribes, experts, and business and community leaders. And because we recognize that issues of racial injustice and the exclusion of the perspectives of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities has hindered progress in the environmental sphere, we are pleased to see equity and inclusion emphasized in the Governor’s approach.

Sample results from Point Blue’s biodiversity prioritization tool. Green areas indicate the top 30% of the most important areas to conserve or restore habitat for 200 species of landbirds. Figure from Veloz, S., D. Jongsomjit, M. Fitzgibbon, D. Moody. 2011. The California Environmental Change Network. [web application]. Petaluma, California. (
Governor Newsom’s forward-thinking leadership in directing the state to combat the biodiversity and climate crises through inventory, prioritization, and restoration of California’s rich biodiversity is especially meaningful as we undergo a turbulent national election. And Point Blue is ready and eager to assist in advancing these critical resilience objectives. Point Blue’s 55 years of long term monitoring data of birds and ecosystems on land and at sea will serve as a valuable resource to assist the state’s new California Biodiversity Network in its goal to assess baseline biodiversity conditions.

Point Blue has developed tools over the last decade that enable us to assist the state in using innovative science to prioritize where to invest in conservation and restoration. Our spatial prioritization tools identify locations across the entire state that are important for conserving 200 species of land birds, based on both current and future environmental conditions (see image at right). We also just completed a spatial prioritization of the California Current ecosystem where we mapped the most important 30% of marine areas off our coast for conserving critical marine resources (see image below). 

Another place where we are poised to help is our deep experience working with farmers, ranchers, land trusts, and other partners. With them, we are advancing conservation practices and Healthy Soils projects on California’s working lands to help land stewards improve soil health and forage productivity, sequester carbon, and benefit wildlife. Point Blue is developing new innovations that would allow us to work with the CA Department of Food and Agriculture and other agencies to contribute a large-scale, verifiable dataset of carbon estimates. This dataset will ultimately improve our understanding of management practice outcomes across California and beyond–work that is highly synergistic with the Governor’s goal to develop a Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy to support the state’s climate goals.

Colored areas together comprise 10% of the most important areas within California Current in the US West Coast Exclusive Economic Zone to conserve based on Point Blue’s recent Marine Protected Area assessment. Figure from Elliott N, Veloz S, Elliott ML, Jahncke J. 2020. Assessment of Marine Protected Areas in the California Current.

Included in Governor Newsom’s executive order is a new goal for the State to join 38 countries in support of the global effort to achieve protection for 30 percent of the planet by 2030; a goal known as “30 by 30.” As noted in the announcement: “30 by 30 has been championed internationally and is supported by a concerted United Nations effort.” Part of this undertaking includes recommendations to establish baseline assessments of California’s biodiversity as well as inventories of current biodiversity and priority efforts–goals that Point Blue will proudly continue to support directly with our science-based assessments and our innovative climate-smart restoration framework.

Rarely have the implications of climate and other rapid environmental destruction been as obvious as they have been in 2020. In the midst of a global pandemic that has seen a novel virus jump from wildlife into human populations and disrupt the lives of people around the globe, at home in California we have also had to confront one of the worst wildfire seasons in recorded history. The destruction has hit home to Point Blue in intensely personal ways, as many of our staff–like so many of you in our community and around the West–faced evacuations, lost homes, and endured debilitating air quality. In fact, Point Blue’s own Palomarin Field Station was evacuated during the Woodward Fire just a few weeks ago. At risk were not only our staff and the rich wildlife and their habitats that we monitor, but also the decades of field notes housed at the station that have documented how wildlife has been affected by the changing climate at the heart of the extreme wildfire conditions we are now facing.

Point Blue is excited to see California continue to advance its role on the global stage as a leader in cutting edge innovation on nature-based climate solutions and prioritizing equity for all. We applaud Governor Newsom for his leadership, and look forward to continuing to engage with the state to protect and restore our shared natural resources.