Is camping really allowed in an ESHA?
According to the Coastal Act, one category of activity is allowed in an ESHA.
The Coastal Act states:
“30240. (a) Environmentally sensitive habitat areas shall be protected against any significant disruption of habitat values, and only uses dependent on those resources shall be allowed within those areas.”
The key word here is dependent.
If camping is “dependent on ESHA resources,” then, accordingly, camping is allowed.
But is camping dependent on ESHA resources?
What exactly is an ESHA dependent?
The legislature does help us here because “dependent activity,” is included in its definitions:
“30101. Coastal-dependent development or use means any development or use which requires a site within, or adjacent to, the sea to be able to function at all.”
When this definition is applied to an ESHA, it would read:
“An ESHA-dependent use thus means, according to the law, any use which requires a site within or adjacent to an ESHA to be able to function at all.”
Can you build a house in an ESHA? No. Why? A house can be built anywhere.
Can you run a power line through an ESHA? No. Why? Power lines can be rerouted.
Can you hike through an ESHA? No. Why? One can hike elsewhere.
Can you camp in an ESHA? No. Why? One can camp elsewhere.
Can you study an ESHA in an ESHA? Yes. One can only study an ESHA in an ESHA. Thus, it is ESHA dependent.
One might then argue that because public access to coastal resources is a prime purpose of the Coastal Act then disruption to the “habitat values” of an ESHA should be subordinated to the public’s right to access. Thus, camping should be allowed.
Here again, the legislature anticipates this argument and provides an answer when it declares:
“30007.5. The Legislature further finds and recognizes that conflicts may occur between one or more policies of the division. The Legislature therefore declares that in carrying out the provisions of this division such conflicts be resolved in a manner which on balance is the most protective of significant coastal resources.”
Forbidding camping in an ESHA is clearly the “most protective.”