In a virtual Zoom event Thursday, U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, and other Southern California representatives shared their excitement and optimism that their land preservation bill package will likely pass the House of Representatives today.
They are also hopeful due to the strong support of the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act by the Biden administration, as the act will help meet state and federal goals to conserve 30% of public lands and waters by 2030.
“I’m extremely honored to be able to work on this since I got in Congress for four years,” Rep. Carbajal said in the virtual event. “I’m looking forward to us taking it across the finish line.”
Four key bills are included in the package: the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act, by Rep. Carbajal; the Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act, by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank; the San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act, by Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena; and the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation and Working Forests Act, by Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael.
The Central Coast Heritage Protection Act is aimed at protecting nearly 250,000 acres of federal public land across Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties and 159 miles of wild and scenic rivers, along with two scenic areas encompassing 34,500 acres. It would also designate a 400-mile Condor National Scenic Trail across the entire length of the Los Padres National Forest, from Big Sur to the Los Angeles County line.
“It protects watersheds, it protects ecosystems in the region and — more importantly toward our climate change challenge we have — it precludes oil and gas drilling on these public lands,” Rep. Carbajal said of the bill.
He added that the pandemic made him, and likely many California residents realize, “the importance of the outdoors and the mental health and richness that it provides for our experience as human beings.”
“I want to make sure that future generations have the ability to enjoy these important natural resources…” he said. “We need to do everything possible to make sure we preserve these natural resources for future generations to come.”
Laura Navar, the outreach manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, also spoke at the virtual event, saying that as an organization, NPCA is committed to protecting national parks so everyone can enjoy them, and this bill helps accomplish that mission.
“We are really thrilled with this expected passage because it’s historic,” she said. “It’s legislation that would help us protect over 1 million acres of public lands and over 500 miles of rivers in California. We know that the impact is going to be felt locally, but also nationally.”
Ms. Navar added that the bill package is a “great way for California to continue to be a leader on these issues of conservation.”
Rep. Schiff’s bill will help preserve nearly 200,000 acres of the Rim of the Valley Corridor to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
“During the pandemic, I think it is just reinforced, as we see people taking to the outdoors, that important connection we have to nature,” he said. “This is also very extraordinarily timely … This will bring us closer to preserving that wonderful wildlife for all to enjoy, and I’m so grateful.”
Rep. Schiff added that bipartisan support in the Senate is key to the passage of the act, considering the statement of strong support that was issued by the Biden administration.
“I would hope that we can achieve that in the Senate as well. It’s really going to be key to ultimate passage,” he said.
An interactive map of the lands, rivers and trails that will be protected by the bill is available at https://tinyurl.com/ys4tx2uz, and the act can be viewed at https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/2546.