WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif) introduced a sweeping public lands package at the San Gabriel Mountain Foothills, part of the land protected by the bill, with public lands advocates and local stakeholders. The PUBLIC Lands Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) and would expand protections for over one million acres of California’s public lands.
Padilla was joined by Representative Grace Napolitano (D-Calif), Representative Judy Chu (D-Calif), Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot, Gabrielino/Tongva Tribe Chief Anthony Morales, Youth and Community Engagement Member for Los Padres ForestWatch Graciela Cabello, and Executive Director for Alliance for a Better Community Vanessa Aramayo for the announcement of the legislation.
The Protecting Unique and Beautiful Landscapes by Investing in California (PUBLIC) Lands Act would increase protections for public lands throughout northwest California, the Central Coast, and Los Angeles. It would designate nearly 600,000 acres of new wilderness, more than 583 miles of new wild and scenic rivers, and expand an existing national monument by over 100,000 acres.
“Our public lands are one of our state’s greatest gifts – from the San Gabriel Mountains, to the Central Coast, and through Northwestern California’s forests and rivers. It is incumbent upon us to be thoughtful stewards of these special places so that our communities can enjoy them and benefit from America’s natural resources for generations to come,” said Senator Padilla. “And we must do so in a way that reverses racial and economic disparities in access to nature and parks. Some of the protected land in this bill serves densely populated areas of the state that don’t have equal access to nature, which will help rebalance this historic disparity in access to untouched wilderness.”
“From lush forests to majestic deserts to scenic coasts, California’s iconic landscapes have few rivals,” said Senator Feinstein. “In light of climate change, our growing population and challenges to the flora and fauna, protecting these special places is even more important. I’m pleased to partner with Senator Padilla on this effort and look forward to working with our colleagues to pass this bill.”
The legislative package consists of three bills that were originally introduced in the House of Representatives including:
- The Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act, which is led in the House by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.-02),
- The Central Coast Heritage Protection Act, which is led in the House by Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.-24), and
- The San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act, which is led in the House by Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.-27).
“Being active in the outdoors and experiencing wild places is a way of life in my district and throughout California,” said Representative Huffman. “We all depend on the ecological, economic, and mental health benefits that our public lands provide, and this legislation includes a focus on Northwest California so that our public lands are resilient, our outdoor recreation economy grows, and our environmental values are preserved for future generations. I’m grateful to Senator Padilla for quickly taking the torch of environmental leadership and including my Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act as part of the PUBLIC Lands Act.”
“The Central Coast is home to some of the most beautiful public lands in America. It’s up to us to be good stewards of the environment and the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act will conserve over 250,000 acres of public land for future generations to inherit and enjoy,” said Representative Carbajal. “It’s crucial that we act now to permanently protect the great outdoors, which provide invaluable local watersheds and opportunities for outdoor recreation that support our health and our economy. I thank Senator Padilla and Senator Feinstein for their leadership in this important fight to preserve our public lands.”
“The Los Angeles area is one of the most park poor areas of the country, despite the presence of the gorgeous rivers, forests, and mountains of the San Gabriels right in our backyard. President Obama’s National Monument designation increased access to and opportunities for learning and exploring in the mountains, but so much land remains to be preserved so that more people can experience our area’s unique gifts of nature. House passage was the first step, and now I am grateful to Senator Padilla for working to advance the San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act through the Senate and to President Biden’s desk. This legislation represents the next step in protecting and connecting the San Gabriel Mountains, and will preserve thousands of acres of land and water for future generations,” said Representative Chu.
The PUBLIC Lands Act would protect California’s iconic landscapes, provide critical access to open space for communities, support California’s outdoor recreation economy, and fight the climate crisis. Guided by science and input from local communities, the bill also advances the nation’s and California’s goals of conserving 30% of our lands and waters by 2030.
“S. 1459 takes a major step forward conserving public lands across our state for the benefit of all Californians. It safeguards unique places that have cultural and ecological significance, expands recreational opportunities, and advances Governor Newsom’s commitment to conserve 30 percent of California’s lands by 2030. We’re deeply appreciative of Senator Padilla’s leadership protecting California’s natural places and his commitment to expand equitable access for all Californians to experience nature,” said Secretary Crowfoot, California Natural Resources Secretary.
“Our health outcomes should not be determined by what zip code we live in. Everyone in Los Angeles and throughout our state should have equitable access to health and wellness – and this includes access to nature. Thank you, Senator Padilla, for your support and leadership in protecting these beloved places for us all to enjoy long into the future,” said Vanessa Aramayo, Executive Director, Alliance for a Better Community, and Board Member, Nature for All Coalition.
“The PUBLIC Lands Act will protect more than a million acres of public lands and well over 500 miles of rivers in California, help address climate change, and make the outdoors more accessible to all. That’s a win for all of us and an important investment in climate action, especially as we work to meet the goal of protecting 30% of our lands and waters by 2030 – a goal set by both President Biden and Governor Newsom. We are grateful to Senator Padilla for introducing this legislation and we are eager for the Senate to pass these protections,” said Mary Creasman, CEO, California League of Conservation Voters.
“Protecting our public lands and waters is a priority for our company – in fact, it’s our reason for being in business. As a global company based in California, we know our state has an incredible natural environment, and our employees and community depend on its healthy lands and waters, clean air and protected wild places. Now more than ever, we also need to recognize that land and water protection is critical to solving the climate crisis, providing carbon storage and resilience for wildlife and humans alike. We urge the Senate to pass the PUBLIC Lands Act for the benefit of all,” said Hans Cole, Vice President of Environmental Activism, Patagonia.
“We value and commend Senator Padilla’s leadership as he commits to safeguard over 1 million acres of California public lands and over 500 miles of rivers. This action permanently protects critical drinking water sources and access to healthy activities in the San Gabriel Mountains that will benefit all Californians, including those in many of the state’s economically disadvantaged areas and communities of color. Thank you for ensuring access to nature for all, Senator Padilla,” said Belén Bernal, Executive Director, Nature for All Coalition.
“Senator Padilla is taking a critical step in addressing inequitable access to the outdoors in California. Latinos and other communities of color are almost twice as likely to live somewhere that is nature deprived than white communities, meaning there are far fewer parks, streams, beaches, and other natural places nearby. This leaves our communities with a legacy of poorer health and COVID-19 severity, higher stress levels, worse educational outcomes, lack of recreation and business opportunities and greater vulnerability to extreme heat and flooding. This legislation is crucial for bringing nature, and therefore equity and justice, closer to our underserved communities. Thank you, Senator Padilla, and we hope the Senate will pass this important legislation this year,” said Shanna Edberg, Director of Conservation Programs, Hispanic Access Foundation.
“Throughout California, veterans share a strong connection to our public lands. Today we celebrate Senator Padilla for introducing legislation to protect treasured landscapes across our state. This legislation affirms the importance of outdoor access for the nearly two million veterans living in California,” said Kate Hoit, California State Director and OIF veteran, Vet Voice Foundation.
Additional supporter quotes can be found here.
A one-pager on the PUBLIC Lands Act can be found here.
Full text of PUBLIC Lands Act can be found here.