The Central Coast Heritage Protection Act (HR 2199), a bill introduced by Rep. Salud Carbajal, passed through the House last Wednesday with bipartisan support. The bill is a part of the largest public lands protection package in over a decade, the Protecting America’s Wilderness Act. HR 2199 passed regardless of a veto threat from the White House in opposition to the bill. Additionally, some Republicans argued on the floor that the legislation may impede future development.
The Heritage Protection Act designates about 250,000 acres of land in Los Padres National Forest and the Carrizo Plain National Monument as safeguarded wilderness areas. In addition, the bill creates a 400-mile long Condor National Recreation trail, stretching from Los Angeles to Monterey County.
“Protecting our environment, enhancing public safety, and growing our economy are not mutually exclusive. The passage of the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act proves this, and it’s a huge step forward for all of us,” said Representative Carbajal.
The last public lands bill for Los Padres National Forest passed in 1992. During the debate on the House floor, several members advocated for HR 2199. Rep. Raúl Grijalva (R-AZ), the chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, said that the act “was developed through a multi-year collaborative process with a diverse and locally driven coalition that has demonstrated these places are worthy of protection as wilderness,” he continued, expressing that “As climate change increasingly impacts our natural world, designating pristine landscapes as wilderness is one of the most important actions Congress can take in response to the climate crisis.”
California senators Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein introduced a companion package of three public lands bills with the same Central Coast provisions last Wednesday. While it is a success that the legislation has passed the House, it may not move as easily through the Republican-majority Senate.