California’s new Senator Alex Padilla — who took over Kamala Harris’s old job when she was voted into office as the new Vice President — wrapped three pieces of House legislation into the new Senate PUBLIC Lands Act, including Rep. Salud Carbajal’s Central Coast Heritage Protection Act, which had passed the previous House session in February 2020.
Two other protection acts for forests, foothills, and rivers in California’s Pacific northwest and southern San Gabriel Mountains comprise Padilla’s bill, formally called the Protecting Unique and Beautiful Landscapes by Investing in California (PUBLIC) Lands Act. It not only seeks to add more than 600,000 acres of wilderness but to benefit generations to come “in a way that reverses racial and economic disparities in access to nature and parks,” Padilla said in announcing the bill on Monday. His Senate co-sponsor, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, stated that protecting these places was even more important in light of climate change.
Rep. Jared Huffman’s 2nd Congressional District stretches from the Bay Area to the Oregon border and his Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act seeks to protect wild lands and the outdoor recreation economy that depends on them in his district. For Rep. Judy Chu, whose park-poor district includes part of the Angeles National Forest from north of Pasadena to Monrovia, Padilla’s bill would add 45 miles of protected rivers and 100,000 acres to the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.
Along the Central Coast, environmental organizations support the bill, anticipating it would prohibit oil drilling on designated land in the Carrizo Plain and Los Padres forest. In terms of equity, for residents of cities with few parks, such as Santa Maria and Fillmore, access to public lands and rivers would increase. As well, the conservation of land and water contributes to a global effort to preserve 30 percent of them by 2030 in order to maintain biodiversity in what are already natural areas.