REPRESENTATIVE CARBAJAL CHAMPIONS CRITICAL PROTECTIONS FOR CENTRAL COAST PUBLIC LANDS AND RIVERS
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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Yesterday, Representative Carbajal introduced a bill that will protect special public lands and rivers in the Los Padres National Forest and Carrizo Plain National Monument for their ecological, cultural, and recreational values. The bill also improves equitable access to the outdoors, prohibits logging or oil and gas development in certain places, and benefits the economy. Cosponsors on the legislation include Representatives Brownley, Chu, Huffman, and Panetta.
In total the bill designates over 250,000 acres of wilderness and 400 miles of the Condor National Scenic Trail, creates two scenic areas encompassing 34,882 acres, and safeguards about 159 miles of wild and scenic rivers. These will be the first major wilderness protections on the Central Coast in 30 years, and are particularly important as many of these areas are currently under threat from extractive industries.
“The Central Coast Heritage Protection Act will help permanently safeguard the Los Padres and Carrizo Plain for generations to come, including cherished public lands and rivers in our county,” said Supervisor Matt LaVere, Ventura County District 1. “Thank you, Representative Carbajal, for your ongoing leadership to preserve these local treasures.”
The bill will help protect public lands in the Los Padres that are threatened by logging. For example, one harmful proposal would allow logging across 28,000 acres of the lands included in the bill, and trees of any size and age could be removed from a significant portion of this area. Advocates assert that the removal of old growth trees and chaparral would spoil the wild character of the region and exacerbate fire risk.
The legislation also safeguards certain places from new oil and gas development. The Los Padres is the only national forest in the state with active oil development, and Carrizo Plain National Monument is bordered by some of the most intensive oil development in the country. A new oil well and pipeline were proposed within the monument boundary during the former administration. Future oil drilling will be prohibited on all lands in both regions that are protected by Representative Carbajal’s bill.
During prior Congresses, the House of Representatives passed Representative Carbajal’s bill and Senators Padilla and Feinstein previously introduced companion legislation in the Senate. Advocates are celebrating the fact that Representative Carbajal continues to lead this effort in the House and are grateful for his ongoing dedication to protecting beloved local public lands and rivers.
For Central Coast cities such as Santa Maria, Fillmore, and Carpinteria that have limited parks and open space, the bill protects public lands and rivers that are close by and will increase equitable access to the outdoors.
“We are grateful to Representative Carbajal for re-introducing the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act,” said Maite Arce, President and CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation. “The Los Padres National Forest and Carrizo Plain National Monument are treasured landscapes for the area’s Latinos, in a state where Latinos and other people of color are two times more likely to be deprived of nearby nature than white people. Protecting these special places will not only provide more equitable access to nature for our communities, but will also improve climate resilience and protect our sources of fresh water.”
The Central Coast is a top tourist destination because of the region’s iconic scenery and world-class restaurants, wineries, and breweries, which yield clear benefits for the local economy. Increased tourism and outdoor recreation opportunities through public lands protections will provide an additional economic boost to local communities, particularly in the area surrounding the Los Padres.
“Outdoor Alliance is thrilled that Representative Carbajal has reintroduced the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act, which would permanently protect incredible landscapes in the Los Padres National Forest and Carrizo Plain National Monument,” said Katie Hawkins, California Program Manager, Outdoor Alliance. “The outdoor recreation community is grateful for Representative Carbajal’s leadership and continued support for advancing conservation, advocating for equitable outdoor access, and protecting nature to combat climate change.”
Locals and visitors to the Los Padres and Carrizo Plain enjoy outstanding recreational opportunities, including hiking, camping, bird watching, horseback riding, kayaking, hunting, fishing, mountain biking, and scenic driving. Representative Carbajal’s bill would designate the approximately 400-mile long Condor Trail as a National Scenic Trail, the same designation as the Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trails, connecting the northern and southern portions of the Los Padres by a single hiking route.
“Thank you, Representative Carbajal, for continuing to advocate for the Central Coast’s public lands and rivers,” said Annie Nyborg, Head of Environmental and Social Impact, Peak Design. “I grew up near the Los Padres National Forest and still live in Ventura County. I’ve spent countless days exploring my wild backyard, and I see firsthand how this region is threatened by development and climate change. Representative Carbajal’s bill is a critical opportunity to preserve some of our most beloved natural areas now and into the future.”
Both the Los Padres and Carrizo Plain are home to Native American cultural sites and an incredible diversity of plant and animal life. The Los Padres, California’s second largest national forest, rises from the Pacific Ocean to over 8,800 feet in elevation and provides habitat for 468 species of wildlife, including the endangered California condor and the southern steelhead. The Carrizo Plain contains one of the largest concentrations of threatened and endangered species in the U.S., such as the San Joaquin kit fox and blunt-nosed leopard lizard.
“We are incredibly grateful to Representative Carbajal for reintroducing the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act,” said Kate Larramendy, Sustainability & Responsibility Advisor, Toad&Co and Board Member, The Conservation Alliance. “He is truly a champion for protecting the magnificent diversity of outdoor spaces and wild places where we live. The protection of wild places, like California’s Central Coast, is the foundation for a thriving, and sustainable outdoor recreation-based economy. We need these wild places to be protected for all to enjoy and connect to the natural world.”