Harris, Feinstein Propose New Protections for Over 1 Million Acres of Land in California

WASHINGTON, D.C. April 10, 2019 – U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on Wednesday introduced a package of legislation to restore and expand protections for California’s public lands. Together, the legislation proposes new public lands protections for more than 1 million acres of public lands, including nearly 600,000 acres of new wilderness and over 100,000 acres of new national monument. This legislation comes as the current administration continues its years-long campaign to undermine environmental protections and roll back rules protecting clean air and clean water.

“Under this administration, California’s beautiful public lands and its outdoor economy are under direct threat, and we must stand up against this active effort to chip away at vital environmental protections,” said Harris. “Restoring and expanding protections for our public lands means protecting Americans’ right to clean air and clean water and providing everybody the opportunity to explore and enjoy the outdoors.”

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“California’s natural beauty – from mountain forests to tranquil deserts to coastal watersheds – has few rivals in the world, and we understand the value in protecting those iconic landscapes,” said Feinstein. “Our public lands package will protect more than 1 million acres of our state’s open spaces, bolster the surrounding economies and ensure Californians can continue to access and enjoy their public lands.”

The legislative package consists of three bills that were originally introduced in 2017 and 2018:

  • The Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act, which is led in the House by Rep. Jared Huffman (CA-02),
  • The Central Coast Heritage Protection Act, which is led in the House by Rep. Salud Carbajal (CA-24), and
  • The San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act, which is led in the House by Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27).

The legislation would expand protections for public lands in key regions of Northern, Central, and Southern California. California boasts a $92 billion outdoor economy—the largest in the United States—that supports nearly 700,000 jobs.

“In California’s second district, we live among some of the most majestic public lands in the world,” said Rep. Huffman. “My legislation takes key steps to preserve these lands and manage them to their full potential, ensure fire resilience, support healthy wildlife, and grow the rural economy. With this bill, we are also engaging in a larger conversation on making our forests healthier, while ensuring that both ecosystems and rural economies are resilient. I’m grateful for Senator Harris for her dedication to our public lands and for spearheading this effort in the Senate.”

“With this Administration taking action to open up public lands and national monuments on the Central Coast to oil and gas drilling, it is more important than ever that we act to permanently protect our open spaces that provide invaluable local watersheds and recreational outdoor activities,” said Rep. Carbajal. “I thank Senator Harris for her leadership in this important fight to preserve California’s public lands for future generations.”

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 just to the north,” said Rep. Chu. “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. That is why I am proud to work with Senator Harris to advance the San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act. 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.

“The Sierra Club commends Sen. Harris and Reps. Carbajal, Chu, and Huffman for introducing legislation to protect special wild places across California. These places are pristine natural wonders and provide outdoor opportunities right in the back yard of urban centers like Los Angeles; they deserve to be protected. More fundamentally, the tenets of this legislation—  protecting and restoring existing natural areas, safeguarding additional wild places, and connecting people to public lands in new ways– are what we need to ensure a healthy future for our outdoors, and for our families,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.

“Individually these bills are an example of DC listening to local elected leaders, business owners and community members.  Collectively they represent a vision for protecting large connected landscapes, critical to ensuring the survival of plants and animals in the face of climate change,” said Jaime Williams, President of The Wilderness Society

Since 2017, Harris has been a champion for the nation’s public lands. Last year, her bill to expand the John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez, CA was signed into law. Earlier this year, her legislation to establish a national monument at the site of the St. Francis Dam disaster and to preserve and improve historic buildings and sites at Historically Black College and Universities was signed into law as part of the National Resources Management Act.

For further background on the legislation, click here.

For full text of the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act, click here.