December 05, 2018

Harris Introduces Legislation to Preserve and Strengthen California’s Wilderness and Public Lands

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) introduced two bills, the San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act and the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act to restore, enhance, and preserve California’s wilderness and public lands, as well as expand economic and recreational opportunities for the surrounding communities. The bills are Senate companions of House legislation introduced by Rep. Chu (D-CA) and Rep. Huffman (D-CA).

Additionally, Harris released a video in support of the two bills, which can be viewed here.

“California boasts the nation’s largest outdoor recreation economy, with over $90 billion in consumer spending and nearly 700,000 jobs throughout the state. As our cities and urban areas grow, we must strengthen protections for public lands and expand access to outdoor recreational opportunities for Californians and everyone who visits our beautiful state,” said Senator Harris. “I’m proud to introduce these two bills that will provide comprehensive protections for our state’s beautiful wilderness and public lands and support communities who live next to and rely on them.”

“Despite being bordered by the gorgeous rivers, forests, and mountains of the San Gabriels, the Los Angeles area is one of the most park poor areas in the country. It is even worse for communities of color, who have less access to green spaces while breathing more polluted air. And for years, those who could make it to the San Gabriels were greeted by trash and dangerous trails,” said Representative Chu. “All of that started to change when President Obama declared the San Gabriels a national monument, immediately opening them up to millions of dollars in new funding. But we can still protect and connect more of this land. For decades now, going back to the 1980s, we have been working to create a wilderness designation that would ensure the wildlife in those forests and rivers within the monument remain unchanged for generations. Now, with this companion legislation introduced by Sen. Harris in the Senate, we are closer than ever to achieving this goal.”

“I’m excited to partner with Senator Kamala Harris, who has been a champion for public lands and the environment since her days as California’s Attorney General, defending our state’s strong conservation record,” said Representative Huffman. “As Californians, we are so fortunate to live among some of the country’s most spectacular public lands, from the majestic Smith River to the ancient redwoods and old-growth forests, and the rugged mountains in between. Our public lands are worth protecting and restoring for future generations to enjoy, and this legislation is an opportunity to strengthen those protections and manage some of our state’s stunning northwestern landscapes to their full potential. We can do more to ensure fire resilience, support healthy wildlife, and spur outdoor recreation. I’m grateful to Senator Harris for introducing the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act in the Senate today to help us protect the communities and lands we value the most.”

The San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act would:

  • Expand the boundaries of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument to include the western areas of the Angeles National Forest.
  • Establish a new National Recreation Area to allow resources to flow into the region and increase recreational opportunities for the surrounding communities.
  • Designate portions of the San Gabriel Mountains area as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System and the Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

The Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act would:

  • Restore historically damaged forests and watersheds on public lands and invest in fire management activities and visitor centers to secure further economic development.
  • Expand public access to the regions’ forests, lakes, and rivers and improve outdoor recreation opportunities throughout the region.
  • Expand nine existing wilderness areas, establish ten new ones, and designate over 300 miles of new Wild and Scenic Rivers.

Supporters of the San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act include the Nature for All Coalition: Amigos de los Rios, API Forward Movement, Bike San Gabriel Valley, CalWild, The City Project, Climate Resolve, Council of Mexican Federations, Day One, National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club, Trout Unlimited, and The Wilderness Society; and the cities of Los Angeles, Pasadena, and El Monte.

Supporters of the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act include Save the Redwoods League, The Pew Charitable Trusts, The Wilderness Society, The Wildlands Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, Natural Resources Defense Council, CalTrout, CalWild, Citizens for Better Forestry, Environmental Protection Information Center, Friends of Del Norte, Friends of the Eel River, Klamath Siskiyou Wild, Northcoast Environmental Center, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Redwood Forest Foundation Inc., Safe Alternatives for our Forest Environment, Salmonid Restoration Federation, Smith River Alliance, Stinson/Bolinas Fund, Trinidad Coastal Land Trust, Trinity Trails Alliance, Redwood Coast Mountain Bike Association, Del Norte Trails Alliance, and Bigfoot Trail Alliance.

“At REI we believe a life outdoors is a life well lived. California’s public lands and waters are an important part of ensuring everyone can enjoy the state’s wondrous outdoors. Steps like these bills – that protect public lands and the recreation opportunities they afford -- help ensure there’s more access to wild places for everyone.  And importantly, it can sustain the state’s outdoor recreation industry, which directly employs almost 700,000 Californians.” - Marc Berejka, Community and Government Affairs Director, REI

“Nature for All deeply appreciates Senator Harris' legislation which will help Angelenos gain access to the San Gabriel Mountains, Foothills and Rivers. This is particularly good news for people who live in dense, low income communities without access to parks and open space” -  Belinda Faustinos, Executive Director, Nature for All

“As the voice for working class immigrant communities the Council of Mexican Federations (COFEM) applauds Senator Harris for introducing the San Gabriel Mountains Foothills Rivers Protection Act. The expansion of the SGMNM only reaffirms the commitment of our elected leaders to preserve public lands for generations. COFEM embraces the bill as a pledge to the protection of the environment and all those who call the San Gabriel Mountains their backyard.” - Anabella Bastida, Executive Director, COFEM.

"Senator Harris' bill is key in protecting access to health and wellness for all LA county residents. The San Gabriel Mountains provide a wealth of recreation opportunities to a spectrum of community members regardless of their disposition- young/old, rich/poor, able/disabled.

It has never been a more pressing time to safeguard our green and wild spaces” – Christy Zamani, Executive Director, Day One

“The Angeles Forest makes up 70% of the remaining open space here in Southern California. We welcome the new bill in the effort to protect our public lands for generations to come. Sustainable, active transportation is important in connecting our communities to their public land.” - Andrew Fung Yip, Program Coordinator, Bike San Gabriel Valley

“Our region benefits economically when people come to visit our spectacular public lands

and rivers.  Visitors eat in our restaurants, shop in our stores, buy our locally-made products and stay in our hotels while enjoying some of the most special places on earth.” – Gregg Foster, Executive Director, Redwood Regional Economic Development Commission

Text of the San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act can be found here.

Text of the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act can be found here.