Energy & Environment

Padilla introduces bill to expand California public lands

Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.)
Greg Nash

Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) introduced legislation on Monday that would expand California’s public lands, designating or expanding protections for more than 1 million acres.

The bill, which builds on legislation written by Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), would add 109,143 new acres to the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, which then-President Obama designated in 2014.

The monument was one of 24 covered by a 2017 executive order by then-President Trump that mandated a review of national monuments. The move prompted alarm and condemnation among locals and elected officials in the area, including Chu, one of the biggest backers of the monument designation.

“There was an attempt to undo [the monument] under the Trump administration. We couldn’t let that be taken away,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis (D) said at a news conference Monday announcing the bill, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

In addition to expanding the monument, the bill would protect 245,000 acres on the state’s central coast and another 317,000 in Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties. Overall, the bill provides for nearly 600,000 acres of new wilderness, according to Padilla’s office.

“Our public lands are one of our state’s greatest gifts – from the San Gabriel Mountains, to the Central Coast, and through Northwestern California’s forests and rivers. It is incumbent upon us to be thoughtful stewards of these special places so that our communities can enjoy them and benefit from America’s natural resources for generations to come,” Padilla said in a statement.

“And we must do so in a way that reverses racial and economic disparities in access to nature and parks,” he added. “Some of the protected land in this bill serves densely populated areas of the state that don’t have equal access to nature, which will help rebalance this historic disparity in access to untouched wilderness.”

The bill comes as the Biden administration is in the midst of a review of the Trump administration’s shrinking of two other national monuments in Utah. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland visited the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments in April following a January executive order by the president.

Tags Alex Padilla Deb Haaland Donald Trump Hilda Solis Judy Chu National Monument Protected areas of the United States Public land

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