Padilla Bill to Protect California Public Lands Advances in the Senate

The Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources held a subcommittee hearing today covering Senator Padilla’s PUBLIC Lands Act

Senator Padilla speaking in support the PUBLIC Lands Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) testified before the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining in support of his bill, the PUBLIC Lands Act (S.1459). The legislation would protect more than one million acres of public lands and well over 500 miles of rivers in California’s Northwest, Central Coast, and Los Angeles regions. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is an original cosponsor of the legislation in the Senate.

The PUBLIC Lands Act is a key to ensuring equitable access to public lands for local communities and supporting public health and economic recovery. The legislation is also critical to the state’s work to address the climate crisis, build resilience, and protect 30% of lands and waters by 2030. Senator Padilla’s PUBLIC Lands Act was also included as an amendment to the House passed National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022.

“I am proud to see the PUBLIC Lands Act gain momentum in the Senate, and I’m going to keep pushing to advance this legislation until it reaches the President’s desk for signature,” said Senator Padilla. “Enacting this legislation this year is necessary because our public lands are our best natural weapon to fight the climate crisis, protect clean air, and reduce emissions. The bill is also an essential equity bill because it protects public lands and rivers near communities that have limited access to the outdoors. Now is the time to pass these vital protections into law and finally protect these public lands for generations to come.”

The legislation has been championed in the House by Representatives Salud Carbajal (CA-24), Judy Chu (CA-27), and Jared Huffman (CA-02) and has passed the House already this year.

The PUBLIC Lands Act includes protections for the following places:

  • Protection of public lands and rivers in Northwest California, including in Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity counties. This includes protecting about 317,000 acres of public lands as wilderness, designating 379 miles of new wild and scenic rivers, requiring management plans for an additional 101 miles of existing wild and scenic rivers.
  • Protection of special places in the Los Padres National Forest and the Carrizo Plain National Monument, located in the Central Coast region. This includes approximately 288,000 acres of wilderness, two scenic areas encompassing 34,882 acres, and 159 miles of wild and scenic rivers. This would be the first wilderness protection on the Central Coast in twenty years, and is particularly important as many of these areas are currently under threat from extractive industries. It also includes the designation of a 400 mile-long trail, the Condor National Scenic Trail, which would connect the northern and southern portion of the Los Padres National Forest by a single hiking route.
  • In the Los Angeles area, the bill would expand the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument by over 109,000 acres to include the western Angeles National Forest. The bill would also designate over 30,000 acres as protected Wilderness and over 45 miles of Wild and Scenic rivers throughout the San Gabriel range. Finally, the bill would also establish a National Recreation Area in the San Gabriel Valley.

Below are quotes from leaders marking this moment and urging the Senate to pass the PUBLIC Lands Act:

Secretary Crowfoot, California Natural Resources Secretary

“We continue to look forward to the opportunities the PUBLIC Lands Act can bring to safeguarding and preserving California’s ecologically and culturally significant public lands, advancing Governor Newsom’s state goal to conserve at least 30 percent of land and waters by 2030. This legislation helps expand equitable access to the outdoors, and also protects and leverages our natural resources to aid the global effort toward combating the current biodiversity and climate crises. We applaud Senator Padilla’s leadership on this issue as it furthers Governor Newsom’s commitment to building a ‘California for All.’”

Representative Salud Carbajal (CA-24)

“The Central Coast is home to some of the most beautiful public lands in America. My bill, the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act, is included in the PUBLIC Lands Act and will conserve over 250,000 acres of public land in the Carrizo Plain National Monument and Los Padres National Forest for future generations to inherit and enjoy. It’s crucial that we act now to permanently protect the great outdoors, which provide invaluable local watersheds and opportunities for outdoor recreation that support our health and our economy. I thank Senator Padilla for his leadership in this important fight to preserve our public lands and am hopeful the Senate will bring this bill across the finish line.”

Representative Judy Chu (CA-27)

“The San Gabriel Mountains provide 30% of the Los Angeles area’s water and are home to historic habitats of species like the California Condor and Nelson’s Bighorn Sheep. And, since these gorgeous mountains, rivers, and forests are some of the only outdoor recreation options for our park-poor region, it is vital that we not only preserve them, but also increase access so that more communities can enjoy them. That is why I introduced the San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act and why I am so grateful to Senator Padilla for leading this effort in the Senate. With this vital legislation, we can ensure the San Gabriel Mountains continue to provide for us for generations.”

Representative Jared Huffman (CA-02)

“I’m pleased the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee took up the PUBLIC Lands Act. This important legislation includes my Northwest California public lands bill, which has now passed the House four times. For my constituents on the North Coast, as well as the other areas this legislation includes, this bill is critical for building a resilient future for public lands, a thriving outdoor economy, and preserving environmental values for future generations. I am glad the Committee had a robust discussion about all the great provisions in this bill.”

Mayor Betsy Stix, Ojai

“The Public Lands Act protects in perpetuity over a million acres of some of our most precious wild places. A big thank you to Senators Feinstein and Padilla for sponsoring this leading edge legislation. It sets aside breathtaking unspoiled wildlands for future generations and ensures that these areas are not subject to logging, mining, or other resource extraction activities. This is a huge step in the right direction!”

Rue Mapp, Founder and CEO, Outdoor Afro:

“Our state is rich with natural treasures but not all communities can access or find  meaningful ways to enjoy these places. Sincere relationships with nature-rich places is a fundamental right for us all. I’m grateful to Senator Padilla for helping the PUBLIC Lands Act move forward in the Senate and I look forward to seeing Congress pass the legislation this year.”

Shanna Edberg, Director of Conservation Programs, Hispanic Access Foundation:

“Passing the PUBLIC Lands Act is necessary to address inequitable access to the outdoors in California. Latinos and other communities of color are almost twice as likely to live somewhere that is nature deprived than white communities, meaning there are far fewer parks, streams, beaches, and other natural places nearby. This leaves our communities with a legacy of poorer health and COVID-19 severity, higher stress levels, worse educational outcomes, lack of recreation and business opportunities and greater vulnerability to extreme heat and flooding. The PUBLIC Lands Act is crucial for bringing nature, and therefore equity and justice, closer to our underserved communities. Thank you, Senator Padilla, for your continued leadership on this bill. We hope the Senate will swiftly pass these important protections.”

Janessa Goldbeck, VetVoice Foundation’s California State Director and Marine Corps veteran:
“Today we celebrate that the PUBLIC Lands Act has advanced in the Senate. Veterans throughout California share strong connections to our public lands. This legislation affirms the importance of access to the outdoors for the nearly two million veterans living in our state.”

Mike Young, Political & Organizing Director, California Environmental Voters:

“The PUBLIC Lands Act is a pivotal step forward in addressing the climate crisis, achieving our state and nation’s goals to protect at least 30% of our lands and waters by 2030, and making the outdoors more accessible to all. That’s a win for all of us and an important investment in climate action. We are grateful to Senator Padilla for his continued leadership on this bill and we are eager for the Senate to pass these protections.”

Gregg Foster, Executive Director of Redwood Region Economic Development Commission (RREDC):

“Local economies benefit when people come to visit Northwest California’s spectacular public lands and rivers — visitor spending in the region exceeded one billion dollars in 2019. We in the region greatly appreciate the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing testimony on this measure to protect and restore some of our region’s most cherished landscapes, and we look forward to Senate passage.”

Roberto Morales, Chair of the Nature for All Coalition and Sierra Club Senior Organizer:
“The PUBLIC Lands Act will help conserve over one million acres of public lands in California and would ensure that everyone, especially underserved communities, can enjoy the outdoors. Protecting nature and increasing access to the outdoors provides immense benefits to our health, economy and environment – especially at a time we need it most. We applaud the hard work of Senator Padilla to advance this legislation in the Senate.”

Hans Cole, Vice President of Environmental Activism, Patagonia

“Our public lands and wilderness are among our nation’s greatest treasures. Our public lands support a $57 billion outdoors industry that makes our state healthier, happier, and more prosperous — and they’re also vital to the fight against climate change. We are keen to see the Senate pass the PUBLIC Lands Act and protect more than 1 million acres of land as wilderness and other designations, as well as protect hundreds of miles of rivers as wild and scenic. As a business headquartered on the Central Coast, these lands and rivers enhance the quality of life that draws so many of us to live, work and do business in this region.”

Katie Hawkins, California Program Manager, Outdoor Alliance 

“Access to spectacular outdoor recreation on public lands is part of what makes California a special place to live, work, and play. Outdoor Alliance and its member organizations are thrilled to see Senator Padilla’s PUBLIC Lands Act received a hearing in the Senate. The included protections for California’s coasts, forests, and foothills will benefit Californians who love getting outside to surf, ski, hike, bike, paddle, and climb. We are grateful for Senator Padilla’s leadership and hope the full Senate makes these protections a reality soon.”


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