Padilla, Butler, Ruiz Announce Bill to Rename Joshua Tree Visitor Center After Senator Feinstein

WATCH: Padilla highlights his three public lands bills to uphold Senator Feinstein’s legacy of protecting the California desert

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler (both D-Calif.), along with Representative Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.-25), announced legislation to rename the Cottonwood Visitor Center at Joshua Tree National Park as the Senator Dianne Feinstein Visitor Center. The bill received a hearing today in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (ENR) with the National Park Service.

The Cottonwood Visitor Center is located in the southern part of Joshua Tree National Park, just seven miles north of Interstate 10, and serves as the first contact station for the millions of visitors entering the park from the Interstate each year. The visitor center is the gateway to many hiking trails, including the Cottonwood Springs area.

The late Senator Feinstein was a champion for protecting California’s public lands, from the redwoods of the Headwaters and the San Francisco Bay, to Lake Tahoe and, most notably, the California desert. She authored the California Desert Protection Act of 1994 that created the Mojave National Preserve, expanded and redesignated Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Monuments as national parks, and designated over 7 million acres of California desert as Wilderness. She also sponsored subsequent legislation to protect natural areas and wildlife corridors in the desert, leading to the creation of the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument, the Mojave Trails National Monument, the Sand to Snow National Monument, and the Castle Mountains National Monument.

“Senator Feinstein was widely regarded as a great protector of the California desert, having grown up with fond childhood memories of the desert and subsequently working to protect the landscape throughout her Senate career,” said Senator Padilla. “Thirty years after the enactment of Senator Feinstein’s landmark California Desert Protection Act, which created Joshua Tree National Park, I can think of no better way to honor her legacy than by ensuring that the Park’s visitors are reminded of Senator Feinstein’s enduring public lands legacy.”  

“Senator Feinstein was a strong advocate for California’s public lands, and spent her lifetime securing investments to protect landscapes like Joshua Tree National Park,” said Senator Butler. “Renaming the Cottonwood Visitor Center in her honor is another way for us to celebrate Senator Feinstein’s remarkable legacy.”

“It is with great honor that I recognize Senator Feinstein’s commitment to the protection of the California desert by dedicating the Cottonwood Visitor Center in her name. Her perseverance has protected millions of acres across the State of California including the beautiful desert I represent. May this Visitor Center stand as a testament to her enduring legacy and inspire generations to come,” said Dr. Ruiz.

“Honoring her legacy in this way is very appropriate. I was born and raised in the Mojave and I’ve learned that this desert is in my blood. I consider it family. I belong to it. I met Senator Feinstein when I was 17 years old and just starting my journey as a conservationist. I thanked her for all of her work to protect the desert, and she told me to ‘keep it up.’ Fifteen years later, I continue to do what she asked,” said Luke Basulto, California Desert Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. “Senator Feinstein saw the beauty and value of a place that many others didn’t. She fought for it because she loved it. She fought for my family. I will forever thank her for that.”

“We are thankful to Senator Padilla for introducing legislation to rename the Cottonwood Visitor Center to the Senator Dianne Feinstein Visitor Center. We can think of no better way to honor Feinstein’s enduring public lands legacy. From the Desert Protection Act of 1994 to the Mojave Trails National Monument and so much more, her steadfast work to protect the California Desert will be remembered by future generations who will enjoy Joshua Tree National Park and the many Conservation Lands of the California Desert she loved so dearly and worked tirelessly to establish,” said Jocelyn Torres, Interim Co-Executive Director, The Conservation Lands Foundation.

“CalWild wholeheartedly supports S. 4228, Senator Alex Padilla’s proposed legislation that would rename Joshua Tree National Park’s Cottonwood Visitor Center.  Redesignating the visitor center to the Senator Dianne Feinstein Visitor Center would be an incredibly fitting way to honor the legacy of the late Senator Feinstein.  Senator Feinstein was not only the champion for the designation of Joshua Tree National Park as part of her California Desert Protection Act of 1994, but also dedicated her entire career in the U.S. Senate to tirelessly fighting for the protection of the California desert. CalWild is thankful for Senator Feinstein’s steadfast dedication to our desert and believes that renaming the Cottonwood Visitor Center would be an excellent way to recognize and honor the Senator and her legacy,” said Linda Castro, Assistant Policy Director at CalWild.

“The Mojave Desert Land Trust is proud to support Senator Alex Padilla’s legislation designating the Cottonwood Visitor Center at Joshua Tree National Park as the “Senator Dianne Feinstein Visitor Center”, in recognition of one of the greatest champions of the California desert. Among Senator Feinstein’s historic contributions to desert conservation was the establishment of Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park, and the Mojave National Preserve through the California Desert Protection Act of 1994. Enshrining greater protections for the state’s most iconic desert public lands, she helped shape California desert conservation to forever preserve the natural connectivity of the region’s unique flora and fauna. Senator Feinstein’s fierce advocacy for a region she called “a true American treasure” lives on in the countless individuals working to preserve the desert for the next generation,” said Kelly Herbinson, Executive Director, Mojave Desert Land Trust.

“There is no place more fitting in the California desert to recognize its greatest protector — Senator Dianne Feinstein — than Joshua Tree National Park, which has a celebrity status worldwide. Her enduring commitment to the cause of desert protection spanned decades and now visitors from around the globe can hail her historic accomplishments,” said Frazier Haney, Executive Director, The Wildlands Conservancy.

Senator Padilla also introduced legislation to expand the Mojave National Preserve, established by Feinstein’s 1994 California Desert Protection Act, by approximately 20,000 acres to encompass the existing Castle Mountains National Monument. Doing so would allow the National Park Service to more effectively safeguard land within the Mojave Desert and better conserve and protect the Castle Mountains. Additionally, Padilla introduced legislation to expand Joshua Tree National Park by about 17,000 acres. Both of these bills were also included in the ENR Committee hearing today and received positive testimony from the National Park Service.

Senator Padilla has been a leader in increasing protections for public lands and access to outdoor recreation. Padilla recently celebrated the expansions of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument, following his consistent advocacy. Padilla’s PUBLIC Lands Act, which advanced out of ENR last year, contains provisions to restore and expand protections for over 1 million acres of California’s public lands, including the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. Last month, Padilla, Butler, and Ruiz introduced legislation to create the Chuckwalla National Monument and urged President Biden to designate the monument. Padilla has also been a strong advocate for expanding outdoor recreational opportunities in communities across the nation, including by introducing the bipartisan Outdoors for All Act alongside Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), which advanced out of ENR last year as well.

Full text of the bill to name a Joshua Tree Visitor Center after Senator Feinstein is available here.

Full text of the Mojave National Preserve Boundary Adjustment Act is available here.

Full text of the Joshua Tree National Park Expansion Act is available here.

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