By Dup Crosson and Matt Sayles, California Wilderness Coalition
CalWild and their partners in the Central Coast Wild Heritage Coalition celebrated the introduction of a bill that would protect thousands of acres of sensitive habitat in the Los Padres National Forest and Carrizo Plain National Monument.
The Central Coast Heritage Protection Act (CCHPA) was introduced by Representative Salud Carbajal (D-CA) and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA). It is the culmination of over seven years of outreach and discussion involving local businesses, mountain bikers, elected officials, ranchers, conservationists, and other stakeholders that are all involved in the future protection and management of these iconic lands. The CCHPA has been supported by the Conservation Alliance and its member companies for many years, and this partnership has been instrumental in getting the bill introduced again in 2017.
The Central Coast Heritage Protection Act would safeguard 245,000 acres of wilderness, create two scenic areas encompassing 34,882 acres, and designate 159 miles of wild and scenic rivers in the Los Padres National Forest and the Carrizo Plain National Monument. These protections would help ensure clean water for local communities, stimulate a vibrant local economy, provide outdoor recreation opportunities for present and future generations, mitigate the effects of climate change by conserving resources and wildlife habitat. Descriptions of the areas and rivers proposed for protection are at https://www.calwild.org/portfolio/centralcoast/.
“We are thrilled that Rep. Carbajal has continued his longstanding history as an environmental leader on the Central Coast,” said Matt Sayles, Central Coast Conservation Director for CalWild. “He has been supportive of our work and efforts going back many years prior to being elected to Congress.We are equally excited to see Senator Harris engage in this effort—this being her first wilderness legislation since her election as Senator last year. In a political climate that has seen several attempts at undermining our rich national legacy of public land protection, it is inspiring to see our leaders in California advocating for more protection—not less.”
California’s Central Coast is known for its iconic oak woodlands, chaparral-draped coastal mountains, and the awe-inspiring Channel Islands. The region includes the Los Padres National Forest, California’s second largest national forest. The forest extends nearly 220 miles across the scenic Coast and Transverse Mountain Ranges, rising from the Pacific Ocean to over 8,800 feet in elevation.
West Paso Robles rancher and business owner Greg McMillan said, “My family has lived in this area for six generations and it is my heart. I own and operate a small-scale, grass-fed beef operation on family land and have planted an olive orchard. We are blessed to live in an area that contains some of the most rural and wild lands in the West, but the pressures on this land are great. The Central Coast Heritage Protection Act will ensure that our wildest lands and rivers remain intact.”
The forest provides habitat for 468 species of wildlife including the California condor and the southern steelhead. The region also includes the Carrizo Plain National Monument, the last intact native grassland where pronghorn antelope and tule elk wander free. These wild lands are rich in Native American history, and are popular places for recreation. They are also vital sources of drinking water for local communities and for the agricultural and wine industries.
“Representative Carbajal and Senator Kamala Harris’ introduction of the CCHPA shows a new generation is picking up the torch to protect California’s wild heritage. Regardless of the obstacles, we will work to make it a reality,” Ryan Henson, Senior Policy Director, CalWild.
For more information, visit: https://www.calwild.org/portfolio/centralcoast/