The original article was posted by the Sacramento Bee Editorial Board. To read the original article click here

Before Republicans seize a slim majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, Congress should expedite a slate of bills written to protect important wildlife habitats, public lands and help California combat climate change. These five bills, if passed before the end of the 2022 session, would safeguard Californians’ access to their state’s natural landscape and biodiversity, and provide nature-based solutions to climate change.

The bills include Senate Bill 1459, authored by California senators Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein — as well as its House companions, HR 693 and HR 878 — which would establish the PUBLIC Lands Act to protect over one million acres of public lands and conserve important wildlife habitats in northwest California, the central coast region and the Los Angeles area.

In addition, it “authorizes the utilization of certain forest residues for research and development of bio-based products that result in net carbon sequestration, authorizes initiatives to restore degraded redwood forest ecosystems in the Redwood National Forest and state parks, requires specified recreational studies and partnerships and expands the boundaries of the Elkhorn Ridge Wilderness and the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument,” according to the bill’s summary. It would provide recreational activities specifically to residents in the San Gabriel Valley, one of the most nature-deprived urban populations in the country.

The slate includes the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument Expansion Act, also known as HR 6366 and SB 4080, which would expand the national monument area in the Napa region to include adjacent public lands to the east — approximately 3,925 acres of federal land administered by the Bureau of Land Management in Lake County, California. The bill authorizes the federal government to enter into a co-management agreement with local tribes and returns the area to its indigenous name: “Molok Luyuk” or “Condor Ridge.” These bills in particular are strongly supported by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, which has had a connection to the Molok Luyuk area for thousands of years. Many religious ceremonies are held on the ridge, which includes sites that were central to vital trading routes. The ridge is home to more than 40 rare plant species and also serves as a critical corridor between the existing national monument and nearby protected areas for the Tule elk, mountain lions and black bears.

Other bills on the slate seek to remedy Trump administration actions that put millions of acres of desert at risk in the Los Angeles area; they would conserve drinking water sources for state residents, and make sure that Californians have recreational access to protected public lands. These proposed legislative bills are supported by environmental and conservation groups including the Sierra Club, California Wilderness Coalition, the California Native Plant Society and Conservation Lands Foundation, among others, who are jointly calling on Congress to pass this legislation before the end of the 2022 session. The proposed legislation represents a rare opportunity to create laws that will truly protect and preserve California’s precious natural resources and contribute to the state’s $54 billion outdoor recreation economy. Congress must act quickly and decisively before the deadline passes, to preserve this land for future generations.

 

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