July 21, 2020

Contact: Suzanne Spencer, 510-550-8172, [email protected]


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the House of Representatives passed legislation that will protect public lands and rivers throughout California. This bill, Protecting American’s Wilderness Act, is championed in California by Reps. Carbajal, Chu, Huffman, and Schiff, and passed as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.

The Protecting America’s Wilderness Act will safeguard more than a million acres of public lands and well over 500 miles of rivers in California, in the Northwest, Central Coast, and Los Angeles regions, in addition to public lands and rivers in Washington and Colorado. In California, it is a key step forward in ensuring equitable access to public lands for local communities,
supports public health and economic recovery, and is critical to the state’s work to address climate change and build resilience.

The Protecting America’s Wilderness Act also passed the House in February of this year. Today’s passage is particularly significant, however, given that the National Defense Authorization Act is considered to be “must-pass” legislation. In the Senate, Senator Harris has introduced the companion PUBLIC Lands Act, which will protect public lands and rivers in the Central Coast, Northwest, and San Gabriels areas. Senator Feinstein has also previously introduced legislation protecting the Rim of the Valley corridor in Southern California

Today’s House amendment includes 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 Recreation 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.
● Also in the Los Angeles area, the bill would add more than 191,000 acres of the Rim of the Valley Corridor to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The Rim of the Valley stretches from the Simi Hills and Santa Susanas to the Verdugos and on to the San Gabriel Mountains.

Below are quotes from leaders marking this moment and urging the Senate to follow suit by passing legislation to protect these public lands and rivers:

Representative Judy Chu (CA-27):
“The San Gabriel Mountains, with their beautiful rivers, forests, and mountain trails so close to the density of Los Angeles, are a true gift for the millions who have little to no access to parks or green space. That’s why I want to make sure as many people as possible have the chance to visit, both today and for years in the future. That is what today’s vote will help accomplish. As our city grows and our climate changes, these untouched wild lands and habitats could disappear. This amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) will not only preserve this land for future generations, it will also create a National Recreation Area that will
let even more Angelenos enjoy our mountains.”

Rue Mapp, Founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro:
“Our state is rich with natural treasures but not all communities can access and enjoy these places. That’s why I’m so excited to see this legislation pass the House as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. Outdoor access is a fundamental right for us all. I look forward to working with the Senate to help protect our public lands.”

Kate Hoit, Vet Voice Foundation’s California State Director and OIF veteran:
“Throughout California veterans share a strong connection to our public lands. Today we celebrate the inclusion of four historic public lands bills in the National Defense Authorization Act. This legislation affirms the importance of outdoor access for the nearly two million veterans living in California.”

Gregg Foster, Executive Director of Redwood Regional Economic Development Commission:
“Local economies in Northwest California benefit when people come to visit our spectacular, world-renowned public lands and rivers. I greatly appreciate and am excited to again celebrate House passage of this legislation that will protect and restore some of the region’s most
cherished landscapes.”

Roberto Morales, Chair of the Nature for All Coalition:
“This National Defense Authorization Act includes measures to ensure that public lands in California and across the country are conserved and 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 California champions — Representatives Chu, Huffman, Carbajal, Schiff and Senators Harris and Feinstein — to advance this legislation.”

David Page, Policy Director of Outdoor Alliance California:
“The Outdoor Alliance and its member organizations are thrilled that our House of Representatives have included protections for California’s public lands in the current National Defense Authorization Act. The outdoor recreation economy generates $92 billion in consumer spending here in California. Protecting cherished landscapes in Northwest, Central and Southern California will not just help improve access for outdoor
recreationists, they will help support local businesses and communities. We look forward to seeing these bills advance in the Senate.”

Photos of relevant landscapes are available for use here.