ICYMI: In Modern Hiker Op-Ed, Padilla Advocates for Greater Access to Outdoor Space for Californians

WASHINGTON DC — In case you missed it, US Senator Alex Padilla (D-California) posted the following Op-Ed in modern hiker to advance its efforts to protect California’s iconic natural spaces and make the outdoors more accessible to everyone.

In the play, Padilla highlights his legislation, the Protect unique and beautiful landscapes by investing in the California Lands Act (PUBLIC Lands Act), which would increase the protection of public lands throughout California. The bill would designate nearly 600,000 acres of new wilderness, more than 583 miles of new wild and scenic rivers, and expand an existing national monument by more than 100,000 acres.

As California faces climate threats such as drought, extreme heat and wildfires, Padilla continues to lead and advocate for environmental conservation efforts. Padilla also introduced the bipartisan Outdoors for All Actthat would invest in new parks and open spaces – and upgrade existing ones – to bring the benefits of nature to city dwellers’ doorsteps.

The full text of the Op-Ed is available here and lower.

“Op-Ed: Public Lands Act Strengthens Protections and Expands Access to the Outdoors for Californians”

By Senator Alex Padilla (D-California)

With summer on the way, one of my favorite family activities is getting out and exploring California’s public lands, from the Pacific Ocean to Yosemite Valley to the shores of Lake Tahoe. With the trails and landscapes serving as an outdoor classroom, it’s our chance to connect with each other and with the beautiful nature around us.

Yet the chances of experiencing nature are out of reach for too many Californians, especially communities of color. Statewide, 62% of people of color live in an area “deprived of nature.” In Los Angeles, the majority of Angelenos do not have a park within walking distance of their homes.

I am committed to building and improving parks and recreation areas so that all Californians can enjoy our state’s incredible environment. By preserving California’s natural treasures, we also build our resilience to climate threats such as drought, extreme heat and wildfires. We must act now to protect California’s unprecedented wilderness and trails, and to ensure that future generations have clean water to drink and clean air to breathe.

That’s why I wrote the Protecting Unique and Beautiful Landscapes by Investing in California Lands Act (PUBLIC Lands Act). The Public Lands Act would protect more than a million acres of public land and well over 500 miles of rivers – in the Los Angeles area, on the Central Coast and in northwestern California. The protected lands would include new recreation areas and trails for all to enjoy. The bill would also advance our conservation efforts, such as safeguarding key sources of drinking water, which are essential to solving the climate crisis.

To understand the need for this bill, just look at the San Gabriel Mountains. Around our town, the San Gabriels provide Angelenos with 70% of our open space. Their forests and rivers provide an escape from the extreme heat for families who may not have parks or shady sidewalks in their neighborhood. And yet, the whole region is not permanently protected.

The Public Lands Act would support new recreational opportunities in the San Gabriel Valley, bringing nature closer to communities like Baldwin Park and El Monte. It would also expand San Gabriel National Monument to include the West Angeles National Forest, which provides one-third of Los Angeles County’s drinking water. Faced with the worsening drought, it is urgent to preserve this important source of drinking water for millions of inhabitants.

Across California, the PUBLIC Lands Act would promote equity and protect the environment. Conservation lands are our best natural weapon to capture carbon from the atmosphere, reduce emissions and ensure clean air for all. To address the threat of the climate crisis, America must meet the critical benchmark of conserving 30 percent of our land and waters by 2030. This bill will help California do its part.

Protecting public lands and rivers for future generations is an issue that enjoys broad support. Accompanying legislation has already been passed several times by the U.S. House of Representatives on a bipartisan basis. I urge the Senate to follow suit and pass the PUBLIC Lands Act this year.

Hundreds of local advocates, business leaders and community groups crafted these proposals from scratch. I’m proud to fight for public lands alongside dedicated advocates like California Environmental Voters, who work across the state to protect nature for all. Every Californian deserves to enjoy the benefits of nature close to home. The PUBLIC Lands Act will help us realize this dream—for our children and for generations to come.