REDLANDS – Yesterday, the U.S. House passed the Senate’s public lands bill, which creates one of the largest wilderness expansions in a decade including additions to Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks and the San Bernardino National Forest, as well as the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. To highlight the diverse benefits of our public lands and explore what the legislation means for California, Hispanic Access Foundation and Por La Creación Faith-based Alliance held a community roundtable with expert panelists representing health professionals, veterans, business interests, educational leaders, energy companies, parks and environmental justice groups.
“America’s iconic places — like Yosemite National Park, San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, Mojave National Preserve, and more — each tell a unique story that, as preserved, help interpret our nation’s natural, cultural and historical past, present and, hopefully, our future. These treasures inspire us, put our lives in perspective and cause us to think about our place in the world,” said Christine Tamara, San Bernardino County Program Coordinator for the Hispanic Access Foundation. “We all share the moral obligation to protect our outdoor heritage and preserve them as a legacy for future generations.”
The roundtable consisted of four panel discussions covering how public lands benefit physical and mental health, help local economies, help child development, bring communities together and protect water, people and the environment. The opening and closing statements were conducted by representatives for Assemblymembers James Ramos and San Bernardino County's District Supervisors Rowe and Rutherford, and Pastor Rolando Morelli for Fontana de la Esperanza Seventh Day Adventist Church and Por La Creación Faith-based Alliance.
Public lands are a key component of our American identity and they weave a narrative of the diverse and complex history of our nation. These places preserve our shared cultural heritage, provide places to recreate and connect with nature, spend time with family and our communities, and significantly contribute to California’s economies. In fact, the Outdoor Industry Association reports that outdoor recreation, which is commonplace on public lands across the state, provides 691,000 jobs and more than $30.4 billion in wages leading to $92 billion in consumer spending and $6.2 billion in state and local tax revenue.
Senate Bill 47, otherwise known as The Natural Resource Management Act, passed out of the Senate on Feb. 12 by a vote of 92 to 8 and was approved in House by a vote of 363 to 62. The bill now goes to the desk of President Donald Trump where his signature will make this overwhelming bipartisan supported bill law.
In addition to the expansions to California’s wilderness areas, the bill finally secures the future for LWCF, which has been one of the most effective tools in conservation and in establishing access to the outdoors, especially for diverse and low-income communities, without a cost to taxpayers. In fact, LWCF has supported more than 1,600 parks and projects in California. From hundreds of local community parks to national sites like Joshua Tree National Park, Mojave National Preserve and San Bernardino National Forest, LWCF has made an incredible mark on the state’s outdoor spaces.
“For many Latinos and other diverse urban communities, sites funded through LWCF often provide their only means to experience the outdoors,” said Maite Arce, President and CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation. “From having places to connect with nature, spend time with family, enjoy outdoor recreation or explore their cultural heritage, LWCF isn’t just about protecting pieces of land or providing specific resources for development, it’s about the connection we have with these places and what they represent for each individual.”
HAF was joined in the roundtable discussions by VetVoice, Nurses Union, Healthy Communities Department, Mojave Desert Land Trust, Visit 29 Palms Tourism Business Improvement District, Conservation Lands Foundation, Spanish Town Heritage Foundation, Old Spanish Trail Association, BLU Education Foundation, Southern California Edison, Nature for All, and the Wildlands Conservancy.