Mariel Combs, senior policy analyst for Defenders of Wildlife, said the refuge would preserve important habitat and migration routes for many species.
"It's important, especially in this urban environment," Combs asserted. "It would connect the Cleveland National Forest and the San Bernardino National Forest."
Wildlife refuge status would ensure the area is protected from suburban sprawl. It is home to 146 species, 33 of which are threatened or endangered, including bighorn sheep, the Quino checkerspot butterfly, and the Red-legged frog. So far, the project faces no significant opposition.
The proposal has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, but it has not come up for a vote, or been introduced in the Senate.
The letter noted communities of color are almost twice as likely as white communities to live in nature-deprived places, 66% compared to 32%.
Brenda Gallegos, conservation program associate for the Hispanic Access Foundation, said the refuge would provide recreational opportunities for low-income families nearby.
"Two-thirds of communities of color do not have access to nature or some green spaces in the area, so having this established would bring available access to these communities," Gallegos explained.
If passed, the project would become the second-largest urban wildlife refuge in the country, and move the U.S. closer to meeting the national and state goal of preserving 30% of public lands by 2030.
By Suzanne Potter for Public News Service