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Western Riverside National Wildlife Refuge

Many Latino communities in Southern California live in nature-deprived neighborhoods, meaning there are far fewer parks, streams, beaches, and other natural places nearby. This leaves these areas with a legacy of poorer health and COVID-19 severity, higher stress levels, worse educational outcomes, lack of recreation and business opportunities, and greater vulnerability to extreme heat and flash floods. This legislation would protect natural areas close to Riverside County’s Latino communities, alleviating inequities and bringing the many benefits of nearby nature and park access.

Background Information

  • The Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority manages a 500,000 acre wildlife preserve that provides habitat for 146 species of plants and animals, overseen by the Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan.
  • 350,000 acres of the wildlife preserve are existing National Forest System land from Cleveland and San Bernardino National Forests.
  • The remaining 150,000 acres are to be acquired, through the Wildlife Refuge Conservation and Recreation for the Community Act.
  • The Act would direct the Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority to:
    • Establish the boundary for a new wildlife refuge in Western Riverside County.
    • Create new public access points for the entire region.
    • Conserve wildlife corridors and habitat connectivity.
    • Acquire 150,000 acres for the refuge, one-third by the state and federal government, and two-thirds from private landowners.

Benefits of the Act

This national wildlife refuge would preserve remaining intact habitat for wildlife, while providing outdoor recreation opportunities and equitable access to nature in a highly urbanized region — both of which are key components of California’s goal to protect 30% of the state’s lands and waters by 2030 (known as 30x30), as well as the national goal outlined in the Biden administration’s America the Beautiful initiative. A wildlife refuge will enhance the partnership between the Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority and the federal government to fulfill the common vision of aligning environmental conservation, infrastructure, and economic growth. This legislation will provide clarity regarding the development of the transportation infrastructure required to meet the future needs of southern California.

Why is this important to Latino communities?

Importance to Latinos

Protecting California’s stunning natural landscapes, especially those near communities of color, will boost equity and bring the myriad benefits of nearby nature to underserved communities - from creating jobs, to enriching children’s education, to improving public health, to protecting from the climate emergency, to safeguarding clean air, water, and a healthy environment for all.

Latino Health

  • Hispanic Access Foundation has found that in California, communities of color are almost twice as likely than white communities to live in nature deprived places. Sixty-two percent of communities of color in the state live in nature-deprived areas, compared with just 36 percent of white communities.
  • Nationally, Latinos are 21% more likely than non-Hispanic Whites to live in urban heat islands, or areas dominated by asphalt and concrete where parks, shade-providing trees, and other vegetation are lacking. Urban heat islands can produce breathing difficulties, exhaustion, heat cramps, heat stroke and even death.
  • Areas within a 10-minute walk of a park can be as much as six degrees cooler than surrounding parkless areas. However, parks in majority non-white neighborhoods are half as large and serve nearly five times more people than parks in majority white neighborhoods. Also, parks serving majority low-income households are, on average, four times smaller and serve nearly four times more people than parks that serve majority high-income households.

Latino Recreation

  • 96% of California Latinos agree that California’s public lands and waters are places to enjoy hiking, hunting, or other types of outdoor recreation.
  • 95% agree that California’s public lands and waters are important to conserve for their children and grandchildren.
  • 95% agree that California’s public lands and waters are important to their quality of life.

Latino Jobs & Economy

  • 92% of California Latinos see public lands, such as national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas, as an important part of the economies in these states.
  • The outdoor recreation economy generates $92 billion in consumer spending and 691,000 jobs in California.

Latino Public Opinion

  • 87% of Latino voters in California agree that we should create new national parks, national monuments, national wildlife refuges and tribal protected areas to protect historic sites or areas for outdoor recreation.
  • 85% support setting a national goal of conserving 30 percent of U.S. land, inland waters, and ocean by the year 2030.
  • 82% support directing funding to ensure adequate access to parks and natural areas for lower-income people and communities of color that have disproportionately lacked them.
  • 92% agree that we should find money to protect their state’s land, water and wildlife, even in the midst of economic challenges posed by the pandemic.

About Us

Hispanic Access Foundation connects Latinos and others with partners and opportunities to improve lives and create an equitable society.

Phone: (202) 640-4342

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