Protecting California’s public lands a top priority – Capitol Weekly | weekly capitol
My love of nature began in the San Gabriel Mountains near Los Angeles. As a child, I used to go there to hike and enjoy traveling with my dad. Since then, getting out into nature has become an essential part of my life. For me, it’s a spiritual experience – a chance to feel connected to both my Creator and creation.
And I now share this spiritual experience with my 17 year old son. Nature hiking is our chance to bond. There is no cell signal or WiFi. It’s a special place where my son and I can talk and connect.
Being in nature reminds us all of our connection to the earth and to each other. The next generation needs to be able to see the beauty that surrounds us in Southern California and the State.
But many families, and Latino families in particular, don’t have access to nature close to home.
The bill would protect and increase access to more than one million acres of public land and more than 500 miles of rivers across California.
According to a recent report from the Hispanic Access Foundation, Latinos and other people of color in California are twice as likely to live in areas devoid of nature as whites. When children are deprived of nature, it means they lack safe places to play and families miss opportunities to bond with each other.
That’s why the Hispanic Access Foundation helps facilitate Latin Advocacy Week so that our communities can demand change. The event, held annually in March, helps Latino communities, organizations, families and individuals become advocates for issues that impact their daily lives. Community groups, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, local leaders and elected officials champion legislation and advocacy efforts that uplift and support Latino communities across the state and country, leading to a fairer society.
The legislation I advocate for is the Protecting Unique and Beautiful Landscapes by Investing in California Lands Act, better known as the Public Lands Act.
The bill, championed by California American sensitivities Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein, would protect and increase access to more than one million acres of public land and more than 500 miles of rivers across California spanning three Regions: San Gabriel Mountains, Key Forests and Rivers of Northwest California, and Los Padres National Forest and Carrizo Plain National Monument on the Central Coast. Accompanying legislation has already been passed several times by the US House of Representatives.
The PUBLIC LANDS Act is not an option, it is a need.
In the Los Angeles area, for example, the legislation would expand the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and improve recreational opportunities in the San Gabriel Valley, where access to nature is particularly limited. But access isn’t just about extending the protection of public lands and rivers, it’s about making sure visitors feel safe and welcome when they visit these places. I hope future legislation will also make public lands and rivers more accessible by investing in public transit, wheelchair accessible trails, signage in multiple languages, and more.
Public lands and rivers are a key part of our identity, and they weave together a narrative of the diverse and complex history of our state and our nation. These places, all of which are Indigenous ancestral lands, preserve our shared cultural heritage and contribute significantly to industries, local economies and millions of jobs and employment opportunities.
Latinos are an integral part of this shared history.
I am grateful to the senses. Padilla and Feinstein for their leadership on this issue and I urge the US Senate to pass the Public Lands Act. I want to take my future grandkids to the San Gabriel Mountains to hike, fish, and camp. To bond with them like I did with my son. All Latino families need this same opportunity. If you would like to join me in defending our public lands and rivers, please get involved by visiting hispanicaccess.org.
Editor’s Note: Juan Rosas is an associate of the Hispanic Access Foundation Curatorial Program.