The Central Coast is one of California’s most treasured landscapes. We hear it almost daily from our friends and neighbors, and we know it from personal experience. Our natural areas are a prime contributor to the high quality of life residents enjoy. That’s why we need to conserve more of these special public lands right here in our backyard.
We took that message to Washington, D.C., in April, when a small group of volunteers (which included ourselves and Michelle Stevens, owner of the Refill Shoppe in Ventura) met with elected officials about our support for the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act, which would safeguard important areas in Los Padres National Forest and the Carrizo Plain National Monument.
We met with staff from Sen. Barbara Boxer’s, Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s, and Rep. Sam Farr’s offices, as well as with Rep. Lois Capps and Rep. Julia Brownley. We were also fortunate to speak with staff from the House Committee on Natural Resources.
The region’s mild climate, clean air and water, plentiful open space and easy access to outdoor recreation make this a great place to live and work, enhance property values, attract tourists and promote a healthy economy.
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Outdoor recreation in California generates $85.4 billion in consumer spending, supports 732,000 jobs and contributes $6.7 billion in state and local taxes, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.
In 2011, visitors to Los Padres National Forest contributed $24.1 million to the regional economy. We need to be good stewards of this shared natural resource, so our area will be a good place to live and visit for generations to come.
The legislation Rep. Capps and Sen. Boxer crafted is the product of years of discussion and negotiation — led by Rep. Capps — involving business leaders, conservationists, elected officials, ranchers, mountain bikers and other stakeholders interested in the use and well-being of these iconic lands. That is why our communities support the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act and urge Congress to take the steps necessary to pass it.
Fortunately, our bill is making progress, but the journey is far from over. A week after our visit, a Senate Energy and Natural Resources’ subcommittee included the Central Coast bill in a hearing, moving protection of these beautiful lands one step closer to reality. Ideally, committees in the House and Senate will pass the bill and it will move smoothly through a vote by the full membership of both bodies. That’s a tall order when there’s so little time left on the legislative calendar. Still, there’s a chance the legislation can become a law this year if it continues to travel through the legislative process.
That’s why we thank Rep. Capps and Sen. Boxer for their leadership and urge them to make this legislation a priority for the remainder of the Congress. Sen. Feinstein and the rest of the California delegation can help by co-sponsoring the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act. Safeguarding outstanding natural areas like the Central Coast is vital to the region’s and the state’s economic future.
Carmen Ramirez is mayor pro-tem of Oxnard, and Jan Marx is mayor of San Luis Obispo.