Letters to the Editor

Legislators must continue to protect California’s natural landscape

Congresswoman Lois Capps helped designate the Piedcas Blancas Light Station as an Outstanding Natural Area and continues to work to conserve California’s natural landscape.
Congresswoman Lois Capps helped designate the Piedcas Blancas Light Station as an Outstanding Natural Area and continues to work to conserve California’s natural landscape. The Tribune

When my husband and I first moved to Santa Barbara more than 50 years ago, I was struck by the warmth of the Central Coast community, the beauty of our natural surroundings and the passion of our friends and neighbors for preserving and conserving our environment.

That passion has continued to shape our efforts locally and influence my work in Congress on behalf of the Central Coast. As a member of both the House Energy & Commerce Committee and the Natural Resources Committee, I am grateful for the opportunity to help promote the protection and conservation of our cherished environment.

Over the years, we have worked together to preserve our region’s natural beauty. We have sought to prevent new oil and gas drilling off our coast, strengthen oil pipeline safety and spill response, conserve wildlife and rare species native to the Central Coast, and prioritize conservation of our public lands. During my time in office, I have also worked to designate the Piedras Blancas Light Station as an Outstanding Natural Area and the Carrizo Plain as a National Monument, and founded the bipartisan National Marine Sanctuary Caucus to improve Congressional awareness and support of our treasured coastal and marine resources.

While I am proud of these successes, there is still more to be done, especially regarding the preservation of our public lands. That is why I have introduced two pieces of legislation that would protect local lands and waters along the Central Coast to ensure that they will be there for our children and grandchildren to enjoy. This has been and will continue to be a top priority for me until my last day in office.

First, my bill to expand the California Coastal National Monument would permanently protect nearly 6,000 acres along California’s coastline. Adding the Piedras Blancas Light Station in San Luis Obispo and other coastal sites to the national monument would enhance visitor access to our nation’s most treasured landscape — the California Coast. It also would protect and conserve many of our unique plants and animals and their habitats while improving management and local partnership opportunities for these sites.

Second, my Central Coast Heritage Protection Act would protect over 245,000 acres of wilderness and create two scenic areas in the Los Padres National Forest — California’s second-largest forest and home to the highest number of species at risk for extinction, such as the California condor. This bill would also protect drinking water for millions of nearby residents for whom Los Padres is their primary water source. And similar to the national monument expansion, it would improve access and recreational opportunities in Los Padres, including through the designation of the new Condor National Recreational Trail.

Notably, these bills are backed by a wide variety of stakeholders. Republicans, Democrats, business owners, environmentalists and recreation enthusiasts alike recognize the need for federal laws that conserve public lands. It has been a pleasure working with so many stakeholders on these bills, and I am inspired by both the volume and broad interests of these supporters. We all agree that we must provide critical protection for these regions while balancing the needs for multi-use recreation.

These lands are not only essential parts of our culture, but they also give back to California’s local economies. Outdoor recreation generates $85 billion annually in consumer spending, $6.7 million in tax revenue and more than 730,000 jobs right here in California, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.

The United States has a long history of protecting our national treasures, as marked by the 100th anniversary of our National Park Service this year. And while we have accomplished much, I believe we must all continue to do our part by speaking up on behalf of future generations, as well as the land and wildlife, that cannot speak for themselves. Together, we can ensure that these areas remain part of the American landscape for the benefit of all Americans now and in the future.

Rep. Lois Capps represents the 24th District, which includes San Luis Obispo County.