SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- Local conservationists celebrated the passing of a bill aimed to better protect national forests along California's Central Coast.
Wednesday House Bill 2199, which contains the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act, passed the U.S. House of Representative. The bill's sponsor, Salud Carbajal (D), Representative for California's 24th congressional district, said the bill got grouped together with other conservation efforts to protect public lands in California, Colorado and Washington state.
Graciela Cabello works for Los Padres ForestWatch. She remembers visiting Los Padres National Forest with her family growing up. “We often came here to recreate and spent long days on the Santa Ynes River. We’d watch the sunsets over the Santa Ynes Valley. It was the place that I saw my first deer sighting, my first river swim, all of my first wild experiences were here.”
Rep. Carbajal said Los Padres National Forest and Carrizo Plain National Monument need more federal protection. “We have unique treasures of land, public land in our area and the fact that it does not have the highest protections possible.”
Local conservationists and the Rep. Carbajal applaud the U.S. House of Representatives passing the bill that would help protect more than 1.5 million acres of lands in California, Colorado and Washington state.
The bill would also protect about 287,500 acres locally of the Los Padres National Forest and Carrizo Plain National Monument. It would add 400 miles of hiking trails and help protect local endangered species.
“First and foremost I feel that we have a responsibility to protect the area for existing communities and for future generations," said Cabello. "I work with children, so it would be great to know that we’re going to leave that legacy behind for future generations.
If the bill becomes law it could end to the fight over to drilling in both public areas.
Rep. Carbajal said during Friday's press conference this bill passing the House of Representatives is a big step forward for conservation efforts in the United States and California. He said the next step for the bill is for the Senate to vote on it. If the Senate approves the bill, it will head to the President's desk.
Rep. Carbajal said the Senate has yet to schedule a vote on the bill. He hopes it will happen soon.