by Jack Dyer, Steve Dunwoody, and Graciela Cabellos
The Central Coast is one of the most treasured landscapes in California, and for good reason. Three distinct ecosystems— grassland, semi-desert, and redwood forest—join together here to host more than 470 animal species, including more than 90 that are at risk of extinction. It’s one of the few places in the world where giant redwoods and desert species can be found growing next to one another. These extraordinary natural areas are one reason residents and visitors choose the Central Coast, and they are a magnet for business, recreation, and tourism. Making sure these public lands continue to succeed requires a commitment from all of us.
People connect to our local wild places in different ways and for different reasons. Active duty military personnel at Port Hueneme all the way up to Vandenberg Air Force Base find respite and recreation in the Los Padres National Forest and the Carrizo Plain National Monument. Many more veterans have chosen to retire here because of the quality of life and opportunity for recovery from overseas deployments that are offered by having access to public lands.
At the same time, public lands are an underutilized recreational resource for the millions of Latinos that live in and around the Central Coast. The Latino population is the fastest growing demographic in the United States and among the most underrepresented groups in conservation. The great irony is that a strong conservation ethic has been ingrained in Latino cultura for generations. Local advocates are coming together to protect public lands and recreational access to ensure we have places for Latinos to be present, to share their voices, and to showcase their deep appreciation for our natural heritage.
In June, we traveled to Washington, DC to share these messages with our elected officials and voice our support for the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act, which would safeguard important areas in the Los Padres and the Carrizo Plain. In addition to protecting 245,500 acres of wilderness, the legislation would create two scenic areas encompassing 34,500 acres, safeguard 159 miles of wild and scenic rivers, and establish the 400-mile-long Condor National Recreation Trail.
We need to be good stewards of this shared natural resource, so our area will be a good place to live and work for generations to come. Keeping in mind, too, that protecting these public lands is good for our economy.
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 the Los Padres National Forest contributed $24.1 million dollars to the regional economy.
The legislation Rep. Lois Capps and Sen. Barbara Boxer crafted is the product of years of discussion and negotiation 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.
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. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and the rest of the California delegation can help by co-sponsoring the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act. Safeguarding outstanding natural areas in the Central Coast is essential to our region’s economic health and an irreplaceable legacy for future generations.
Jack Dyer is a co-founder of Topa Topa Brewing Company in Ventura CA., Steve Dunwoody is California Director of the Vet Voice Foundation, and Graciela Cabello is National Director of Latino Outdoors.
Jack Dyer / Co-Founder