Guest Editorial: It’s Time To Put Outdoor Recreation At The Forefront Of California’s Conservation Efforts

SACRAMENTO一 For many, Memorial Day weekend signaled the start of a more active summer season. Here in the Golden State, that means longer days spent outdoors participating in activities that allow us to enjoy our abundant natural resources and miles of scenic coastline.

As a resident of California and a representative of our state’s 64th District, which includes parts of South Los Angeles and the South Bay, I can attest to just how impactful these outlets have been over the last year. This is true not only for my own physical and mental wellbeing, but also that of my family members, neighbors, and the broader communities I serve.

Beyond the immediate health benefits to our residents, I also know how integral outdoor recreation is to our state’s overall economic welfare. Such activities are much more than a beloved pastime; the outdoor recreation industry generates an enormous economic impact from San Francisco to San Diego, providing $57 billion in annual GDP and supporting nearly 580,000 jobs.

Recently, I have worked to shine a brighter light on the role of outdoor recreation in our communities by spearheading several recreation and conservation-focused initiatives. This included the recognition of California’s National Boating and Fishing Week — a resolution I proudly introduced in the California State Assembly in May that encourages families to spend time together out on the water. As part of this effort, I made it a priority to provide our youth with first-time experiences such as arranging fishing trips during the summer – which for many was the highlight of their school vacation. In addition, I also secured $3 million in the 2019-2020 state budget to transform the Compton Creek right-of-way into a multi-benefit, publicly accessible green space, where families will be able to enjoy a day of fishing and boating from their very own backyards.

As more individuals continue to turn outdoors for safe, socially distanced activities, our natural resources will keep serving as a lifeline to our businesses and state economy as a whole. Given this vital economic impact, we need my fellow California officials to take additional steps to recognize and protect both the outdoor recreation industry and the natural resources the industry depends upon.

One good example of the leadership we need is California’s recent “30 by 30” initiative following the Biden administration’s America the Beautiful outline, which outdoor recreationists have applauded for laying out the framework for conserving 30 percent of America’s land and water by 2030. Here in California, our support included Governor Newsom’s executive order last year, which directed state agencies to protect the state’s diversity of wildlife species — making California the first state in the country to commit to protecting 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.

As part of a community that witnesses the detrimental impacts of climate change firsthand, I am proud to support such science-based efforts to protect our aquatic life. However, as California legislators continue to craft our conservation initiatives such as “30 by 30, ” it’s critical that outdoor recreation groups have a seat at the table to inform best practices. In many ways, outdoor recreationists, including anglers and boaters, are America’s original environmentalists and directly contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to aquatic conservation and education programs each year. Excluding the perspectives of these stakeholders also risks crafting measures that unintentionally inhibit many of the activities and corresponding economic impact such natural areas are meant to promote.

For “30 by 30” in particular, this means ensuring that our practices take stock of the positive role that fishing and hunting play in conservation; developing targeted, science-based conservation measures through a stakeholder-driven process; and preserving the availability of outdoor recreation activities on lands and waters currently available for wildlife-dependent recreation, such as angling. Furthermore, the California Department of Natural Resources must be clear in its recognition of existing protected areas, including Marine Protected Areas and other inland areas to promote and preserve our state’s natural resources.

Emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, I firmly believe California can maintain its status as a leader in fostering a more diverse and inclusive outdoor recreation economy, but only if we start with a conservation initiative that prioritizes broad recreation access and recognizes existing protected areas across the state. Given the efforts of the outdoor recreation community to promote the health of our natural resources, boosting our outdoor recreation industry is mutually beneficial for our conservation targets. As such, I strongly encourage my colleagues in the State Assembly to prioritize outdoor recreation initiatives and work toward meaningful solutions to build our state’s conservation program, allowing this essential economic driver to continue to flourish for years to come.


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