With the introduction of the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act by U.S. Rep. Lois Capps and Sen. Barbara Boxer, we have an opportunity to protect 250,000 acres of our incredible local landscape as wilderness — a common sense measure that will drive growth in our local recreation economy and enhance the quality of life that draws so many of us to live, work and do business in this region.
The bill will expand current wilderness protections in Los Padres National Forest and the Carrizo Plain, both premier recreation destinations for locals and visitors alike. Having protected lands and rivers nearby adds to the quality of life for residents by providing opportunities to camp, hike, hunt, fish, see wildlife, horseback ride, rock climb and backpack. These beautiful wild lands provide scenic backdrops to our communities and draw tourists to the region, helping support our local economy.
Significant evidence shows that proximity to wilderness creates prosperity for communities. The nonprofit Headwaters Economics has published numerous studies showing that protected federal land in the West — wilderness, national parks and national Monuments — are important economic assets that attract people and businesses as well as new jobs and income.
In 2010, western non-metro counties had, on average, a per capita income that was $436 higher for every 10,000 acres of protected public land within their boundaries. According to a recent study by the Outdoor Industry Association, the California outdoor recreation economy contributes $85.4 billion annually to the state in consumer spending, $27 billion in wages and salaries and 732,000 direct California jobs.
Patagonia, with our headquarters based in Ventura, is a good example of the economic benefits brought by protected natural resources available for recreation: our employees are attracted by our proximity not only to the ocean to surf, but the nearby Los Padres National Forest for rock climbing and hiking, as well as family camping and fishing.
But it’s not just the economy at stake. The lands and rivers that would be forever protected by additional designations are home to the San Joaquin kit fox, southern steelhead, Smith’s blue butterfly, California spotted owl, bald eagle, California red-legged frog, arroyo toad and California jewel flower. The forest is also the focus of efforts to reintroduce the California condor, one of the world’s most endangered animals. The Carrizo Plain National Monument, the largest single native grassland remaining in California and home to Tule elk and pronghorn antelope, has truly wild areas within it that are deserving of wilderness designation.
Patagonia supports Capps and Boxer in their ongoing commitment to preserving the wild public lands and rivers of the Central Coast region. We encourage other businesses to support this effort.
Protecting these lands is vitally important to our employees, our customers, our economy and our entire community.
• Hans Cole is director of environmental campaigns and advocacy for Patagonia.