Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla (both D-Calif.) today introduced the Western Riverside National Wildlife Refuge Act, a bill that would establish the Western Riverside County Wildlife Refuge.
The creation of this wildlife refuge is a critical component of Riverside County’s Habitat Conservation Plan to conserve habitat for 146 different species, including 33 that are listed under the Endangered Species Act.
“Riverside County is one of the fastest growing regions in the country,” said Senator Feinstein. “As the population grows, we must find ways to balance the needs of growth with the preservation of our natural resources, including habitat for endangered species. We must also prioritize green, open spaces and recreational areas for the health and safety of our communities. This bill accomplishes that by creating a federal wildlife refuge as part of the collaborative land management plan created by Riverside County.”
“California’s abundant biodiversity and endangered species are constantly threatened by loss of natural habitat and the ongoing climate crisis,” said Senator Padilla. “The establishment of the Western Riverside County National Wildlife Refuge is essential to protecting California’s diverse wildlife and natural beauty while allowing for growth and infrastructure development in Riverside County. Importantly, the bill would also expand outdoor access and education opportunities for underserved communities. This legislation will ensure that California’s communities can continue to grow while simultaneously protecting California’s rich biodiversity for generations to come.”
“We are thrilled to see legislation introduced in the Senate to protect vulnerable habitat and imperiled species while providing greater access for neighboring communities,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife. “We thank Sen. Feinstein and other members of the California delegation for their efforts to make the Refuge a reality and applaud the bipartisan support for establishing the refuge. We urge Congress and the Biden administration to move quickly to enact this widely-supported legislation.”
“Western Riverside National Wildlife Refuge can?protect California’s stunning natural landscapes near underserved communities of color,” said Brenda Gallegos, program associate for Hispanic Access Foundation. “The refuge will?bring the myriad benefits of nearby nature to urban Latino communities – from creating jobs to enriching our children’s education to improving public health, protecting us from climate emergency, to safeguarding clean air, water, and a healthy environment for all. We thank Sen. Feinstein for introducing this bill and we look forward to Congress getting it quickly passed so all communities can enjoy the benefits of the refuge.”
The bill would:
- Establish the Western Riverside County National Wildlife Refuge.
- Allow the Interior secretary to acquire lands within a specified boundary by donation, purchase or exchange.
- Prioritize acquisition of lands that support the recovery and protection of threatened and endangered species in the region.
- Ensure all federal agencies owning land within the designated acquisition boundary have input as to which land is suitable for acquisition or transfer.
- Require any land owned by the county or state be added to the refuge by donation only, reducing costs to the federal government.