Coinciding with Latino Advocacy Week and the 119th anniversary of the National Wildlife Refuge System, the hike’s participants highlighted the community’s support for the refuge and the overwhelming need to protect California’s remaining natural landscapes. Participants also included council members, Mayor Pro Tem at City of Jacinto Crystal Ruiz, faith leaders and members from Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority.
“Riverside County is one of the fastest growing regions of the state, so it’s imperative that we balance growth with conservation efforts,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif). “I’m working with the county, environmental groups and our partners in the House to create a federal wildlife refuge as part of the county’s collaborative land management plan. This would allow us to preserve open spaces for everyone to enjoy, protect vital habitat for endangered species and designate appropriate areas for responsible growth.”
“I support the establishment of the Western Riverside County Wildlife Refuge to facilitate the conservation of our natural resources and provide a solid planning foundation for the county’s future growth,” said Congressman Ken Calvert (CA-42). “By conserving land and creating a federal wildlife refuge we can better manage habit for species, provide enhanced recreational opportunities for local communities, and provide the environmental protections that will allow for the balanced development of our region.”
According to the U.S. Department of Interior, nearly 80% of Americans live in and around cities. Truly, our connections to nature are more important than ever. Urban Wildlife Refuges have proven to be successful in connecting urban communities with nature and providing more equitable access to green spaces.
“This Latino Advocacy Week, we need to advocate for equitable access,” said Brenda Gallegos, Program Associate for Hispanic Access Foundation. “We need to establish this important urban wildlife refuge to protect California’s stunning natural landscapes near underserved communities of color. The refuge will bring the myriad benefits of nearby nature to urban Latino communities -– from creating jobs and enriching our children’s education, improving public health and protecting from the climate emergency, to safeguarding clean air, water and a healthy environment for all.”
Recently, public lands groups called on Congress to support the proposed Western Riverside County National Wildlife Refuge. Home to 146 species, 33 of which are threatened or endangered, including the Stephens’s Kangaroo Rat, the Quino checkerspot butterfly, and the California red-legged frog, this urban refuge would ensure the area is protected from suburban development. In addition, the refuge would increase recreation and tourism opportunities that benefit the local economy and create jobs.
“An urban refuge in Riverside County would ensure that remaining intact habitat in this highly developed area is protected while providing more equitable access to nature – both of which are key components of our state and national 30x30 goals,” said Pamela Flick, California program director for Defenders of Wildlife. “Today’s support from congressional, state and community leaders clearly demonstrates that the benefits this urban national wildlife refuge will have for species and humans alike are recognized by many. Defenders is grateful for the outpouring of support and would like to thank Rep. Calvert and Sen. Feinstein for their efforts to establish this much-needed refuge.”
The new Western Riverside County National Wildlife Refuge would be established in one the fastest growing counties in the nation and is poised to become a leading example of the critical role that highly urbanized areas can play in the future of sustainable development, conservation and providing increased opportunities for people to connect with nature.