Rep. Calvert Bill Establishing Western Riverside County Wildlife Refuge Passes Committee
Today, legislation introduced by Congressman Ken Calvert (CA-42), H.R. 2956, to establish the Western Riverside County Wildlife Refuge was advanced by the House Natural Resources Committee. The bill will now head to the House floor for consideration.
“Riverside County is now one step closer to being home to a new wildlife refuge that would help it balance its commitment to conserving animal habitat with its need for future growth,” said Rep. Calvert. “As we move forward, it’s critical that all stakeholders, including the federal government, meet their conservation responsibilities to ensure the successful implementation of our planning efforts, including vital transportation improvement projects.”
The Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority (WRCRCA) oversees the Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP), which went into effect in 2004. The MSHCP is a wildlife preserve that provides habitat for 146 species of plants and animals. Establishing this land as a wildlife refuge will ensure public access and enhanced recreation opportunities for the entire region.
In total, 500,000 acres are required for the wildlife preserve under the MSHCP terms. About 350,000 of those acres are existing National Forest system land from Cleveland and San Bernardino National Forests and other state and federal land which has reserve value. The remaining 150,000 acres are to be acquired by a combination of the federal and state government as well as by local sources. The federal government and the state are required to acquire one-third of the necessary land for this wildlife preserve, but the feds have not yet met their goal. Enactment of H.R. 2956 will enable the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to fulfill its obligation as a partner in the MSHCP.
WRCRCA supports the consolidation of the current checkerboard conservation lands into a Wildlife Refuge creating a framework for the federal government to meet its obligations under the MSHCP Implementing agreement. This legislation would:
- Establish the boundary for a new wildlife refuge;
- Allow for the immediate inclusion of non-federal conservation lands that have already been acquired to meet the terms of the MSHCP;
- Provide certainty for development of the transportation infrastructure required to meet the future needs of southern California;
- Create new public access and enhance recreation for the entire region; and
- Create a mechanism for federal agencies to inventory lands within the Refuge boundary established by this legislation to determine their suitability for inclusion.