Rep. Calvert Reintroduces Bill to Establish Western Riverside County Wildlife Refuge

February 12, 2021
Press Release

Today, Congressman Ken Calvert (CA-42) announced he has reintroduced legislation, H.R. 972, establishing the Western Riverside County Wildlife Refuge. Rep. Mark Takano (CA-41) is an original cosponsor of the bill.

“I continue to support the establishment of the Western Riverside County Wildlife Refuge to conserve our natural resources and provide a solid planning foundation for the county’s future growth and transportation infrastructure,” said Rep. Calvert. “A number of stakeholders throughout the region contribute to the conservation needs of our wildlife. Transferring the land set aside for those needs into a federal wildlife refuge will allow for better management of conserved areas and establish necessary mitigation for our future growth.”

“As Riverside County continues to grow, it’s our responsibility to prioritize conservation and minimize the impact that new developments have on wildlife. That’s why I’m introducing legislation with Rep. Calvert to establish the Western Riverside County Wildlife Refuge,” said Rep. Mark Takano. “We have to protect the wildlife in our region and ensure that our lands are properly and carefully managed.”

The Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority (RCA) oversees the Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP), which went into effect in 2004. The MSHCP is a 500,000-acre 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.

“I commend the bipartisan leadership of Representatives Ken Calvert and Mark Takano for reintroducing the Western Riverside County Wildlife Refuge bill,” said RCA Chair Natasha Johnson, City Council Member for the City of Lake Elsinore. “A wildlife refuge in western Riverside County will enhance our partnership with the federal government to fulfill our common vision of aligning environmental conservation, infrastructure, and economic growth. By providing habitat and mitigation for endangered and threatened species, the RCA is critical to the quality of living in western Riverside County, and this Refuge will be an important part of that success.”

In total, 500,000 acres are required for the wildlife preserve under the MSHCP terms. 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, one-third, by the state and federal governments, and two-thirds from private landowners through the WRCRCA. 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.