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SB-624 Environmental Equity and Outdoor Access Act.(2021-2022)

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Date Published: 02/19/2021 04:00 AM
SB624:v99#DOCUMENT


CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2021–2022 REGULAR SESSION

Senate Bill
No. 624


Introduced by Senator Hueso

February 18, 2021


An act to add Division 1.5 (commencing with Section 1000) to the Public Resources Code, relating to the environment.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


SB 624, as introduced, Hueso. Environmental Equity and Outdoor Access Act.
Existing law establishes the Natural Resources Agency, which consists of various departments, including the Department of Conservation, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Department of Parks and Recreation. Existing law vests in the Natural Resources Agency various powers, including those related to conservation of lands.
This bill would establish the Environmental Equity and Outdoor Access Act, which sets forth the state’s commitment to ensuring all Californians can benefit from, and have meaningful access to, the state’s rich cultural and natural resources. The bill would make related findings and declarations regarding the importance of the state’s natural resources and ensuring equal access to those resources. The bill would provide that the Legislature finds and declares that it is the policy of the state to, among other things, promote representation and ensure cultural competency among staff of the agency and each department, board, conservancy, and commission within the agency, to ensure all Californians and visitors of the state feel safe and welcome in the outdoors.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: NO   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Division 1.5 (commencing with Section 1000) is added to the Public Resources Code, to read:

DIVISION 1.5. Environmental Equity and Outdoor Access Act

CHAPTER  1. General Provisions

1000.
 This division shall be known, and may be cited, as the Environmental Equity and Outdoor Access Act, and sets forth the state’s commitment to ensuring all Californians can benefit from, and have meaningful access to, the state’s rich cultural and natural resources.

CHAPTER  2. Policy

1050.
 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) California is home to some of the world’s most spectacular rivers, lakes, beaches, forests, mountain ranges, deserts, and other natural landscapes.
(b) The many unique plants, wildlife, and other species found in each of these distinct outdoor areas all contribute to the state’s rich and unparalleled biodiversity.
(c) California’s natural resources are a shared heritage that must be stewarded for future generations, and no single individual or entity is more entitled to access or benefit from public outdoor spaces than another.
(d) The Natural Resources Agency has made environmental justice and tribal consultation a priority by adopting an environmental justice policy in 2003 that defines “environmental justice,” in accordance with Section 65040.12 of the Government Code, as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of people of all races, cultures, incomes, and national origins, with respect to the planning, decisionmaking, development and implementation of programs, policies, and activities, including, but not limited to, the availability of a healthy environment for all people and the meaningful consideration of recommendations from populations and communities most impacted by pollution into environmental and land use decisions.
(e) Countless Californians still face significant barriers to visiting and enjoying the state’s natural resources and outdoor spaces, including, but not limited to, all the following:
(1) Lack of affordable transportation to state parks, beaches, and other public lands and outdoor spaces.
(2) Cost of admission, parking, and overnight accommodations at or near state parks, beaches, and other public lands and outdoor spaces.
(3) Lack of accessible public information and exposure to the outdoors necessary to ensure familiarity and comfort with being in these spaces.
(4) Cost of outdoor recreation equipment.
(5) Lack of local, quality parks and other greenspaces.
(6) Lack of outdoor programming opportunities.
(7) Lack of diversity among staff at all levels of the Natural Resources Agency and each department, board, conservancy, and commission within the agency.
(8) Lack of job training and career pathway opportunities for employment at the Natural Resources Agency and each department, board, conservancy, and commission within the agency, that allow for upward mobility within the agency.
(9) Need for additional cultural competency and implicit racial bias training among staff posted at state parks, beaches, and other outdoor spaces.
(f) There is also a substantial lack of representation in the outdoors and among staff of the state’s natural resources-oriented agencies and departments to reflect the actual diversity of California and its residents.
(g) The Legislature acknowledges that barriers to access and lack of representation for California’s ethnic diversity in the outdoor space and sector are a result of years of systemic racial and socioeconomic inequity from practices such as redlining, historically used to marginalize certain demographics and communities, and they have left lasting impacts on communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities, which are to this day, frequently left to face the brunt of environmental impacts, and receive little, if any, of the benefits from the activities that have caused them.
(h) Recognizing the systemic disadvantages that some people and communities face, the Legislature further acknowledges that achieving environmental equity and promoting equitable access necessitates targeted attention to, and prioritization for, demographics that have been left with the least access to the state’s natural resources and most vulnerable to environmental harms.
(i) The Legislature further recognizes that ensuring that every Californian can access and connect with the state’s prized natural resources is essential to cultivating the appreciation and respect for nature that is necessary to instill environmental stewardship and support overall state conservation, biodiversity protection, and climate goals.

1051.
 The Legislature further finds and declares that it is the policy of the state to:
(a) Ensure all people of the state have access to natural resources and recreation opportunities.
(b) Ensure equal protection for all people and communities of the state from environmental degradation and the impacts of climate change.
(c) Emphasize promoting access among and ensuring environmental protection for communities and demographics that face disproportionate barriers to access or elevated exposure to environmental harms, giving special attention to addressing the barriers and harms these communities and demographics face that are disproportionate to the rest of the population.
(d) Prevent and minimize the intentional and unwarranted limitation of public access to the state’s parks, rivers, lakes, beaches, forests, mountain ranges, deserts, and other natural landscapes.
(e) Prevent and minimize climate impacts, and other environmental harms, to all communities, with special attention to ensuring no communities or demographics are left with disproportionate exposure to risks.
(f) Promote representation and ensure cultural competency among staff of the Natural Resources Agency and each department, board, conservancy, and commission within the agency, to ensure all Californians and visitors of the state feel safe and welcome in the outdoors.