Assemblymember Ash Kalra Partners with Audubon California on Bill Recognizing Access to Nature as a Human Right and State Policy Priority

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

First-of-its-kind bill would help address disparities in access to outdoor recreation in communities of color and elsewhere

The virtual news conference is available to view here (en inglés y español).

(Sacramento, Calif., March 16, 2021)—Asm. Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) joined co-sponsors Audubon California, Azul and Latino Outdoors today to announce a bill that would recognize access to nature as a basic human right and direct state agencies to ensure that policies reflect the need of all Californians for safe, convenient outdoor recreation opportunities. While studies indicate profound benefits of time spent outdoors in natural settings, research also shows that communities of color are three times more likely than white communities to live in nature-deprived areas and that 70 percent of low-income communities live in nature-deprived areas. In addition, Black, Latino and indigenous people often encounter hostility or threats when trying to enjoy time outdoors.

“As more and more people seek respite outdoors during this global pandemic, we have the opportunity to invest in our public lands and recreation—doing our part to make our state healthier and more resilient—while also increasing access to these green spaces for those who already suffer the worst impacts from environmental injustices,” said Assemblymember Kalra. “I am proud to partner with Audubon California on this groundbreaking legislation to ensure that our most vulnerable communities can benefit equitably in our efforts to protect nature.”

The California Human Right to Nature Act would declare that it is state policy that outdoor access to nature is a human right and would direct all relevant state agencies, including the Natural Resources Agency, the State Department of Public Health, the Department of Transportation, and state boards to act accordingly when drafting or revising policies affecting outdoor access.

“California has set an ambitious goal of setting aside and preserving 30 percent of the state’s open space by 2030, but that won’t happen without taking into account our state’s underserved urban areas,” said Juan Altamirano, deputy legislative director for Audubon California. “All Californians have a right to a clean, healthy neighborhood with access to opportunities to spend time outdoors. We’re grateful to Asm. Kalra for making sure the state recognizes that basic human necessity and right.”

"This pandemic has highlighted just how much spending time in nature positively impacts our health and wellbeing, and through geographical constraints, it is easier to see how inequitable our access to nature is,” said Marce Gutiérrez-Graudiņš, founder and executive director of Azul, an environmental justice organization working with Latinos to protect our coasts and oceans. Nature is not an amenity, it is essential to our wellbeing.”

“As we continue to affirm and acknowledge the value of nature and outdoor spaces with its corresponding range of benefits on human wellness, it is critical that we continue to apply an equity lens to our work and investments,” said Jose Gonzalez, founder and executive director emeritus of Latino Outdoors. This ensures that communities that have been historically marginalized and faced chronic underinvestment in access to nature are part of a thriving California. It is policy action that matters in regard to access to nature not being an amenity or nicety, but a necessity. And that it is truly accessible to all Californians."

Maintaining urban green space is an important part of “30 x 30,” an international effort to maintain biodiversity and create resilience against climate change, recognized in an executive order signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in October. Multiple studies show a steep decline in bird populations that depend on them, in California and beyond. The number of birds in North America has dropped by one-third – a billion individual birds -- over the past 50 years, likely due in large part to loss of suitable habitat. At the same time, Audubon research shows that remaining birds face an uncertain future as the continent warms.

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Assemblymember Ash Kalra represents the 27th District, which encompasses approximately half of San Jose and includes all of downtown. He is the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment and also serves as a member on the Housing and Community Development, Judiciary, Transportation, and Water, Parks, and Wildlife committees. For more information, visit https://a27.asmdc.org/.

The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more at www.audubon.org and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @audubonsociety.