Based on the analysis of wildlife organizations including Audubon California, The Nature Conservancy, Point Blue Conservation Science and the Migratory Bird Conservation Partnership it is clear that increasing protection for parks, refuges and other open spaces in the Central Valley are key to this effort. That includes SLP and the American River Parkway. These organizations have produced a new "StoryMap" that very effectively demonstrates why the Central Valley is so important to protecting biodiversity in California. Take the time to look at the StoryMap and better understand the key role in preserving biodiversity and providing equitable access to nature played by parks, refuges and open space in this region.
How do we get there? Following are some key recommendations from the StoryMap:
Supporting Indigenous stewardship of Central Valley lands and waters.
Expanding state and federal wildlife refuges.
Improving management of existing state and federal wildlife refuges.
Creating new regional and county parks.
Creating long-term solutions on agricultural lands.
Investing in multiple-benefit flood safety projects.
Create new habitat from San Joaquin Valley's agricultural land retirement.
Promoting wildlife friendly recharge basins.
Let's focus on the recommendation for creating new regional and county parks which also applies to expanding existing ones such as SLP. The Central Valley is one of the fastest growing regions in California but Central Valley residents have the lowest access to parks and open space. Access to parks and open space provide numerous benefits for human and community health:
- Low cost or free opportunities for physical activity.
- Supporting mental health.
- Lessening chronic diseases.
- Building a sense of community and belonging.
- Resilience to climate stressors.
- Increased local biodiversity benefits.
In addition, communities in the Central Valley face unique challenges due to poor air and water quality, increasing impacts from heat, and pollution from urban/ag land conversion with the loss of habitat and open space. The Central Valley also provides critical habitat for many species, especially ones that migrate through the region.
The recommendation for creating new regional and county parks is based on the following:
County and regional park systems in many wealthier parts of California are already providing critical biodiversity and climate resilience benefits while also providing local access for hiking, biking, fishing, picnicking, and more.
California should direct resources to counties to:
- Invest in the purchase, restoration, and development of regional parks.
- Prioritize those counties with under-resourced communities that have the least access to nature.
- Co-create parks/regional park systems with the local communities.
Supporting this ongoing statewide effort is something we can all do. Comments are currently being taken on the state's draft "pathways to 30X30 Strategy. Appreciating this important role and working to preserve, restore and expand SLP and other areas is another thing we can do. Finally, remember to appreciate and enjoy these values the next time you come to SLP and the adjacent Parkway!