SAN FRANCISCO, April 6, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As Congress is set to pass a budget that could include severe cuts to vital conservation programs, The Nature Conservancy has announced its "Top Ten California Treasures." These treasures are California's most iconic parks and recreation areas that were funded by a federal program called the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which is currently proposed to be cut by 90 percent in the House of Representatives' budget.
"Californians have really benefited from the Land and Water Conservation Fund," said Mike Sweeney, Executive Director of the Nature Conservancy's California Chapter. "Many of our prized natural areas around the state, the places we think of as quintessentially Californian, exist because of this program. Although we are all facing tough budget decisions, this program is funded by oil and gas revenue and costs the taxpayers nothing."
The Land and Water Conservation uses money from federal oil and gas leases to create parks, protect wildlife habitat and provide recreational opportunities for all Americans. In its nearly 50-year history, the program has protected almost seven million acres of parkland and natural areas across the country and more than 37,000 parks and recreation projects in America—including some of California's most iconic and recognizable places—that are crucial for attracting tourists, funding jobs and generating tax revenue for the state. The LWCF has been particularly important for California, which has received approximately $1.2 billion over the past four decades—double the amount received by any other state.
"We have so many amazing places all around that state, we had a hard time narrowing this list to just ten. It was a matter of some debate in the Conservancy," added Sweeney. "We hope this list inspires Californians to go out and visit these places, create their own top ten lists and to urge Congress to continue funding California's natural legacy."
- Angeles National Forest—Offering recreation opportunities from skiing to swimming and from hiking to off-roading for the millions of Angelenos who call the Southland home, as well as the millions of visitors who travel to Southern California every year, the Angeles National Forest provides a much-needed getaway from the nation's second-largest urban area.
- Channel Island National Park—Just a few miles off the California Coast, the Channel Islands offer visitors a landscape so remote and rugged that it feels like it could be a world away. The five islands (Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara) are home to plants and animals found nowhere else on earth.
- Golden Gate National Recreation Area—The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is a major reason why visitors leave their hearts in San Francisco. It contains famous tourist attractions such as the famous green hills of the Marin headlines, which can be viewed by people as they stroll across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, and Muir Woods National Monument, Alcatraz Island and the Presidio of San Francisco.
- Mojave National Preserve— Contrary to expectation, the deserts of the Mojave National Preserve are alive with otherworldly plants and animals like the Joshua tree and the desert tortoise, which has adapted to survive in this harsh environment. Spring showers bring carpets of wildflowers to this 1.6-million-acre park.
- Point Reyes National Seashore—From its thunderous ocean breakers crashing against rocky headlands and expansive sand beaches to its open grasslands, brushy hillsides and forested ridges, Point Reyes offers visitors over 1000 species of plants and animals to discover. Home to several cultures for over thousands of years, the Seashore preserves a tapestry of stories and interactions of people.
- The Redwood National and State Parks—Grand and majestic, these 300-foot trees tower over California. People around the world are drawn to marvel at these giants. There are also plenty of opportunities to splash around with river otters and picnic in a natural cathedral.
- San Bernadino National Forest—The San Bernardino National Forest is where the Inland Empire goes to play. This forest serves as Southern California's outdoor, year-round recreation destination, and it also provides valuable watershed protection.
- San Diego National Wildlife Refuge— The refuge offers year-round recreation opportunities but come spring or fall it is a haven for both the migratory birds who come here to nest and breed and for the people who come to watch them.
- Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area—Containing some of Southern California's most pristine beaches and recreation areas, the 154,095 acres of the Santa Monica National Recreation Area draws visitors from throughout California and around the world. Congressional action could have detrimental impacts to Santa Monica, as cuts proposed by Congress would eliminate $3.75 million in funding.
- Sequoia National Forest—As broad as their cousins—the redwoods—are tall, Giant Sequoias have amazed school children, presidents, and visiting kings and queens. Stretching more than 102 feet around, Sequoia National Forest is home to some of the biggest trees found anywhere on Earth. Located in the southern Sierra Nevadas, the park also contains Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous 48 United States.
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SOURCE The Nature Conservancy