October 30, 2012

A Veteran's Voice: Brownley, Strickland Must Protect Public Lands

This is an important moment for our country. In November, we will face an election that includes many serious choices- choices that will have repercussions for years to come. We are facing one of those important choices right here in Ventura County where voters will decide between Julia Brownley and Tony Strickland to represent the 26th District in Congress.

During my service in the United States Air Force, I gained a great deal of experience making difficult choices.  Behind all of my actions was the desire to do everything in my power to protect my country. As a veteran, I am continuing to protect my country by speaking out for the preservation of the lands that I love.

I have always enjoyed and appreciated the great outdoors. I often found myself thinking about my favorite experiences in California's outdoors while stationed overseas. After having traveled extensively throughout the U.S. and around the world, I decided to make California my home upon retirement, in large part because of the natural beauty that this wonderful state is blessed with, from our magnificent coast to the mighty Sierras. 

As Julia Brownley and Tony Strickland campaign for our community's votes, I ask that they stand up for these same places and protect our public lands.  Their leadership in this area is key to our area's economic future and the natural heritage future generations will enjoy.

Public lands are of immense economic importance to our state. As it stands today, outdoor recreation contributes an estimated $46 billion to the California economy, creating 408,000 jobs across the state.  That's an industry that is inextricably tied to the protection of our public lands, where people camp, hike, fish and ride mountain bikes. 

In these tough times, we need our local leadership in Congress to help us protect this important economic engine by taking positions that put this Congress on notice and give us confidence that if either is elected, our public lands will be protected.

An example of the threats our public lands face right now is H.R. 1505, a dangerous piece of legislation introduced by Republican Bob Bishop and passed by the House earlier this year. If the bill becomes law, it would give the Department of Homeland Security unrestricted access to protected lands within 100 miles of U.S. borders in the north and the south.  

I have defended our country and I understand the risks that we face, but this bill will not make America safer. Rather, it is a blatant attempt to erode longstanding laws like the Wilderness Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Air Act, and Safe Drinking Water Act. Make no mistake: legislation like H.R. 1505 and other attempts to undermine longstanding protections will affect our public lands in Southern California.

We need voices in Congress who will speak out for conservation and against attempts to overturn hard-won protections, and so I urge both Julia Brownley and Tony Strickland to oppose this and other ill-advised pieces of legislation that threaten our wilderness areas, National Parks and Forests.

For many veterans, Southern California parks and wilderness areas serve as a refuge following military service, providing peace, tranquility, and good times after a difficult and stressful tour of duty.  So when it comes to the upcoming campaign to represent the 26th District in Congress, I challenge candidates Brownley and Strickland to show leadership in protecting public lands.

Our candidates for Congress must step up and show that they are serious about preserving Southern California's natural heritage.

Vitali Mostovoj

Member, Vet Voice Foundation




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