Wins for Parks in the 2023 Legislative Session | Cal Parks
Published: October 19, 2023

Earlier this month, Governor Newsom completed signing legislation for the 2023 legislative session, including seven bills that represented a win for state parks and California State Parks Foundation’s advocacy efforts this year. Thanks to all the members and supporters who filled out petitions, participated in webinars and engaged with legislators, as well as our partners Outdoor Outreach, Sonoma Ecology Center, Stewards of the Coast Redwoods and Friends of Jack London State Historic Park for their advocacy in passing our two sponsored pieces of legislation.

AB 1150 (Assembly Water Parks and Wildlife):

(co-sponsored with Outdoor Outreach) The most important provision in this omnibus bill is in Section 2, granting California State Parks authority to create a community access pilot program for nonprofits that provide programs and services for communities with barriers to accessing state parks and beaches. This new authority lowers barriers to accessing nature, allowing the Department to waive Special Event fees and permits from community organizations that are dedicated to increasing park access for all.  

SB 668 (Dodd):

(sponsored bill) Authorizes the California Department of Parks and Recreation to enter into operating agreements with a qualified nonprofit organization, removing a sunset provision in the original authority. California State Parks Foundation was instrumental in creating this innovative model of park management, so we are very pleased to see the authority extended. Read more about nonprofit partnerships with state parks here.  

SB 272 (Laird):

This bill requires local governments within the jurisdiction of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission to prepare plans to address sea level rise. While not specifically referencing state parks, the bill sets an important precedent for other coastal communities to follow, including 340+ miles of coastline managed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation. We are particularly pleased by the passage of this bill, as a similar one was vetoed by the Governor in 2022. 

SB 337 (Min):

Enshrines the goal of conserving 30 percent of California’s natural lands by 2030, an important strategy for preserving the state’s biodiversity and adapting to climate change — also known as 30x30. 

SB 732 (Menjivar):

Establishes the pallid bat as the official state bat of California. Bats are an important part of California's ecosystem, with many habitats within state park boundaries. Naming this species as the official state bat will promote the protection of bats in California. Read more about the pallid bat here.

AB 261 (Kalra):

Establishes the California golden chanterelle, a popular edible mushroom unique to California, as the official state mushroom. Supporting this effort to name it the official state mushroom is a way to celebrate, honor, and protect the incredible biodiversity of California. 

AB 618 (Bauer Kahan):

Makes the California state park camping reservation system more equitable by issuing a full refund (minus the reservation fee) for reservations canceled seven calendar days before the start date. Cancellations made within six days or fewer of the reservation start date will forfeit the cost of one night (including the reservation fee). The law also implements a lottery for campsites at up to five of the most popular parks.

Bills that were not successful 

Several priority bills did not make it through the process. It's not uncommon for policy ideas to be introduced multiple times before becoming law. We carry ideas over to the next year, learning from every legislative session what to do next time. Priority bills that were unsuccessful include: 

AB 401 (Mathis):

Would have expanded the California State Park Adventure Pass by granting free day-use access to every state park for 4th graders and their families. Currently, the program allows 4th graders and their families to access 19 state parks.  Unfortunately, this bill was held in the Appropriations Committee and is not moving forward.  We worked hard to create the California State Park Adventure Pass and other pass programs in 2021, and extending this program and others, like the California State Library Parks Pass, that lower cost barriers to accessing parks, will be a key priority in 2024. Read more on the successes of our Park Pass Programs.

AB 411 (Bennett):

This bill would have established funding for recreational trail improvements grants. Maintenance and funding for trails is a key priority for California’s state park system, which manages 5,200 miles of trails throughout the state. California State Parks Foundation supported this bill because accessible, well-maintained trails are crucial to full enjoyment of state parks. Unfortunately, this bill was held in Appropriations. 

AB 1284 (Ramos):

Would have authorized the California Natural Resources Agency to enter into co-governance and management agreements with federally recognized Native nations. This authorization would enhance the effort to support California tribes’ co-management of and access to state-owned lands that are within a California tribe’s ancestral land. This bill could be taken up in January 2024.

AB 1041 (Ramos):

Would have prohibited uprooting, removing, or harvesting white sage from state or local public lands. Southern California and northern Baja are the only regions where white sage — a sacred plant to many Indigenous peoples in California — occurs naturally. Burning the plant has also become a self-care trend, leading to widespread and destructive poaching. This bill could be taken up in January 2024.

Capitol Building

Ongoing priorities 

Two $15 billion climate resilience bond proposals continue to move through the Legislature, AB 1567 (Garcia) and SB 867 (Allen). Both would make investments to improve California’s adaptation to a changing climate. California State Parks Foundation is seeking two amendments to these bonds: $500 million to fund deferred maintenance projects and $250 million to fund land acquisitions. To reach the November 2024 ballot, the Legislature will have to vote on a bond proposal by spring.  

Want to stay up to date with our legislative priorities and learn ways you can get involved in protecting and advocating for California's majestic state parks? Be sure to follow us on social media on Instagram and X/ Twitter @calparks and Facebook and LinkedIn at California State Parks Foundation.