California's public lands hold a very important place in my life. I have spent many days riding my bike, hiking and celebrating special occasions with family and friends in places like Muir Woods and Tahoe National Forest. Built into these naturally beautiful areas are invaluable memories created over my lifetime.
From Mt. Shasta to Death Valley and from the coastline of the Pacific Ocean to the redwood forests, these special places are part of every Californian's way of life, contribute to our economy, and make our state a great place to live and raise a family. That is why the protection of public lands is personally important to me, both as a businessman and as a husband, son and father.
While California is widely recognized for its entertainment and high-technology industries, our public lands also serve as a significant engine for economic growth. Whether it's Joshua Tree in the south of our state or the Trinity Alps in the north, our protected places attract locals and visitors from out of town to hike, camp, ride their bikes, and more.
All of these activities significantly contribute to California's economy. Outdoor recreation and tourism in California generates $8.5 billion in consumer spending, 732,000 direct jobs, $27 billion in wages and salaries, and $6.7 billion in state and local tax revenue.
According to a recent report by the Outdoor Industry Association, consumers across the U.S. spend more on outdoor recreation than they do on cars and car parts, gasoline and other fuels, or pharmaceuticals. More Americans are employed by the outdoor recreation industry than the oil and gas or construction industries.
There is also something else that public lands offer us: quality of life. As anyone who lives in the Bay Area knows, this place is one-of-a-kind. We are surrounded by spectacular public lands, from Point Reyes to Yosemite. These places make our communities great areas to live and work, attracting entrepreneurs to start companies and families to put down roots.
To me, this paints a very clear picture. As a country and as a state, we should protect and conserve our public lands. Doing so is an investment in our economy, our quality of life, the environment and in our future.
Unfortunately, congressional partisanship has prevented action on this important issue. Despite efforts by communities working with local officials and national representatives to protect public lands in their districts, many of these grass roots efforts have been thwarted by Congress' inaction.
Recently, President Barack Obama has used his executive authority to protect public lands in our country by designating the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.
Located in New Mexico, this special place will become part of our National Conservation Lands. This follows the expansion earlier this year of the California Coastal National Monument -- a network of more than 20,000 rocks, islands, exposed reefs, and pinnacles along the 1,100 miles of California's coast.
These actions are significant, and I thank the president and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell for listening to local communities and acting to protect public lands.
Yet, there's more to be done. California is home to many special places that should be protected for future generations to enjoy.
Today, there are two public lands in California being considered for protection. Northern California's Berryessa-Snow Mountain region and Southern California's San Gabriel Mountains offer two prime examples where communities have been working for years to pass important legislation to protect these important watershed and recreation areas for the future.
I encourage local residents to add their voices to these community driven efforts by contacting their members of Congress and spreading the word among friends and neighbors.
With Reps. Mike Thompson and Judy Chu leading the way, I urge Congress and the president to look to the Golden State to continue protecting our state's most important public lands, growing our outdoor economy and providing millions of future Californians with an opportunity to enjoy our state's beautiful places.
Kevin Cleary is chief executive officer of Clif Bar & Co. in Emeryville.