As we’ve seen with the state’s first million-acre fire (the August Complex), the record breaking fire season that’s burned well over 4 million acres, statewide, extended closures of several National Forests, and consistently unhealthy air quality, the impacts of climate change already have a negative impact on the hiking community.

(Of course, climate change’s impacts go well beyond affecting our hobby, but I want to keep this on topic.)
The August Complex Fire. Photo: USFS

 

Much of the focus in the media has been on the presidential campaign, and it’s pretty easy to sum up where the Presidential candidates stand. President Trump thinks climate change is a hoax, and he has no plan to deal with it. President Biden accepts the science behind manmade climate change, and he has a plan that, while not perfect, is rather ambitious and aggressive.

With all eyes on Trump and Biden, many of the local races are receiving scant attention. One race I think it’s worth drawing attention to is the congressional race in California’s 50th congressional district, where former republican Rep. Darrell Issa is facing off against Democratic challenger Ammar Campa-Najjar. Polling currently shows Issa and Campa-Najjar in a statistical tie, meaning it’s anybody’s race.

For those unfamiliar with the 50th district, it includes most of San Diego county’s interior and a bit of Southern Riverside County, including Fallbrook, Temecula, Escondido, Ramona, El Cajon, Lakeside, Julian, Borrego Springs, and Warner Springs. This also includes most of the county’s open space acreage, including both districts of Cleveland National Forest, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Palomar Mountain State Park, and Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.

Darrell Issa has a long voting record in Congress, as he previously represented the 49th district (now represented by democrat Mike Levin). Issa has a lifetime record of 4% from the League of Conservation voters thanks to his record of undermining legislation designed to protect habitat and improve climate, as well as assaults on clean water, clean air, species protection, funding for public lands, and regulations designed to mitigate habitat destruction from mining and logging. 

There’s a lot of other stuff to say about Issa, but this isn’t the place. The bottom line is that his record on environmental issues is. . . . not great.

Borrego Palm Canyon, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

 

Issa’s opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, has no voting record as he has not held office at the federal level. Campa-Najjar last ran for congressional office in the 50th district in 2018, but he lost the race to Duncan Hunter, who was indicted and sentenced on campaign finance violations.  Hunter beat out Campa-Najjar partially because the eastern 2/3’s of San Diego County have traditionally voted conservative, but also because he waged a rather dirty campaign playing on Islamaphobia (Campa-Najjar is half-Mexican, half-Palestinian, and is a practicing Christian).

Although Campa-Najjar holds a number of other positions worth reviewing and considering, his platform on climate change roughly aligns with the rest of the Democratic Party, including investment in renewable energy, green jobs, protecting water and air quality, conserving habitat, and mitigating the impacts of climate change. While he does not support the Green New Deal, his platform roughly aligns with Vice President Biden’s climate plan. Based on his stance on climate, Campa-Najjar’s candidacy represents a golden opportunity for the southwestern corner of the Golden State to attain full Democratic representation in the House – a crucial step in protecting a county with the highest degree of biodiversity in the country. His victory would further solidify the House majority as it aims to tackle the climate crisis that Trump has denied and ignored since his first day in office.

I fully endorse Campa-Najjar based on his climate platform, and I would love to see San Diego’s backcountry, which I love deeply, represented by somebody who takes environmental health and climate change seriously. If you live within the 50th District, and you’d like Democratic representation in your county, or if you’re a Southern California representative who enjoys the San Diego’s backcountry while also worrying about climate change, please consider donating to his campaign to support his efforts at keeping Darrell Issa from returning to Congress and the overall Democratic efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Scott Turner is a longtime writer for Modern Hiker and an author of several guidebooks, including Afoot and Afield in San Diego County, and Hike the Parks titles for Joshua Tree National Park, Zion & Bryce National Parks, and Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks.

Scott is an L.A. native and San Diego transplant who pulls every trick in the book to get out on the trail. His first book, a revision of Afoot and Afield San Diego County, is now out.





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Should You Hike Here?

With wildifres, smoke conditions, COVID-19, and National Forest and other public land closures rampant, please reach out to the land management agency in charge before you head out for a hike to make sure the trail is open and safe to be on.