Law Would Save Half Million Acres of California Wilderness

WASHINGTON, DC, May 29, 2008 (ENS) – Legislation to protect almost half a million acres of federal public lands in California has been introduced in Congress on a bipartisan basis.

The Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act will give wilderness designations to 472,804 acres of public land, the highest level of protection and conservation for federal lands.

The bill designates 430,671 acres of wilderness in Mono and Inyo Counties and establishes more than 45 miles of the Owens River Headwaters and Amargosa River as Wild and Scenic Rivers.

The bill also designates 42,000 acres of wilderness in Los Angeles County and establishes more than seven miles of Piru Creek as a Wild and Scenic River.

A bristlecone pine tree in California’s White
Mountains (Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service)

On Friday, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, introduced the legislation in the Senate. Congressman Buck McKeon, a California Republican whose congressional districts contain these lands, introduced the companion bill in the House.

Boxer said, “I am thrilled that Congressman Buck McKeon and I, together with countless local officials and residents, were able to forge a bipartisan compromise to protect these truly spectacular lands.”

McKeon said, “I am pleased that after years of working with local leaders, wilderness activists, and recreational enthusiasts, we finally have a practical solution to preserving the wild heritage of the 25th congressional district.”

“I also want to thank Senator Boxer for playing such a critical role in crafting legislation that meets the needs of all the key stakeholders. With this legislation, we are increasing economic development by preserving land treasured by many and enhancing recreational opportunities in the area,” he said.

The land protected under the bill includes the White Mountains, America’s largest and highest desert mountain range. The second largest unprotected roadless area in the lower 48 states, these mountains contain the world’s oldest living trees, the ancient Bristlecone Pines, which live almost 5,000 years.

It also makes additions to the Hoover Wilderness, a classic High Sierra landscape of deeply carved glacial valleys dotted with tranquil alpine lakes and forests of lodgepole pine.

The Amargosa River, which the bill also protects, is the only river flowing into Death Valley, and it sustains biologically rich wetlands and riparian forests as it makes its way through rugged canyons.

Boxer said, “From the majestic High Sierra, to the stunning White Mountains and their ancient bristlecone pine forests, to the beautiful northern San Gabriel Mountains, Californians will be able to enjoy this striking beauty forever. We will continue to work together to make sure that this natural legacy can be left to our grandchildren and their grandchildren.”

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