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CA Groups: Roadless Rollback a “Great Outdoors Giveaway”


Tuesday, July 26, 2011   

LOS ANGELES - California's Sierra Nevada mountains may be losing some of their wilderness protections. The Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act being heard in a U.S. House Committee today would do just what its name implies: "release" millions of acres of protected federal land for development.

California Congressman Kevin McCarthy says the bill he introduced would create jobs. But Ryan Henson, senior conservation director for the California Wilderness Coalition, says they're calling it the "Great Outdoors Giveaway" because the legislation strips protections for 60 million acres nationwide, including 4.4 million acres in California.

"People will start punching roads into them, there will be proposals to log them, mine them. In Kern County, there will be proposals to drill for oil in them."

Henson says not only would it "release" half of all the wilderness study areas to oil and gas leasing, it would roll back protections for more than 58 million acres of roadless national forest lands.

He says if the legislation is approved, the areas will no longer be eligible for permanent protection as wilderness, which is what groups like his have been working toward.

"When it comes to removing the protections, we'd like to see it done in exchange for protecting some other places, and using a scalpel instead of a meat axe, which is what this proposal would do."

Frank Hugelmeyer, CEO of the Outdoor Industry Association, is testifying at the hearing. He takes issue with backers of the bill who claim that development would lead to job creation. He says they're not considering the impact on other industries that also use the land.

"It's harmful legislation that makes a sweeping decision on all wilderness study areas and roadless areas without a full understanding of the consequences on communities and industries, like the outdoor industry."

The bills are HR 1581 and S 1087.

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