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Hearing Wednesday in Congress on Bills to Protect CA Public Lands

Hayfork Creek is part of the area that would be protected under a public-lands bill being heard in Congress on Wednesday. (Paul Higley)
Hayfork Creek is part of the area that would be protected under a public-lands bill being heard in Congress on Wednesday. (Paul Higley)
July 9, 2019

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Leaders from California's conservation and outdoor-recreation communities will testify in Washington, D.C., Wednesday in favor of a trio of public-lands bills that would protect more than a million acres in the Golden State.

The Central Coast Heritage Protection Act would designate as wilderness 245,000 acres in the Los Padres National Forest and the Carrizo Plain National Monument.

Graciela Cabello, director of community engagement with the group Los Padres ForestWatch, said the area needs to be protected from commercial interests.

"Wilderness is actually the strongest protection available for federal land, so that would limit any sort of development,” Cabello said. “Definitely commercial logging would not be allowed, and also essentially prohibit oil drilling and fracking."

Cabello is one of several leaders who will testify before a subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee.

Two other bills protect lands in the San Gabriel Mountains, and in Trinity County in Northern California. Opponents of the bills say the lands have adequate protections and should be managed with an eye to increasing domestic energy production.

A second bill, the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation and Working Forests Act, would establish a 730,000 acre South Fork Trinity-Mad River Special Restoration Area, and designate 262,000 acres of wilderness, and 379 miles of Wild and Scenic rivers.

Kent Collard, who runs a children's camp on a mountain ranch west of Redding, said the bill was written with a lot of feedback from local interests.

"Some areas that people had specific and legitimate concerns were removed from the bill,” Collard said. “It does lock up some timber. But the areas that are proposed are roadless areas and, really, no timber harvesting has been happening in those for the last 25 years."

David Diaz, executive director of the group Active San Gabriel Valley, said the San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act would fund needed improvements.

"Right now there's trash, graffiti, safety hazards and very few visitor facilities,” Diaz said. “So those conditions increase fire danger, decrease water quality and really, threaten the diverse ecology."

The bill also would add more than 30,000 acres to the Yerba Buena, San Gabriel and Sheep Mountain wilderness areas of Southern California.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA