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Groups Press Senate to Pass Public-Lands Bill in Defense Package

A bill before Congress would make Pine Mountain Ridge an addition to the Sespe Wilderness in the Los Padres National Forest. The area currently is targeted for logging by the Trump administration. (Bryant Baker)
A bill before Congress would make Pine Mountain Ridge an addition to the Sespe Wilderness in the Los Padres National Forest. The area currently is targeted for logging by the Trump administration. (Bryant Baker)
July 24, 2020

OJAI, Calif. - Public-lands advocates are cautiously optimistic that a bill to preserve wild lands in California can pass the U.S. Senate - after sailing through the House last week as an amendment to the must-pass U.S. Defense Authorization Act.

The bill would protect land in the San Gabriel Mountains, and large swaths of wilderness in central and northwest California.

Rebecca August, director of advocacy for the Los Padres ForestWatch, says the Los Padres National Forest and Carrizo Plain National monuments are threatened by oil drilling, fracking and logging projects.

"Going to one of these places where nature is really the only designer of your environment is really a humbling, spiritual experience for a lot of people," says August. "So these places that are like that are so rare now that protecting the last of them is very important."

One logging project at Pine Mountain Ridge, near the Sespe Wilderness, has drawn 12,000 public comments in protest.

Michael Seaman is a Navy vet who has served on the board of the Fulton-El Camino Recreation and Park District near Sacramento for more than 25 years. He says these special places are our country's heritage.

"People like me - veterans - served in part because of our public lands," says Seaman. "It's what makes America, America. They're the crown jewels of our country, they're precious resources. And they're at risk from sprawl and development."

The Protecting America's Wilderness Act will safeguard more than a million acres of public lands and well over 500 miles of wild and scenic rivers in the Golden State.

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

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA