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Obama signs wilderness bill

Protects 14,000 acres on eastern edge of SCV

Posted: March 30, 2009 11:18 p.m.
Updated: March 31, 2009 4:59 a.m.
 
It's official. With the stroke of a pen, President Barack Obama signed into law Monday a sweeping bill protecting more than 2 million acres of American wilderness.

Included in the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act is protection for some 470,000 acres in the 25th district of Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon - 14,000 of those on the eastern edge of the Santa Clarita Valley.

One of the 170 bills in the act, the Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Mountains Wild Heritage Act was backed by McKeon, R-Santa Clarita.

Sen. Barbara Boxer introduced the bill in the Senate and worked closely with McKeon, who introduced a companion bill in the House.

"I thank President Obama for signing this important bill, which reflects a lot of bipartisan work and compromise to protect wild and beautiful lands in California," Boxer, D-Calif., said in a Monday news release. "California is defined by its environment, and we have preserved some magnificent places for future generations."

Specifically, the bill designates 432,968 acres of wilderness in Mono and Inyo counties and establishes nearly 67 miles of the Owens River Headwaters and the Amargosa River as wild and scenic rivers.

The bill also designates an additional 39,039 acres of wilderness in Los Angeles County and it establishes more than seven miles of Piru Creek as a wild and scenic river.

Locally, the bill protects 14,000 acres in the Magic Mountain Wilderness south of Sand Canyon.

McKeon praised the public-input nature of the Wild Heritage Act and said constant public meetings helped shape it.

"I believe in (working) bottom-up rather than top-down, and we followed that principle all the way through," he said last week. "I think we held true to working with the local people."

At a White House ceremony Monday, Obama said the law guarantees that Americans "will not take our forests, rivers, oceans, national parts, monuments, and wilderness areas for granted, but rather we will set them aside and guard their sanctity for everyone to share.

"That's something all Americans can support."

Environmental groups and lawmakers in both parties said the law will strengthen the national park system, restore national forests, preserve wild and scenic rivers, protect historic battlefields and restore balance to the management of public lands.

Obama called the new law among the most important in decades "to protect, preserve and pass down our nation's most treasured landscapes to future generations."

In a Monday news release, McKeon said that "this package works because it isn't Congress telling Californians how to manage the land; it's our community that asked Congress to approve a land use compromise developed and vetted back home in California."

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