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Castaic Wilderness designation pondered

Posted: August 19, 2014 7:11 p.m.
Updated: August 19, 2014 7:11 p.m.

In what was described as but one of many necessary discussions, Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, and a large crowd gathered in Santa Clarita City Hall Tuesday to discuss the idea of creating a wilderness area near Castaic.

The effort could potentially designate tens of thousands of acres in the Castaic area as wilderness with the goal of preserving natural habitat and resources.

The wilderness designation could apply to roadless areas in the Angeles National Forest such as Fish Canyon, Salt Creek, Elderberry Canyon, Red Mountain and Tule, according to Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel, executive director of the local Community Hiking Club.

Preserving those lands would protect “dozens of endangered species, Native American habitation sites and burial grounds, condor habitat and the largest grove of black oak in the state of California,” according to a news release announcing Tuesday’s meeting.

“The potential wilderness will improve the water quality of the creeks that feed into Castaic Lake, including Salt Creek and Fish Canyon Creek,” the release reads.

Tuesday’s gathering, attended by about 60 people in the Century Room at City Hall, was described as a fact-finding meeting with McKeon for those involved in the effort — including environmental and conservation advocates, hikers, bikers and equestrians.

McKeon previously worked on legislation that protected the Magic Mountain Wilderness in the area of Highway 14 and Sand Canyon.

One of the keys to getting that passed, McKeon said, was negotiation.

“There was a lot of compromise, a lot of give and take,” McKeon said. “These things don’t just happen overnight.”

Though those at the meeting seemed united in their desire to protect the lands in question, one thorny issue was the question of mountain biking.

Biking enthusiasts in attendance raised concerns that the effort would close trails and prevent them from enjoying their hobby. Some said they want to ensure they are involved in the discussion as it moves ahead.

McKeon said he saw the meeting as a way to develop an overview of the different viewpoints that have to be considered if the effort is to be successful.

“I’m looking at this as a start to a conversation,” he said.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney



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