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Wilderness legislation would protect 42,000 acres

• Measure would set aside land on Magic Mountain

Posted: May 30, 2008 1:45 a.m.
Updated: July 31, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Congressman Buck McKeon describes the 42,000 acres around the Santa Clarita Valley that would be set aside in a bipartisan bill during a news conference Thursday.

With four condors flying directly over him as if on cue, Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon unveiled sweeping legislation at the Bear Divide Picnic Area in the Angeles National Forest Thursday morning designed to protect nearly 42,000 acres of regional wilderness areas.

Overlooking Sand Canyon and Canyon Country to the west and Magic Mountain and the Angeles National Forest to the east, McKeon discussed the Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act, a bipartisan measure that would protect some of the California's most pristine wild areas and expands local recreational opportunities, with wildlife enthusiasts and eco-friendly groups.

"I am pleased that after years of working with local leaders, wilderness activists and recreational enthusiasts, we finally have a practical solution to preserving the wild heritage of the 25th congressional district," said McKeon, R-Santa Clarita. "Most of us would like to have clean air, clean water and try to keep what wilderness we have so future generations could enjoy it."

The legislation was introduced on May 23 in the U.S. House of Representatives and protects almost half a million acres of wilderness lands in California, including Pleasant View Ridge, Piru Creek and Magic Mountain. A companion bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Barbara Boxer. If the bills pass the House and Senate and are signed into law by the president, more than 40,000 acres of federal public land east of the Santa Clarita Valley will be given wilderness designations, the highest level of protection and conservation for federal lands.

"For Santa Clarita, this means that 13,000 acres in the Magic Mountain Wilderness - not the park, but the actual mountain - are designated as protected wilderness," said Santa Clarita Councilwoman Laurie Ender.

Magic Mountain would be protected by the act. Another 28,424 acres in the forest, in an area known as Pleasant View Ridge, will also be protected. To the west, more than seven miles of Piru Creek would become a Wild and Scenic River.

In all, more than 470,000 acres of wilderness and 50 miles of rivers in Los Angeles, Mono and Inyo counties will be designated for protection if the bill is signed into law.

"Congressman Buck McKeon and I, together with countless local officials and residents, were able to forge a bipartisan compromise to protect these truly spectacular lands," said Boxer, D-Calif. "We will continue to work together to make sure that this natural legacy can be left to our grandchildren and their grandchildren."

McKeon said, "We wanted to do it so that most of the people who live in the area could enjoy the wilderness. It is a bill that met all the criteria that we laid out."

McKeon added that he hopes to have the bill on Bush's desk for a signature before the current congressional session ends in January.

"I feel very confident that we could get this on the president's desk in the next two months," he said. "I'll be moving quickly to get co-sponsors. I really want the bill to be signed before the end of this session (in January).

"I want to get this done now."


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