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Wilderness Bill moves forward

Posted: September 20, 2008 8:35 p.m.
Updated: November 22, 2008 5:00 a.m.
 

The Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act has received wide bipartisan support on Capitol Hill.

Last week it was marked up and passed through both House and Senate Committees. This bill was sponsored by our local representative, Howard "Buck" McKeon, in the House, and by Sen. Barbara Boxer in the Senate. It is also co-sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

If this bill becomes law, it will protect about 475,000 acres of wilderness in California and 80 miles of wild and scenic rivers. The wilderness is located in Mono, Inyo, and Los Angeles counties.

The protected areas in and near Santa Clarita would be Magic Mountain (the mountain, not the theme park), Piru Creek and Pleasant View Ridge.

Magic Mountain is part-time home to 12 endangered condors, so it is extremely important that this area be protected and preserved for them!

This bill includes some of California's most beautiful natural wonders, including the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, the White Mountains in Mono County, the Amargosa River in Death Valley, local Piru Creek, which is one of the last wild trout fisheries, and Pleasant View Ridge - the most beautiful hike in Southern California.

Some 140 wilderness advocates from nearly every state pounded the streets of Washington D.C. last week. Twenty-five advocates from California met with members of the House and Senate to lobby for the passage of this important bill.

Among them were myself and Placerita Canyon Nature Center Director Ian Swift. Both McKeon and Boxer gave us audience and were hopeful that the bill would pass by the end of the month.

They emphasized that this bill was the result of a great deal of compromise, cooperation and vast support from constituents within the district. It was obvious that both McKeon and Boxer care deeply for the environment, the pristine lands of California, and for the awesome gift of wilderness and the legacy they are creating for all future generations of Californians.

The success of this bill is important to everyone in our community. Wilderness is good for our economy, will improve our quality of life, and will add to the beauty of the areas surrounding our city.

Future development, building of roads, and motorized access is not allowed in wilderness. These lands will be protected in perpetuity.

The Community Hiking Club (communityhikingclub.org) visits our local wilderness and special designation areas regularly. Come out one day for a hike.

Cooper Canyon, part of Pleasant View Ridge, is so beautiful that you will feel like you've taken a vacation. Magic Mountain offers hiking, snowshoeing, a glimpse of a condor, and exceptional views.

Piru Creek offers everything from kayaking and swimming to fishing for wild trout. All of this can be yours for a day, for free, within a short drive of downtown Santa Clarita.

Since 2000, a coalition of more than 500 businesses and organizations have worked to ensure permanent protection of the small percentage of California's remaining wild public lands and rivers.

After 19 months of negotiations on this bill, Congressman McKeon stated in his testimony before the Committee on Resources: "This collaborative and exhaustive process has been one of the most rewarding of my career."

Both Rep. McKeon and Sen. Boxer deserve your heartfelt thanks and highest praise for their will, determination, and years of hard work to bring this bill to fruition. Many thanks to both of them! They are both our wilderness champions!

Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel is a Santa Clarita Valley resident, volunteer, and leader of the SCV Community Hiking Club. Her column represents her own opinions, not necessarily those of The Signal.

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