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Bob Kellar: Support wilderness legislation

Posted: January 23, 2009 7:38 p.m.
Updated: January 24, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Bob Kellar

 
 As the year begins and the country welcomes a new president and a new Congress, some important unfinished business remains to be completed: Congressman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon's wilderness legislation benefiting Santa Clarita and other areas of importance to Southern Californians.

If passed, the Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act will protect almost 450,000 acres of public lands and benefit communities here in the Santa Clarita Valley and in the Eastern Sierra, around Mammoth Lakes and Bishop.

McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, working with Sen. Barbara Boxer, authored locally developed, bipartisan legislation that would protect vital pieces of the state's natural heritage in our region.

The bill, which is included in the sweeping omnibus package passed by the Senate last week and moved to the House, would preserve spectacular areas of the iconic Eastern Sierra, including the awe-inspiring White Mountains, additions to the John Muir, Ansel Adams and Hoover wilderness areas, and portions of the San Gabriel Mountains, including Magic Mountain, located immediately east of Sand Canyon within the Angeles National Forest in our backyard.

The bill would also preserve 73 miles of rivers including Piru Creek and the headwaters of the Upper Owens River near Mammoth, both great fishing waters.

It may seem odd, at a time of severe economic turmoil, to focus attention on land protection, but Boxer and McKeon's bill has taken years to develop and will actually help ensure some measure of economic security and stimulus for communities throughout our region.

Local businesses, from hotels and restaurants to sporting-goods stores and backcountry outfitters, benefit from protected lands in our community.

Protection of these lands also means that Californians, now and in the future, will have places to go for recreation close to home.

Even when times are tough, it's important that people, and especially our children, have places they can visit and enjoy in outdoors.

The bill is backed by a wide array of people in our communities, from local businesses to civic organizations to local governments. What's more, the cost of these measures is minimal because wilderness legislation affects only federal public lands, which are already owned and managed by the American people.

As we look to the future, it seems more appropriate than ever to remember the words of Theodore Roosevelt, who in 1910 wrote, "The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation, increased and not impaired in value."

Now that the 111th Congress has convened, and the Senate has so resoundingly backed this bill, it should be a high priority for the House of Representatives to pass the public lands package.

These forward-looking measures promise economic and environmental benefits to Californians and to all those who treasure this country's natural legacy.

Bob Kellar is a Santa Clarita City Council member. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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