More than 400,000 acres of pristine, beautiful Eastern Sierra lands are now protected as wilderness. Today, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 146, which included the Omnibus Public Lands bill that our local Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act was part of. The bill–the largest conservation effort put before Congress in 25 years–is now on its way to President Obama’s desk.
In Mono and Inyo Counties, new wilderness areas range from the Hoover, near Sonora Pass, to the White Mountains and the eastern escarpment of the Sierra. Congratulations to everyone who worked hard, wrote letters and attended meetings.
Download a fact sheet about the Eastern Sierra bill at the bottom of the page.
Here is a press release from Congressman McKeon’s office:
McKeon, Boxer, and Local Advocates on President Signing Lands Bill into Law
Includes McKeon, Boxer legislation to protect wilderness in Mono, Inyo, and Los Angeles Counties
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today lauded their bill, the Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Heritage Act, being signed into law by President Obama as part of the omnibus public lands package.
Representative McKeon introduced this bill in the House and Senator Boxer introduced it in the Senate. It will protect almost half a million acres of wilderness in Mono, Inyo, and Los Angeles Counties.
Representative McKeon said, “The Eastern Sierra Northern San Gabriel Mountain Wild Heritage Act designates 470,000 acres of majestic land as wilderness to protect for future generations. It is the product of countless hours of community involvement. Senator Boxer and I worked together and met with virtually every local stakeholder and leader to reach a compromise. 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.”
Senator Boxer said, “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. California is defined by its environment and we have preserved some magnificent places for future generations.”
Two local advocates from the 25th Congressional District of California were invited to attend today’s bill signing.
California Field Representative for the Wilderness Society, Sally Miller said, “It was an honor and a thrill to witness the signing of this historic legislation. The thoughts of everyone back at home were with me. The passage of this bill was made possible thanks to the tremendous amount of work from a broad cross-section of the local community and the fantastic leadership of Congressman McKeon and Senator Boxer.”
Owner of Alpers Trout Farms in Mono County, Tim Alpers said, “Today was a great day for the people of the United States of America. Some of the most beautiful places on earth that we all treasure will be preserved as they are today for future generations from all over the world. To see support for this bill come together so fast for the President’s signature shows that this bill was the right action to take.”
The Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act will give wilderness designation – the highest level of protection and conservation for federal lands – to 472,007 acres of federal public land in California.
Specifically, the bill designates an additional 432,968 acres of wilderness in Mono and Inyo Counties and establishes nearly 67 miles of the Owens River Headwaters and 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. In addition, this legislation strikes that important land use balance and releases over 50,000 acres of Wilderness Study Areas from further consideration as wilderness. Finally it creates the first ever dedicated winter recreation area, 11,000 acres for snowmobile use which will bring much needed tourism to the community of Bridgeport in northern Mono County.
The land protected under the bill includes the White Mountains, America’s largest and highest desert mountain range and the second largest unprotected “roadless” area in the lower 48 states. The Whites are home to the world’s oldest living trees – the ancient Bristlecone Pines – which live almost 5,000 years. It also makes additions to the Hoover Wilderness, a classic High Sierra landscape of deeply carved glacial valleys dotted with tranquil alpine lakes and forests of lodgepole pine. The Amargosa River, which the bill also protects, is the only river flowing into Death Valley, and it sustains biologically rich wetlands.