District 2 Supervisor calls for talks to end environmental conflict

Last year I was proud to help pass Senate Bill 1199 through the state Senate. That bill would have declared the Mokelumne River wild and scenic, but it was ultimately killed by the Republicans in the California state Assembly.

This year in response to SB 1199, Republican legislators have introduced AB 142 to delay protection of the Mokelumne River. I’m writing this letter in opposition to AB 142 and in support of wild and scenic protection on the Mokelumne. However, we must move the discussion beyond this legislation and beyond the Mokelumne to include the entire Sierra Nevada.

It is the time for the creation of the Sierra Nevada Protection and Restoration Act! This act is what I call the compromise of the ghosts of John Muir and Gifford Pinchot. This act will dramatically expand protection of the majestic Sierra, its rivers and landscapes, while providing the needed funding for active management and restoration of the human and natural communities.

I grew up in the Mokelumne River watershed; hiking, hunting, fishing and swimming in this Sierra river. This is the same region I now represent as a Calaveras County supervisor. My district is representative of the entire Sierra Nevada region. We are surrounded by beautiful forests, rivers, mountains and rolling hills, but at the same time we face generational poverty. This current bill, AB 142, is also symbolic of the age-old fight that has been going on since we settled the West.

Over 100 years ago, Muir argued for national parks and wilderness, while Pinchot argued for more active management of our resources. Now 100 years later, we realize that both are correct. We need to actively manage our landscapes which can provide for a sustainable economy. We also need to protect more of our scenic resources through expansion of national parks, wilderness and wild and scenic rivers! These areas protect the unique environment, improve the recreation economy and give us refuge from civilization. We need our Republican elected officials at both the state and national levels who represent the Sierra Nevada to join with the supportive Democratic environmentalists to create a comprehensive set of legislative actions in both California and Washington. We cannot waste another 100 years fighting over protection or wise use. We need both.

The first steps are to withdraw AB 142 and hold a Sierra Nevada-wide summit this summer to decide on a comprehensive solution to the Sierra’s issues. I recognize most will say this idea is a ridiculously naive dream. But I would rather dream of solutions than be locked in constant battle with my fellow citizens. If you are interested in helping organize this summit, please call me at 304-3729.

Chris Wright is the Calaveras County Supervisor, District 2.

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