The Calaveras County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution Monday opposing proposed federal legislation that would designate millions of acres throughout California as wilderness. The resolution passed 4-1 with Supervisor Merita Callaway opposing the measure.
The proposed bill is called the California Wild Heritage Act of 2002 (S.2535). The exact wording of the proposed legislation, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., can be found at www.californiawild.org.
According to advocates of the legislation, the act’s purpose is “to designate public lands as wilderness and certain rivers as wild and scenic rivers in the State of California, to designate Salmon Restoration Areas, to establish the Sacramento River National Conservation Area and Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, and for other purposes.”
Callaway asked why the board is taking action on something that has no impact on Calaveras County. “It doesn’t impact any U.S. Forest Service land in Calaveras County,” Callaway said. “It does designate portions of the Mokelumne and Stanislaus rivers as wild and scenic rivers within existing U.S. Forest service boundaries.”
Callaway said Boxer has worked hard with the communities that would be affected to make sure their concerns were addressed in her bill.
“Wilderness designation takes away from resource management flexibility,” Supervisor Tom Tryon said.
“Grazing and fire management are allowed in the bill,” Callaway said.
“The bill sets aside an unprecedented 1.7 million acres of wilderness protection,” Supervisor Paul Stein said. Stein argued that the bill would keep the public out of these areas.
“That’s simply not a true statement, the public can go in there,” Callaway said.
According to the bill language, it will “provide opportunities for compatible outdoor recreation, including horseback riding on saddle and pack stock, hunting and fishing, hiking and camping, whitewater rafting, trail running, and excursions led by commercial outfitters.”
In an analysis of the bill, county Administrative Officer Tom Mitchell said “the bill has the potential to impact local revenues.”
Callaway argues the bill could create additional tourism. “In my district people go into the wilderness and up into Alpine County all of the time. Eco-tourism is big business.”
The El Dorado County Joint Chambers Commission asked for the board’s support in opposing this bill. The commission’s concerns include restrictions on recreation and limitations on land use management practices.
Contact Vanessa Connell at firstname.lastname@example.org
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