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Wilderness Bill Passes Congress, Protects 700,000 California Acres

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Detail of newly protected Southern Californian land under the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (Key to Map is below) | Image via The Wilderness Society's California Office


Detail of newly protected Southern Californian land under the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (Key to Map is below) | Image via The Wilderness Society's California Office
Did you know that about 47% of California land is owned by the federal government? Whether it's for Defense, a National Park, a National Forest or any other of the various federal agencies, that's a considerable amount of property. Notwithstanding, 14% of the state is designated under the National Wilderness System, which gives land some of the highest protections, meaning not even the feds can come along and pave a road or build a visitor center in these areas. Yes, that even means for land within National Parks.

Earlier this month, a bill that would have protected hundreds of thousands of acres of land in California failed to pass by two votes in the House. Fast forward to this morning and the outcome was very different--it passed, albeit with some provisions. The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 will permanently protect more than 2 million acres of America’s wilderness in nine states and is expected to be signed by President Barack Obama within the next week. In California, 700,000 acres will be protected:

  • The Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act, sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), to permanently protect more than 470,000 acres of wilderness and 73 miles of wild and scenic rivers including areas north of Los Angeles.
  • The California Desert and Mountain Heritage Act, sponsored by Sen. Boxer and Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), which will protect more than 190,000 acres as wilderness and 31 miles of wild and scenic river in Riverside County;
  • The Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park Wilderness Act, sponsored by Sen. Boxer and Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA), to designate some 77,000 acres of wilderness.

This is the fourth largest addition of wilderness since the act was created in 1964 and the largest in 15 years. “We’re ecstatic,” said Sam Goldman, California wilderness coordinator at The Wilderness Society, in a statement. “The California measures have broad support in our local communities and across the state because they will protect forever some of our state’s most precious wild lands and rivers.”

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Reached by phone, Goldman says this is not the end of it--next up is getting land protected in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Key to Above Map

Wilderness

9. Magic Mountain Wilderness
10. Pleasant View Ridge Wilderness
11. Pinto Mountains Wilderness
12. Palen-McCoy Wilderness Additions
13. Joshua Tree National Park Wilderness Additions
14. Agua Tibia Wilderness Additions
15. South Fork San Jacinto Wilderness
16. Cahuilla Mountain Wilderness
17. Beauty Mountain Wilderness
18. Santa Rosa Wilderness Additions
19. Orocopia Mountains Wilderness Additions
20. Chuckwalla Mountains Wilderness Additions

Wild and Scenic Rivers
What are these? Official and Wikipedia

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D. Lower Piru Creek Wild and Scenic River
E. North Fork San Jacinto River and Fuller Mill Creek Wild and Scenic River
F. Palm Canyon Creek Wild and Scenic
G. Bautista Creek Wild and Scenic River Death Valley