WASHINGTON – Approval today by a key Senate Committee means legislation to permanently protect wilderness and wild and scenic rivers in the Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Mountains, Riverside County, and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park is bound for a vote by the full Senate. Together, the three bills will protect more than 732,000 acres of wilderness and over 80 miles of wild and scenic rivers for future generations to enjoy.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted on and passed 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 465,000 acres of wilderness and 52 miles of wild and scenic rivers; 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; and 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. Leading conservation groups, community leaders and business owners voiced their support for the progress made on these important bipartisan wilderness bills. “The sponsors of these bills, along with Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), have been real champions for wilderness protection in our state,” said Sam Goldman with the California Wild Heritage Campaign. “We appreciate their steadfast effort to pass these important wilderness bills this Congress, ensuring a lasting legacy for the many people who use and enjoy these wild lands.” Today’s action by the Senate Committee was a vital step if the bills are to pass into law before the 110th Congress adjourns for the year. The Riverside County bill and the Sequoia-Kings Canyon bill were both passed in the House of Representatives June 8, 2008. A vote by the full Senate is all that remains for these two bills to be passed on for the President’s signature. The Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act received a hearing today in the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. Wilderness and wild and scenic river designation for these lands will mean that a wide range of recreational activities will be allowed, including hunting, hiking, camping, backpacking and fishing; but that development, such as road building and motorized access will not. Since 2000, California Wild Heritage Campaign, a coalition of over 500 businesses and organizations has worked to ensure the permanent protection of California's remaining wild public lands and rivers.