California Wilderness: New bills show bi-partisan love of wildlands

The new Congress kicked off Jan. 5 with terrific news for California: two wilderness bills introduced just hours after the opening of the new legislative session.

U.S. Representatives David Dreier (R-Calif.) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) each unveiled wilderness bills on the Hill that will preserve some of Southern California’s precious wild lands.

Dreier introduced his “Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests Protection Act” for the San Gabriel Mountains near Los Angeles, while Issa reintroduced his ‘‘Beauty Mountain and Agua Tibia Wilderness Act” for northern San Diego County.

The San Gabriel Mountains bill will protect an additional 18,000 acres of public land in the San Gabriel Mountains as wilderness. These areas will become new additions to two existing wilderness areas in the range: Sheep Mountain and Cucamonga.

For many residents, the gift of wilderness will endure for generations to follow.

The majestic San Gabriel Mountains are a huge draw for families, hikers, anglers, hunters and others. The range is critical to the region as it provides more than one-third of LA County’s drinking water and more than 70 percent of LA County’s open space.

“Look at the snow-covered mountains today,” said the Rev. Dr. Art Cribbs, Pastor of the nearby San Marino Congregational United Church of Christ.”These views are both a life source and an inspiration for our lives. They are picture perfect and a precious resource in our area.”

In San Diego County, new wilderness is a terrific outdoor attraction for a region dependent on tourism and travel. Jim Stillwell, the General Manager of Warner Springs Ranch Resort praised Issa’s bill for both protecting the spectacular local scenery and wildlife habitat as well as improving recreation opportunities — a plus for hospitality businesses like his resort.

Beauty Mountain, California. Photo by Doug Steakley.The Dreier and Issa wilderness bills also exemplify the bipartisan popularity of wilderness protection. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Wilderness Act in 1964 — and since then, every President, both Democrat and Republican, have signed wilderness bills into law.

Issa’s Beauty Mountain and Agua Tibia legislation, for example, completes protection of an area that was first protected by Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Palm Springs). Her bill conserved portions of Beauty Mountain and Agua Tibia that are in neighboring Riverside County. Bono Mack’s bill was signed in March 2009 by President Barack Obama.

San Gabriel Mountains, California. Photo by Brad Schelton.
Beauty Mountain, California. Photo by Doug Steakley.