Nearly 700,000 Acres of Wildlands in California Designated Wilderness

Mar 25, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. House of Representative approved a landmark wild land and rivers protection bill by a vote of 285 to 140 today, following years of bipartisan work to protect hundreds of thousands of acres of wilderness. The legislation which passed the U.S. Senate on March 19, will now head to President Obama’s desk. Mr. Obama is expected to sign the legislation.

“We’re ecstatic,” said Sam Goldman, California wilderness coordinator at The Wilderness Society. “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.”

Three parts of the legislation would impact California, together protecting almost 700,000 acres of California wild lands as wilderness and nearly 105 miles of rivers and streams as wild and scenic rivers These measures include:

  • 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;
  • 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.

“The sponsors of these bills, along with Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), have been champions for wilderness protection in California,” Goldman added. “We appreciate their hard work to pass these important wilderness bills this Congress, ensuring a lasting legacy for the many people who use and enjoy these wild lands.”

The Wilderness Society, its thousands of members, and the large coalition of organizations involved in protecting wild California fought for Wilderness protections by organizing grassroots, citizen-based campaigns in local communities.

“As California’s population grows, these special areas will become ever more important to those of us who live in the golden state,” said Sally Miller, The Widlerness Society’s senior field representative in the Eastern Sierra where she resides. “The passage of this legislation assures that present and future generations will always have wild places to visit and enjoy.”

“These wonderful landscapes are under tremendous pressure,” Miller added. “Their value to local communities and to all Americans who treasure our natural heritage will remain long after the country has recovered from the economic crisis.”

The Wilderness Society and partner organizations will continue to push for the strongest protection of wild lands and rivers.