Senator Barbara Boxer Proposes Designating 2.5 Million More Acres as “Wilderness” In California, by Gretchen Randall

BACKGROUND: Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) wants to designate an additional 2.5 million acres of federal land in California as wilderness with her introduction of the “California Wild Heritage Wilderness Act of 2002.” Her bill (yet unnumbered) would add to 14 million acres already designated wilderness in California (or 13% of the state) and would make these acres off-limits to logging, mining, and off-road vehicle riding including — even bicycles.

In the U.S. House, two separate bills are expected to be introduced for northern and southern California by Reps. Mike Thompson and Hilda Solis.

TEN SECOND RESPONSE: In the name of “wilderness,” these areas will be closed to mountain bikes, snowmobiles and off-road vehicles and even to those in wheelchairs.

THIRTY SECOND RESPONSE: Americans want to be able to visit these wonderful scenic areas, ride bikes there, and use trails. But as wilderness, these areas will be off-limits to all but the serious hiker or climber and certainly not open to the handicapped or elderly who need well maintained trails or roads to visit these areas. Why shut off millions of acres of land to our fellow citizens?

DISCUSSION: Another of the repercussions of wilderness designation: According to the Grass Valley Union, a Nevada County (CA) Irrigation District official is worried he won’t be able to inspect equipment at its high altitude reservoirs because snowmobiles will be prohibited in wilderness areas and helicopters can only traverse the area at 2000 feet.

As an example of what may lay ahead for citizens who want to use wilderness areas, the Wilderness Watch of Missoula, Montana is trying to bar high school-age runners attending a running camp in the Steens Mountain Wilderness area of Oregon from running through the wilderness area, according to the La Grande Observer of La Grande, Ore. An editorial in the paper says, “The environmentalists are putting neither the welfare of the animals nor the habitat first but rather their groups’ agendas in a quest to banish all humans from using either the forest for enjoyment or the products that the forest yield.”

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