Senate Passes Historic Public Land Protections

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Wilderness legislation a top priority - 700,000 acres miles of wild and scenic rivers protected in California.

We are delighted by the bi-partisan commitment to protecting America's wild lands, and rivers

The Senate today approved a major public lands omnibus bill that will protect some of California's most scenic and precious lands and rivers.

Senate Bill 22 introduced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman last week is a new version of the 2008 Public Lands Omnibus Bill that stalled in the Senate last year. The bill includes protections for nearly 2 million acres nationally. Today the full Senate approved the bill and it will move to the House next. The House passed most of the bills contained in the omnibus bill last year and supporters expect a speedy approval.

"We are delighted by the bi-partisan commitment to protecting America's wild lands, and rivers," said Barbara Hill, executive director of the California Wilderness Coalition. "By passing this legislation, Congress will protect these lands and rivers for future generations to enjoy and explore. Wilderness is home for wildlife and is critical to battling climate change."

The California areas to be protected are in Riverside County, the Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Mountains and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. The Riverside and Sequoia-Kings Canyon bills passed the House of Representatives during the last Congress, and the Eastern Sierra/San Gabriel bill was approved by a key Senate committee last fall.

The measure also would authorize $88 million in funding to launch an ambitious effort to restore the San Joaquin River, which has been drained for decades to supply Central Valley farms. More water would be left in the river, and populations of spring-run Chinook salmon would be returned under terms of a legal settlement in a long-running environmental battle over the river.
California Congressional leader Senator Barbara Boxer worked diligently with Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-Santa Clarita), Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack (R-Palm Springs), and Congressmen Jim Costa (D-Fresno) and Devin Nunes (R-Visalia) to introduce these bills. Senator Diane Feinstein has also cosponsored all three bills.

"The sponsors of these bills, along with Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), have been great champions for wilderness protection in our state," said Ryan Henson, Policy Director for the California Wilderness Coalition. Henson is a leader of the coalition which has worked over the last five years to pass federal legislation protecting wild California.

Since passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964, 13 bills have passed Congress and designated wilderness areas in California. The Senate lands package would be the 4th largest California wilderness bill if it is signed into law as it is currently written. It only trails the California Desert Protection Act (7.6 M acres), California Wilderness Act of 1984 (2.7 M acres) and the Wilderness Act of 1964 (1.25 M acres).

Areas protected in California are:

Agua Tibia Proposed Wilderness Additions -
Ansel Adams Proposed Wilderness Additions -
Beauty Mountain Proposed Wilderness -
Cahuilla Mountain Proposed Wilderness -
Chuckwalla Mountains Proposed Wilderness Additions -
Granite Mountain Proposed Wilderness -
Hoover Proposed Wilderness Additions -
John Krebs Proposed Wilderness (this is in Sequoia-Kings) -
John Muir Proposed Wilderness Additions -
Joshua Tree Proposed Wilderness Additions -
Magic Mountain Proposed Wilderness -
Orocopia Mountains Proposed Wilderness Additions -
Owens River Headwaters Proposed Wilderness -
Palen/McCoy Proposed Wilderness Additions -
Pinto Mountains Proposed Wilderness -
Pleasant View Ridge Proposed Wilderness -
Santa Rosa Wilderness Additions -
Sequoia-Kings Canyon NP Wilderness Additions -
South Fork San Jacinto Wilderness -
White Mountains Proposed Wilderness

The following streams will be designated as wild and scenic rivers:
Amargosa River
Bautista Creek
Cottonwood Creek
Fuller Mill Creek
North Fork San Jacinto River
Owens River Headwaters
Palm Canyon Creek
Piru Creek
It also releases all or portions of 4 wilderness study areas and designates an area in the White Mountains the "Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest."

About the California Wilderness Coalition
With more than 5,000 individual members, businesses, and organizations, CWC is the only statewide organization focused on protecting California's wild heritage. More information can be found at http://www.calwild.org.

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