McKeon's Wilderness Bill Passes House, Goes To President
Measure would save 470,000 acres of land for open space.
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 146, the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009. The measure includes Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon’s Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Mountains Wild Heritage Act, which gives wilderness designations – the highest level of protection and conservation for federal lands – to over 470,000 acres of federal public land in the 25th District of California and to four wild and scenic rivers near Santa Clarita and in the Eastern Sierra, including the White Mountains. The vote passed 285-140. In support of passage of the omnibus lands bill, McKeon made a speech on the House floor.
After final passage of the omnibus lands bill, McKeon joined Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall, and other Members of Congress in a bipartisan press conference showing their appreciation for passage of their individual provisions in the omnibus lands bill.
“The land in the Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Mountains areas are some of the most rugged and majestic in California and the country,” said McKeon. “My bill works to protect and designate that land as wilderness. The Eastern Sierra Northern San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act is the product of countless hours of community involvement. Senator Boxer and I worked together and met with virtually every local stakeholder and leader to reach a compromise. This package works for my district because it isn’t Congress telling my district how to manage our land; this is my community - my constituents – asking Congress to approve a land use compromise developed and vetted back home in California.”
Back in the district, Bill Sauser, President of the Mammoth Lakes Snowmobile Association, lauded passage of McKeon’s wilderness measure and said it is a great example of collaboration and community involvement.
“The snowmobile community in Mono County is very supportive of Congressman McKeon and is grateful he included us in this project and fought for us, said Sauser. “It was a broad-based effort here in California where we all worked hard together, so it’s good to see the bill coming to fruition.”
Mono County Supervisor, Vicki Bauer, also commented on the local compromise on the legislation.
“To reach compromise locally was hard work, so it is nice to know the federal government is listening to us,” said Bauer. “I consider myself lucky to have watched this bill go from a 300 person local hearing to passage in the House.”
The Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Mountains Wild Heritage Act would better protect some of California’s best fishing and hunting grounds. For this reason, many sportsmen’s organizations based or with chapters in California, among them Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, California Trout, the Santa Clarita Casting Club, and the Northern and Southern Councils of the Federation of Fly Fishers, strongly endorse the McKeon-Boxer bill.
The McKeon-Boxer legislation represents a major investment in California’s outdoor heritage. Many native fish and game species in California are in decline, primarily due to loss of habitat. At the same time, the economies of many rural communities are becoming increasingly dependent on outdoors-based activities such as fishing and hunting.
Tim Alpers, owner of Alpers Trout in Mono County, said the bill offers long overdue protections for fisheries and wild heritage in California.
“I am pleased with the passage of this bill in that it preserves beautiful wild lands for future generations, protects water sheds crucial to the health of our fisheries, and provides high quality recreation opportunities for our visitors, which helps our local economy,” Alpers said. “Passage of this bill represents long overdue protection for many priceless areas, including my area the Upper Owens River. Because of the unique and elegant design of this watershed, my grandfather, my father, as well as myself and many others have fought for long term protection for one of the American public’s greatest stream systems.
Alpers continued, “It has been a pleasure to work with a great team including Congressman McKeon, Senator Boxer, and our local jurisdictions, businesses, and individuals.”
The omnibus lands bill will now be sent to the President for his signature.
For maps or more information on McKeon’s Eastern Sierra Northern San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act, please visit www.mckeon.house.gov .