Changes to Wilderness Bill in the Cards

As local concerns are raised, changes are being made to the proposed Boxer McKeon Wilderness bill.

470,000 acres of new Wilderness are proposed under the Eastern Sierra Northern San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act. As this bill scheduled to go to the Senate Natural Resources Committee in two weeks, staff with the offices of Congressman Buck McKeon and Senator Barbara Boxer continues to work out the details of the bill.

When we spoke to Bob Haueter with Congressman McKeon’s Office he explained that two sections of proposed Wilderness in the Sierra have been removed from the bill.

One section to be removed is the McGee Mountain area, that would have brought the Wilderness boundary down almost to 395 between McGee Creek and the Mammoth Airport.

The other controversial section to be removed from the bill is the Laurel Lake additions, which would have brought the Wilderness boundary down near the motocross track in the Mammoth area.

Haueter has explained that Boxers office wont budge on the total acreage of Wilderness in this bill, so other areas are slated to be added as parts are cut out. Table Mountain, between Aspendell and South Lake is now proposed Wilderness and 22 miles of Cottonwood Creek in the Whites is slated to be designated a Wild and Scenic River.

Working with Boxers office and locals who know the land, Haueter says that they are working on details to guarantee access to water rights for ranchers who use the water coming out of the west side of the White Mountains.

With local fire and access road concerns at Swall Meadows, Haueter says that the Wilderness Boundary has been moved back from homes there. Where the wilderness has been built around existing roads, or cherry stemmed roads, Haueter says that it looks like the wilderness boundary will be left 75 feet away from each side of the road to allow for repairs and maintenance.

Haueter says that the plan is to work the details out and have the bill before the Senate Natural Resources Committee by July 16th. The plan is to have the final version of the bill done when Congress takes their summer break in August.

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