Another Wilderness issue boiled up at the Bishop City Council meeting this week. With a proposal on the table to have the City of Bishop formally oppose a Wilderness bill currently creeping through the United States Senate, supporters of federally legislated Wilderness as well as opponents squared off to try to bring the Council over to their side.
The entire bill in question is called the California Wild Heritage Act and it takes on a number of issues including Wild and Scenic Rivers, salmon restoration, and potential Wilderness areas throughout the state. One of the areas included in this bill is the Ancient Bristlecone Pine forest of the White Mountains.
The concern of motorized vehicle users is that roads into the White Mountains, like the Silver Canyon Road, and the Wyman Canyon Road will be closed to vehicle use, something the pro-Wilderness folks say wont happen.
At many local meetings the pro-Wilderness people and the motorized vehicle people get together to fight about these issues. With very little local decision making power, sometimes it appears the arguments are more personal then they are practical.
Frank Stewart with the Friends of the Inyo touched on this point. He said that both sides are not so far apart as they think on these road issues in the White Mountains, and that maybe the argument really centered on the one controversial road up Furnace Creek. Stewart asked the Council not to oppose the bill, but to ask for a seat at the negotiating table.
While the Senate Bill appears to be in the rough draft stage, motorized vehicle advocate Dick Noles told the City Council that it was important to take a stand now.
Councilman Jeff Griffiths wanted to focus on the bigger picture.
Four City Council members voted to oppose the Wilderness Bill. New Councilmember Jeff Griffiths was the sole dissenter arguing that while the bill falls short of ideal, the Bishop City Council should encourage local agreement on Wilderness so that there is something to offer State Senator Boxer and we can wade in in an effective manner.