The Wilderness Bill that includes 400,000 acres of Inyo and Mono land took steps forward in the nation’s capitol Thursday.
The Eastern Sierra’s Congressman Buck McKeon testified before the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. At the same time, the bill went up for consideration in a Senate committee. Now, the bill moves on to more discussion in the House Committee and on to the Senate Floor.
Congressman McKeon testified that the bill is the result of a great deal of “compromise, cooperation and support.” McKeon said that “Local input and support for an Eastern Sierra wilderness bill has been overwhelming.” The Congressman further said that “Securing greater opportunities for public use of these lands prompted me to push for the release of Wilderness Study Areas, guaranteeing access to winter recreation opportunities and ensuring continued access to well loved off-road areas.” McKeon said that to secure economic and recreational opportunities in the Eastern Sierra “compromise was necessary.”
While Inyo Supervisors remain staunchly negative about the bill, the Mono Supervisors voted to endorse it. Mono Board Chair Vikki Bauer flew to Washington to testify at the House Subcommittee hearing. Bauer submitted written testimony which said, “The Eastern Sierra is a multi generational experience for many as it has been for my family, and knowing that it will be preserved as well as access to it preserved is the reward here.” She also wrote that “I did not think I would live long enough to ever see wilderness study areas actually released, see recreation areas be included in the same bill with wilderness, and see no roads closed.” She called it a bill with something for everybody “not just an exclusive user group.”
The House subcommittee hearing was the first step toward passage of the bill by the House.
The Senate companion bill was passed during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing and now goes to the Senate Floor for action. Congressman McKeon hopes that the bill will be passed by both bodies before adjournment on September 26th.