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Thompson revives wilderness land bill

Measure would preserve 300,000 acres in Northern California

April 1, 2003


More than 300,000 acres of Northern California federal land would be designated as wilderness under legislation re-introduced last week by Rep. Mike Thompson.

The Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Act covers more than a dozen of the most remote and scenic parts of Thompson's sprawling district, including the Lost Coast area of Humboldt County.

Parts of the King Range in Humboldt County, Mendocino National Forest, Cache Creek in Yolo County, Snow Mountain in Lake County and the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel River in Mendocino County would be designated as wilderness under the proposal.

The bill is consistent with a companion measure introduced last week by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-San Francisco, who noted the Lost Coast boasts the longest stretch of undeveloped coastline in the lower 48 states.

The twin bills also would protect more than 20 miles of the Black Butte River in Mendocino County as a wild and scenic river.

Thompson, D-St. Helena, and Boxer introduced similar legislation last year, but it expired before being voted on.

Thompson aide Ed Matovcik acknowledged that it won't be simple to get the legislation approved this year in the Republican-dominated Congress.

"With the focus on the budget and international affairs, it will be a challenge to get the attention it deserves," said Matovcik. "But we'll be trying."

Thompson said with increasing population growth and development pressures it is critical to protect these "phenomenal natural areas."

Environmentalists said several endangered species, including the bald eagle, Sierra Nevada red fox and Chinook salmon will benefit from the wilderness act.

Wilderness designation prohibits any development or commercial activities. Oil drilling, road building and logging are prohibited in wilderness areas. Hiking, horseback riding, hunting, fishing, cross-country skiing and canoeing are allowed, but off-road vehicles and mountain bikes are not.

There is expected to be some opposition to the proposal from mountain bikers and off-road vehicle enthusiasts. But Thompson legislative aide Jonathan Birdsong said no current legal roads -- for example some of those that cross the King Range -- will be closed if the wilderness act is approved.

Thompson and Boxer plan to introduce bills soon that would add the wilderness designation to even more federal lands in Northern California that are outside his 1st Congressional District.

Overall, Boxer wants to protect 2.5 million acres of public land in California, including those in Thompson's district.

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or [email protected]
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