Treehuggers International

Wilderness and Wild and Scenic River Opportunities In the Golden State

March 31st, 2010

Rocky outcrop near the Mt. Waterman summit, San Gabriel Mountains.

It’s an exciting time for wilderness and outdoor advocates in Southern California, as three different conservation initiatives are underway in the southern half of the Golden State, including wild areas in the San Gabriel Mountains in Los Angeles County, a pair of remote locales in northern San Diego County, and a vast expanse of currently unprotected land in the Mojave Desert, including multiple wilderness expansion proposals, numerous Wild and Scenic River designations, and two new National Monuments.

On this edition of Treehuggers International, Daniel Rossman from the Wilderness Society’s Los Angeles office, and Steve Evans, the Conservation Director from Sacramento-based Friends of the River, talk about the remarkable amount of conservation opportunities already underway in Southern California, and those under consideration.

San Gabriel Mountains

Pitch leaks from a freshly cut limb.

Led by the Wilderness Society, Friends of the River, the Sierra Club and other organizations in the San Gabriel Mountains Forever coalition, the current San Gabriels plan calls for additions to the range’s three established wilderness areas: the Sheep Mountain, Cucamonga, and San Gabriel Wilderness in the Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests.

Significant Wild and Scenic River designation is also being proposed on the San Gabriel River’s East, North, and West forks, as well as Lytle Creek, Little Rock Creek (on the range’s north side), and San Antonio Creek, including San Antonio Falls, located along one of the proposed additions to the Sheep Mountain Wilderness near Baldy Notch.

Also, with the extraordinary and still-growing recreation use of the area, a plan is being proposed for a new San Gabriel Mountains National Recreation Area in conjunction with the National Park Service.

The park service has already done a feasibility study on the possibility of a National Recreation Area, which would be especially valuable to lower income and ethnically diverse areas at the base of the range. Currently, the Wilderness and Wild and Scenic package needs the support of Congressman David Dreier from California’s 26th district in order to get aboard “the legislative train.”

2010 California Desert Protection Act

Backed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Desert Protection Act is of significant size, and would include the proposed Sand-to-Snow National Monument, rising from the western end of Joshua Tree National Park into the forested high country of the San Bernardino Mountains, and includes one of several proposed Wild and Scenic River designations in the area for the Whitewater River, which flows through the proposed monument’s length into the Coachella Valley basin.

To the north, the proposed Mojave Trails National Monument would protect wild and historic locales along both sides of historic U.S. Rt. 66, along with a sizable chunk of the Mojave Desert west of the Mojave National Preserve, and another sizable area west of the Arizona state line near the Colorado River and Needles. Several proposed wilderness areas are also part of the package, and would provide an opportunity to enhance wildlife corridors between Death Valley National Park, the U.S. Army’s Fort Irwin, and Mojave National Preserve.

An upcoming show featuring David Lamfrom from the National Parks Conservation Association will go into more detail about this proposal, one of the largest land management initiatives ever undertaken in the lower 48 states.

Northern San Diego County

Springtime flowers in oak woodland country.

We at Treehuggers International were pleased to learn Congressman Darrell Issa, who represents California’s 49th District in San Diego’s inland North County, had introduced legislation in December to expand the current Agua Tibia and Beauty Mountain Wilderness areas in Riverside County into adjoining wild areas in his district in San Diego County.

Passage of the bill will add 7,796 acres to the Agua Tibia Wilderness and 13,635 acres to the Beauty Mountain Wilderness, originally established by Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack and Sen. Barbara Boxer in the California Desert and Mountain Heritage Act.

Crisscrossed by canyons with oak woodland and chaparral-covered slopes, the areas are intensely rugged and heavily bouldered, with the Cutca Trail marking the main human passageway through the region. As has become the case with recent wilderness proposals in areas with private property patchworked into public land, the legislation allows for the continued use of a popular campground at the end of a pre-exisiting road “cherry stemmed” into the wilderness, and will also permit a corral along the edge of the Beauty Mountain Wilderness boundary.

Another modern wilderness concession is an allowance for mechanized firefighting efforts in the areas, though the Agua Tibia Wilderness in particular has already burned four times since the late 80s, most recently in the Poomacha Fire in October 2007. Several proposed Wild and Scenic River designations are also being considered as part of the overall legislative package, including the upper Santa Margarita River (before it flows into Camp Pendleton) and the San Diego River Gorge.

For more information on these ongoing initiatives, contact the Wilderness Society’s Los Angeles office at (213) 514-4030, or Friends of the River in Sacramento at (916) 442-3155.

Rugged vistas of the San Gabriel high country abound along the trail to Chilao and Twin Peaks.

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Marine layer clouds infiltrate the interior valleys of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Falling Water: Approaching San Antonio Falls on a late December afternoon.

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2 Comments so far

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  1. Tommy, great program. Thank you for raising awareness about this historic opportunity. As an advocate for the San Diego River, we encourage your listners to contact their representatives in Congress to show their support.

    Thank you!

  2. San Diego wilderness and wild & scenic river campaigns are in full swing! Join the fun by participating in an upcoming outing to a proposed wilderness or wild river. Learn more about these exciting, free, guided outings at Treehuggers Intl is performing an important service in our community, and we thank you! – Geoffrey Smith

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