The WildeBeat

The audio journal about getting into the wilderness.


The WildeBeat edition 6: Wild but not Wilderness, part 2

This is a supplementary transcript of our audio program. CLICK HERE to listen to the original program, and see the associated show notes.

California has many pristine wilderness areas which might not stay that way. Listen next, to part two of "Wild but not Wilderness", on the Wildebeat.

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News from the Wildebeat, the audio journal about getting into the wilderness.

This is program number six.

I'm Steve Sergeant.

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STEVE SERGEANT: Seven point four million acres of pristine and scenic wild federal lands in California lack the protection of the Wilderness Act. Of our public wild lands, almost forty thousand acres each year are lost to potential wilderness protection by development, mining, or logging.

The Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act would place over three hundred thousand acres of scenic northern California under wilderness protection. This legislation is sponsored by Congressman Mike Thompson, a Democrat from Napa Valley, representing California's first district. When asked about the progress of the bill, the congressman's spokesman wrote:

"The public lands covered in this bill are some of the most beautiful in our country and are truly deserving of wilderness designation."

He continued:

"The North Coast Wilderness Bill cleared a major hurdle on the track to putting this important legislation on the president's desk, when the Senate unanimously passed it in July."

Congressman Thompson thanked Senators Boxer and Feinstein for their support of the bill.

Though, as the congressman indicated, there is a lot of local grassroots support for this bill, it's passage in the house is far from certain. Congressman Richard Pombo, a republican from Tracey California, is the chair of the House Resources Committee. Last year, Pombo prevented an equivalent bill from coming to a vote.

A July thirty-first staff editorial in the Sacramento Bee, explained it this way: "Unfortunately, Pombo isn't commenting and his spokesman says he probably won't act on the bill until October, assuming he acts at all."

So I wanted to get into some of the areas this bill seeks to protect.

I'm talking with Ryan Henson, the Policy Director for the California Wilderness Coalition. Ryan, welcome to The WildeBeat.

RYAN HENSEN: Thank you.

STEVE: How about a place our listeners could visit that's not protected and potentially at risk?

RYAN: The first one is Cache Creek. This is fairly close to the Bay Area and Sacramento. Cache Creek is in Lake County and Yolo County, and a little bit of it is in Napa County. The proposed wilderness is about 30,000 acres, and it has the second largest wintering bald eagle population in California. And it's a wonderful place to go hiking in spring, winter and fall. During the summer it does get very hot there -- sometimes over one hundred degrees, and it's not particularly as pleasant. It has just a truly amazing wildflower display in spring. Also, the area has a fairly large herd of tule elk. And these elk are native to California; they don't live anywhere else on Earth but California, and they are the world's smallest elk. Cache Creek itself, which flows out of Clear Lake, is a very nice white water stream with very moderate rapids. And that's something you can do in summer there.

STEVE: Whose jurisdiction is this property under, and what is the permitting authority people need to contact if they want to go into it?

RYAN: The area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the BLM, and you don't need a permit to visit it.

STEVE: You had another area you wanted to talk about.

RYAN: The King Range National Conservation Area is in a place called the California's Lost Coast where the builders of Highway One found it too rugged to continue hugging the coastline, and they had to go inland and leave a wild stretch of roadless coast. The King Range is managed by the Bureau of Land Management as well. The proposed wilderness there is about 42,000 acres in size. It is right along the ocean, and it happens to be the longest stretch of roadless coastline in the lower 48 states. It's sad to say it's only 24 miles long, but it still makes for a great place to visit and it's a very beautiful place. What a lot of people like to do in the King Range is hike along the beach from one end to the other. It's also a year round opportunity. People do it in winter and it has an entirely different character. And they can come in summer. It offers a whole different set of wonderful things to see and do. If people don't want to hike along the beach, there are coastal bluffs, there are ancient forests of Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine, and there are beautiful ridgeline hikes where you can see way out to the Pacific and way into the interior of California, all the way up to Mt. Shasta, even though that's a few hundred miles away.

STEVE: Are there any particular threats to this area at the moment?

RYAN: Without wilderness designation, whatever administration has the White House can set the rules for these areas.

STEVE: So what about another area we might like to try to explore that is still in some risk of development or at least not being kept as a wild place?

RYAN: A very popular and well-loved existing wilderness area is the Trinity Alps. The bill would add 28,000 acres to the Trinity Alps on the western edge of the Trinity Alps. These are spectacular old-growth forests, also meadows and streams that provide essential salmon and steelhead trout habitat. There's also a lot of Native American sacred sites there, and a lot of hiking trails. A lot of the areas in our bill are so obscure and don't get visited all that often and there are sometimes very few trails. But in this case there's actually a number of trails. It's part of a region of roadless country that has been threatened more times by logging than any other roadless area in California. Hopefully we can add at least some of it to the wilderness system.

STEVE: Ryan, I'd like to thank you for talking with me today.

RYAN: Thanks for the opportunity.

STEVE: Ryan Henson is the Policy Director for the California Wilderness Coalition. You can find out more about the C-W-C, about the Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act, and about the wild places Ryan mentioned, on our web site.

See how he's helping us keep wild places wild, on The WildeBeat.

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Next time - A place in California so wild and remote, native Americans remained undiscovered there into the twentieth century.

The Wildebeat is produced by Steve Sergeant for Effable Communications. Our official website is WWW dot WILDEBEAT (that's W-I-L-D-E-B-E-A-T) dot NET. Future editions of The Wildebeat depend on your contributions, both for funding and for content. Please see our website for details.

This has been The Wildebeat, program number six. Thank you for listening.

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