Yesterday was a landmark day, especially poignant for Farley and me. Congress approved adding more than 2 million acres to federally protected wilderness, about 700,000 acres in California. It’s been a long haul of letters, meetings and lobbying since the May 2000 statewide wilderness conference, which inspired our photo-essay book, Call of the Mountains, and which sparked a widespread campaign for wilderness preservation in California. Subsequently, Sen. Barbara Boxer introduced the California Wild Heritage Act of 2002, to protect more than 2.5 million acres of public lands and portions of 22 rivers. We celebrated, but the bill didn’t pass. Yet it paved the way for a bill passed in 2006, adding acreage to the Hoover and Emigrant Wilderness Areas and for passage of the Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act, which gave wilderness designation to more than 265,000 acres.Yesterday’s bill includes wilderness designations in the range of our book – about 40,000 acres in the San Gabriel Mountains and about 8,400 acres in the Santa Rosa & San Jacinto Mountains Nat. Monument. It also creates the South Fork San Jacinto Wilderness and the Cahuilla Mountain Wilderness. (Pages 45, 58-59, Call of the Mountains.) Another 1.4 million wild acres awaits protection, such as additions to the Cucamonga and Sheep Mountain Wilderness Areas. Yet I believe their turn will come, fueled by yesterday’s momentum and more public awareness.
Wilderness Bill Passes