Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Protect Central CA Wilderness

October 17, 2017

LAKE PIRU, Calif. – Outdoor enthusiasts, local businesses and conservation groups are praising a new bill introduced Monday in Congress to give extra protection to 245,000 acres of public land in Central California.

Sen. Kamala Harris and Representative Salud Carbajal introduced the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act. It would link up existing islands of wilderness within the Los Padres National Forest, which runs from Lake Piru north of Los Angeles up to the Monterey area.

Coralie McMillan, whose family members are sixth-generation ranchers in Shandon, says open space is a precious commodity that must be preserved.

"My husband and I are the keepers of the ranch for our children," she says. "And it's the same for the public lands - that right now we are the keepers so then we can pass it on to our children and they will to theirs."

The bill also would set aside an additional 159 miles of wild and scenic rivers and establish the 400-mile Condor National Recreational Trail, which runs the length of the Los Padres forest. The Carrizo Plain National Monument lies within the area to be given official wilderness protection.

The Trump administration is studying whether to shrink the boundaries of the monument in order to pave the way for development.

Christopher Danch, the founder of the Condor Trail Association, says the Los Padres has almost no publicly funded trail work. Most of the maintenance on 1,200 miles of trails is currently done by nonprofits.

"We're hoping that the notoriety of this trail can bring in the kinds of funding that is necessary and eventually be able to help in terms of the management of the corridor which the trail moves through," he explains.

Retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Vitali Mostovoj, a member of the Vet Voice Foundation, says veterans have a special reason for wanting public lands to remain pristine.

"We protected our country from overseas," he says. "We really love this country and want to protect our natural resources so they get passed on to future generations. Veterans coming back who have problems with post-traumatic stress syndrome need a place where they can have peace and solitude to recover."

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