Our View Our View: A walk on our wild side

What do you think when someone gets in your face and says, “Take a hike!”

You probably take offense. Being told to go away is unpleasant and unnerving. On the other hand, that’s not the sort of hike we’re talking about.

We’re focusing on a real hike, the kind where you get on your most comfortable outdoor outfit, pack a water bottle, and set off for an hour or so of being one with nature.

The encouraging news is, you really couldn’t live in a better place when it comes to getting outdoors and doing some healthy walking.

For example, North County hikers have a host of options — Orcutt Trails, Jalama Beach, Nojoqui Falls, Pt. Sal, or just about anywhere in the hills surrounding the Santa Ynez Valley.

If Salud Carbajal has his way, a new, 400-mile-long hiking trail will weave its way through Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, stretching from Los Angeles to Monterey County, part of legislation Carbajal is introducing in the U.S. House of Representatives, of which the Santa Barbara Democrat is a member.

Carbajal’s bill — the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act — would designate about 250,000 acres in the two counties as wilderness, and establish the aforementioned trail.

Because our federal government is about as ideologically divided as it can possibly be, many will view Carbajal’s legislation as a direct challenge to the Trump administration’s habit of turning over vast stretches of formerly wilderness areas to the oil and gas industries, and protecting such wild spaces is part of Carbajal’s goal.PauseCurrent Time0:00/Duration Time0:00Stream TypeLIVELoaded: 0%Progress: 0%0:00Fullscreen00:00Mute

Of particular interest to Central Coast residents is that the legislation would designate nearly 250,000 acres of public land in the Los Padres National Forest and the Carrizo Plain National Monument as wilderness area, which is the highest form of protection the government can give public lands. Such a bill seems likely to pass through on a House vote, because of a Democratic majority, but passing muster in the Republican-controlled Senate is another matter.

The split is a result of party politics and monetary considerations. A wilderness designation prohibits roads and motorized vehicles. No permanent structures or logging and mining operations can take place on the designated land. Just about all activities that would tinker with existing ecosystems and the character of the area would be off-limits. That is among the tenets of the Wilderness Act of 1964, allowing ecosystems to change of their natural volition over time, without human manipulation.

That’s a tough call for many people, because humans are hard-wired to create things, make them better, often in ways that are unnatural and destructive.

Carbajal’s legislation, if successful, would not disrupt existing business operations on the land, including mining, cattle grazing and water uses, all of which would be grandfathered in and could continue, as long as they don’t have a big impact on the area.

And the Trump administration may be having a change of heart about our wilderness. President Trump recently signed into law bi-partisan legislation representing the largest wilderness preservation bill in a decade, a measure that includes new protections for 1.3 million acres of federal land in California, Oregon, Utah and New Mexico as wilderness, and which includes protection of California’s Mojave Desert.

Such bills accomplish several objectives, among them creating wilderness spaces that are pleasing to the eye and provide ample space for non-motorized, human activities. Such laws also reverse some lawmakers’ inclination to turn the nation’s wilder places into open strip mines.

Perhaps the big bonus of these developments is the bi-partisan cooperation in Congress. Bravo!

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