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Save the Bodie Hills

July 30, 2011

Next Tuesday, the Mono County Board of Supervisors will be asked to support a pending House bill that strips some 60 million acres of federal lands from possible wilderness designation, including more than four million acres in California.

The Supervisors should not.

Doing so would take away the protections that keep places like the Bodie Hills Wilderness Study Area (WSA) and 16 other WSAs, a total of 166,000 acres, protected from most kinds of development. Doing so would also strip protections from millions of acres of federally designated “Inventoried Roadless Areas” in both counties.

It’s not that we are against development in all of these areas. Some might be suitable for some kinds of activities.

But H.R. 1581 is a bludgeon when a scalpel is needed.

Proponents of H.R. 1581, like the Bridgeport Regional Advisory Committee (RPAC) which put the resolution on the agenda next week, will say that the bill asks only that some of the country’s WSAs and Roadless Areas be removed from protection as potential wildernesses and they would be right. The bill specifies that only those Roadless Areas and WSAs not “previously identified as suitable for wilderness” are included in the bill.

The problem is that many of these areas were designated as “not suitable” more than two decades ago. The Bodie Hills WSA is just one example of this.

But values change, economies change, the needs of a country and a county change over time. Each WSA needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and H.R. 1581 does anything but that.

There are better ways to increase economic opportunities in Mono County than a giant bill that strips willy-nilly the few protections now in place for some of the last remaining pristine lands in the county.

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