Group seeks to increase amount of wilderness in Tahoe region
RENO (AP) – An environmental coalition is calling for wilderness designation for millions of acres of California backcountry, including 180 square miles near Lake Tahoe.
Supporters call it a move that is critical to protecting pristine forests and mountains.
Critics brand it part of an ”insatiable appetite” by conservationists to gobble up land at cost to public access and the economy and insisted California has more than enough land designated as wilderness.
On Monday, the California Wilderness Coalition released the results of a four-year inventory of land it believes is eligible for protection under the 1964 Wilderness Act and 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
The report concludes that 7.4 million acres – 7 percent of the state’s land – and 4,000 miles of free-flowing rivers should be protected under those laws.
”Over the last 20 years, 700,000 acres, an area of unprotected wilderness nearly the size of Yosemite National Park, has been lost in California,” said Bob Schneider, director of the California Wild Heritage Campaign.
”Our hope, and that of a majority of Californians, is to act now to protect our remaining wild places for future generations.”
Chuck Cushman, executive director of the American Land Rights Association, a property rights group based in Battleground, Wash., argued against creating more wilderness in the Sierra or anywhere else.
”They never saw a piece of land they wouldn’t like to be wilderness,” Cushman told the Reno Gazette-Journal. ”These folks have an insatiable appetite.”
A significant amount of targeted land lies within or just outside the Tahoe Basin:
n A 30,613-acre addition to the Desolation Wilderness area, with about 6,000 acres within the Tahoe Basin and the remainder in Eldorado National Forest to the east.
n A 5,481-acre addition to Granite Chief Wilderness, with about 1,000 acres in the Tahoe Basin and the rest in Tahoe National Forest.
n 31,107 acres in Meiss Meadows, with about 7,000 acres in the Tahoe Basin and the remainder in Eldorado National Forest.
n 48,410 acres surrounding Freel Peak, with about 20,000 acres in the Tahoe Basin and the rest in Toiyabe National Forest.
Tens of thousands of additional acres were recommended for wilderness status in other parts of Eldorado, Stanislaus, Toiyabe, Tahoe and Plumas national forests.
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