Wilderness plan wins backers | TheUnion.com

Wilderness plan wins backers

Nevada County supervisors are supporting a wilderness bill proposed by Sen. Barbara Boxer, now that mountain biking enthusiasts – once opposed – have decided to support it.

Supervisors voted 4 to 1 Tuesday to support wilderness designations for the Grouse Lakes and Castle Peak areas of Nevada County – with a change in the mapping.

Wilderness boundaries were redrawn to leave some popular mountain biking trails out of the 25,000 acres of Nevada County land in two separate areas proposed for the designation, which would exclude mechanized transportation, including bicycles, snowmobiles and off-road trucks.

The Hole-in-the-Ground Trail, a portion of the Mt. Lola Trail, and the Glacier Trail are now out of the wilderness proposal.

Area mountain biking groups, including the Bicyclists of Nevada County, had opposed the original wilderness plan.

They came on board after the compromise, worked out at a July 8 meeting attended by the mountain bikers, a four-wheel drive club, wilderness groups including the California Wilderness Coalition and the Sierra Club, and Supervisors Bruce Conklin and Barbara Green.

Conklin said he wanted to support the bill because he believes wilderness is important, and the county only has two places suitable for the wilderness designation – areas without roads in them.

He believes the wilderness designation attracts hikers and fishermen, who get a higher-quality experience, making it good for tourism.

Groups the wilderness designation would definitely not attract – they would be banned from the wilderness areas – include snowmobilers and off-road enthusiasts.

The California Association of Four Wheel Drive Clubs is against the bill, which it says would close nearly 2.5 million acres of California public land used by four-wheel drive enthusiasts.

Also opposing the bill is the California Association of Business Property and Resource Owners.

Supervisor Sue Horne voted against the motion to support the California Wild Heritage Act of 2002, which she said is poorly written, hampers the ability of the U.S. Forest Service to fight wild fires and bans outdoor activities in areas popular with snowmobilers.

Horne said the bill would ban bulldozers without special permission, and helicopters could only be used in emergencies in the designated areas – leaving firefighting decisions in the hands of Washington bureaucrats.

Prospects for passage of the bill are uncertain, Horne noted, and until Sen. Dianne Feinstein comes on board, “It’s a dead bill.”

The bill is currently in committee in the U.S. Senate.

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