U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer on Monday introduced the Beauty Mountain and Agua Tibia Act of 2011, which would expand two existing wilderness areas in northern San Diego County.
The bill is a Senate companion to legislation introduced in January and in the last Congress by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista.
“By permanently protecting these natural treasures, we will ensure that future generations can continue to visit these places and revel in their scenic beauty while also boosting the tourism and recreation economy of San Diego County," Boxer, D-Calif., said in a statement.
Her announcement came on the heels of a visit to the Beauty Mountain area on Saturday by David Hayes, deputy secretary of the U.S. Interior Department. He was on a fact-finding trip to support designations that have broad community and political support.
To qualify for wilderness status, lands must already be federal property controlled by the Forest Service, the National Park Service and other agencies. Wilderness parcels generally exclude roads, buildings and power lines. After an area is designated as wilderness, the agencies can no longer reconfigure land-use plans to include development such as off-road vehicle courses, backcountry resorts and logging operations.
The House and Senate bills would add more than 7,796 acres of public land to the existing Agua Tibia Wilderness and expand the Beauty Mountain Wilderness by an additional 13,635 acres. These areas are composed entirely of existing Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management properties, and are currently managed with wilderness-level protections. The legislation would ensure continued protections at the same level.
Boxer's bill would also require the Bureau of Land Management to work closely with The Conservation Fund in order to build new recreational facilities at the Beauty Mountain Wilderness, allowing visitors more opportunities in that area.
Conservationists praised the senator's move. “By introducing this companion legislation, Sen. Boxer honors the efforts of legions of volunteers who have worked for 15 years to establish wilderness protection in San Diego County,” said Geoffrey Smith of Wilderness4All, an organization which leads hikes into the area.
Mike Lee: firstname.lastname@example.org; (619)293-2034; Follow on Twitter @sdutlee
* * * * * * * * * * * *