The issue: National Conservation Area offers benefits from consistent land management
One of the benefits of living in California is the ready access to breathtaking natural landmarks. While the rest of the country is familiar with such awe-inspiring landscapes as Yosemite Valley and Lake Tahoe, we locals know we’re only a short drive away from a variety of primeval beauty spots from shore to mountain.
ONE PARTICULARLY well-hidden gem is the Berryessa Snow Mountain region. Stretching from the shores of Lake Berryessa north through the Cache Creek Wilderness and into the Mendocino National Forest, it encompasses an ever-changing landscape and is home to a wide range of animals, including tule elk, black bears and bald eagles.
While plenty of kayakers, hunters and hikers take advantage of this green wonderland, access is made more difficult because such a large area — which spreads into parts of Yolo, Napa, Lake, Mendocino and Solano counties — is administered by a hodgepodge of federal agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
This is where House Resolution 1025 comes in. Sponsored by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, and co-sponsored by Reps. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Anna Eshoo, D-Menlo Park; and Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove; the bill would create the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Conservation Area from the federally managed lands in the region.
Specifically exempting private property inside the boundaries, the bill directs the secretaries of the interior and agriculture to create a plan that will “conserve, protect and enhance for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations the ecological, scenic, wildlife, recreational, cultural, historical, natural, educational and scientific resources” of the conservation area.
With coordinated management opening up more recreation opportunities, cities such as Winters, positioned to serve as a “gateway” to the area, would see a significant bump in tourist dollars. Testifying before the House Committee on Natural Resources, Garamendi was bullish on the local economic impact.
“The Berryessa Snow Mountain NCA bill would open up a range of business opportunities for our region,” Garamendi said. “The NCA designation has a proven track record of increasing tourism and creating jobs, which is why HR 1025 has garnered the support of Chambers of Commerce, boards of supervisors, Northern California cities and other stakeholders.”
BUT NOT EVERYBODY is on board. Landowners, inevitably, worry about any consolidation of government authority. The Colusa and Glenn county boards of supervisors opted out, denying their shares of the Mendocino National Forest. Their fears are unfounded. Not only is private property protected, existing roads, grazing and hunting rules will be left intact.
The whole idea is to preserve all this natural beauty — the waterfalls, lakes and outcrops — so Californians can come enjoy it. And no one will gain more than the nearby communities, as kayakers, hikers and hunters come through.
Meanwhile, the bears and eagles, elk and trout, and the land itself will benefit from consistent land management under a single conservation plan.