On February 12th, the Senate overwhelming passed the Natural Resources Management Act (S. 47), a landmark conservation public lands package in a 92-8 vote in support of the measure. The highlight of this package is the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). A fund used to create recreation opportunities throughout the country. The fund does everything from help build playgrounds within city limits to helping sportsman access public lands for hunting and fishing. LWCF is arguably the most important conservation effort in the history of the United States and has been used in every county in the country.
Along with the LWCF, Representative Paul Cook’s California Desert Protection and Recreation Act of 2019 is also included in the package and is specifically aimed at San Bernardino county. Both pieces of legislative are now on their way to the House for a vote.
Representative Cook’s office has worked with local stakeholders in California as well as his colleagues in the House and Senate to ensure vital conservation areas are protected but also allowing recreational users to utilize the amazing local landscape San Bernardino county has to offer. Rep. Cook’s bill will designate the Kingston mountain range into a Wilderness area. This protection is vital to protect California’s Desert Bighorn sheep that is especially important for hunters because the Kingston range has one of the few huntable populations of wild sheep in California. The bill will also designate the Soda Mountains as federally protected Wilderness, this area is home to a recovering population of sheep that hopefully will reach population levels in the future that will allow limited hunting opportunities.
For fisherman, this legislation would also protect the fishing location in Deep Creek through the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act designed to protect crucial waterways important for desert wildlife. Deep Creek is an accessible wild trout stream in the San Bernardino Mountains near Lake Arrowhead and is potentially the southernmost available wild trout stream in California.
Off-road vehicle use is another recreation activity that is very popular in the desert and draws thousands of public lands users to the area every year. This bill will add approximately 200,000 acres for off road vehicle recreation. An important area is the Johnson Valley OHV area that would gain another 20,000 acres. Johnson Valley is a very popular off-road area that is known for its exciting races and hill climbs located west of Victorville.
Whether you are a hunter, fisherman, off-road user or someone you simply enjoys open spaces and desert landscapes, please urge Congress to pass the House bill to guarantee that public land access is offered for you and future generations to enjoy.