Farr excited about Clear Creek bill progress

Clear Creek Management Area has been closed since 2008.

Congressman Sam Farr, who represents San Benito County, expressed optimism this week about committee-level progress on a bill to open parts of Clear Creek Management Area.
The bill would reopen parts of the 75,000-acre Clear Creek Management Area, closed since 2008 after an Environmental Protection Agency Study deemed unsafe the levels of naturally occurring asbestos. 
Farr in several prior sessions of Congress has introduced similar, unsuccessful legislation to reopen Clear Creek. Off-road enthusiasts and others in favor of reopening Clear Creek, including county supervisors, have argued the evidence is insufficient that a serious health risk exists at the closed-off tourist attraction.
The federal government eight years ago closed Clear Creek due to studies concluding there were dangerous levels of asbestos exposure on its trails. It stirred an uproar from the off-road community and county government leaders hoping to gain back the park’s economic benefits, namely the 35,000 annual visitors before Clear Creek’s closure.
In February 2014, the BLM announced a decision to permanently close off most of the area to the public.
According to Farr’s announcement about committee progress on the latest bill:
The House Natural Resources Committee (Wednesday) unanimously supported legislation to reopen Clear Creek for recreational use. The bipartisan bill, H.R. 1838, the Clear Creek National Recreation Area and Conservation Act was introduced by Congressman Sam Farr, D-Carmel and is cosponsored by Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock and David Valadao, R-Hanford.
“Thanks to the help of Congressmen Denham and Valadao, we were able to win unanimous support for the bill in the Natural Resources committee,” said Rep. Farr. “This is the closest we have ever come to reopening Clear Creek for recreational use and the committee’s support should provide us with the momentum necessary to finally pass the legislation.”
H.R. 1838 directs the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to reopen the 75,000 acre Clear Creak Management Area in San Benito and Fresno counties for public recreational use, including access for off-road vehicles. It would also protect an additional 21,000 acres of BLM land adjacent to Clear Creek as the Joaquin Rocks Wilderness.
“I’ve been proud to work on this important legislation with Congressman Farr for the last several years, and seeing the widespread bipartisan support from committee members today is a great step forward to making sure the off-roading community will soon be able to take full advantage of Clear Creek” said Rep. Denham.
“Californians have been enjoying the natural beauty of Clear Creek for decades,” said Rep. Valadao. “Not only does this bill reopen the land for off highway vehicle use but it also directs additional land to be preserved for future generations. I am excited to join Rep. Farr in seeing that this bill becomes law so that our constituents and the entire state of California can enjoy Clear Creak once again.”
Once considered a premier off-road vehicle recreation site, Clear Creek was temporarily closed in 2008 to the public after an Environmental Protection Agency analysis laid out the perceived risk created by naturally occurring asbestos. H.R. 1838 instructs the BLM to develop a rigorous plan to minimize the risk from asbestos exposure and educate visitors about the naturally occurring asbestos. The BLM would also be required to develop ways to reduce the impact of off-road vehicles to protect the area’s habitat.
Located next to Clear Creek is Joaquin Rocks, sandstone outcroppings that rise over 4,000 feet from the valley floor. Considered the centerpiece of this remote area, the three scenic monoliths are the eroded remnants of an ancient Vaqueros Sandstone formation.
Due to the cool climate created by the rocks elevation, the formation is home to a diverse array of flora and fauna and several species of wildlife. In addition to falcons, hawks and owls, the cliffs provide a potential nesting habitat for the California condor which was reintroduced in the nearby Gavilan Range.

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