A bill to reopen Clear Creek in San Benito and Fresno counties unanimously passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
Congressman Jimmy Panetta introduced the Clear Creek National Recreation Area and Conservation Act.
The bill directs the Bureau of Land Management to reopen the 63,000-acre Clear Creek Management Area for off-road vehicle use. The legislation would also protect 21,000 acres of BLM land next to Clear Creek by deeming the area Joaquin Rocks Wilderness. Co-sponsors of the bill include California Representatives David Valadao, Jeff Denham and Paul Cook.
“Our nation’s public lands are postcards we send future generations, so we must do all we can to protect and preserve them,” Panetta said in the press release. “This bipartisan bill will not only bolster our conservation efforts, it will promote recreation and tourism in our district. I will be working with my colleagues in the Senate to pass this bill so that locals and visitors can soon enjoy Clear Creek Management Area.”
Clear Creek was temporarily closed in 2008 after an analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency explored the risk created by naturally occurring asbestos. Former Congressman Sam Farr first proposed reopening the area.
The bill tells the BLM to create a plan to minimize risk from asbestos exposure and educate visitors about the naturally occurring asbestos. The federal agency would also be required to find ways to reduce off-road vehicle impacts in order to protect the area’s natural habitat.