Pinnacles expansion on president’s desk

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Wilderness legislation, if signed by President Bush, would designate an additional 2,715 acres of federal land in Pinnacles National Monument.

Pinnacles National Monument may be putting on a few extra acres
for the holidays. Wilderness legislation to designate an additional
2,715 acres of federal land in San Benito County’s scenic treasure
passed the U.S. Senate early this morning and awaits President
Bush’s signature.
Pinnacles National Monument may be putting on a few extra acres for the holidays.

Wilderness legislation to designate an additional 2,715 acres of federal land in San Benito County’s scenic treasure passed the U.S. Senate early this morning and awaits President Bush’s signature.

Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, co-sponsored The Big Sur Wilder-ness and Conser-vation Act of 2002 that would add to the park’s 24,000 acres. Farr began work on the legislation two years ago.

The bill would provide 57,000 additional acres of wilderness on the Central Coast, including more than 37,000 acres in the Ventana Wilderness of the Los Padres National Forest. Farr introduced the legislation in May.

“I am thrilled we’ve been able to expand the reach of nature on the Central Coast,” Farr said in a statement.

The legislation is one portion of a larger bill. Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer’s California Wild Heritage Wilderness Act of 2002 aims to add federally protected lands throughout the state. Farr credited Boxer for pushing his part of the act through the Senate.

Wilderness is defined by the Wilderness Act of 1964 as undeveloped land without permanent alterations or human habitation, which is managed to preserve natural conditions. Signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, it expanded the scope of park preservation and gave Congress the ability to designate specific park land as wilderness.

Farr’s legislation also includes two species conservation objectives. One is a five-year, $5 million pilot program to help eradicate exotic plant species. The other is further promotion of animal species recovery, including a reintroduction program for California Condors that began earlier this year.

The Ventana Wilderness Society, in cooperation with the NPS, began construction of a new condor release site at Pinnacles in early November, according to the VWS.

“They need a lot of wide open spaces that aren’t populated.” said Paul Hain, board chairman for the San Benito Agricultural Land Trust.

Visitors interested in testing the recreational areas of wilderness would have access to hiking and rock climbing, two longtime staples at the park.

“It’ll probably boost some of the tourism in the area,” Hain said.

The most recent expansion of protected lands in Pinnacles National Monument occurred in 2000 when former President Bill Clinton designated an additional 7,960 acres.

Farr drafted legislation for that expansion as well. But Clinton issued a presidential proclamation to forego congressional red tape.

County Supervisor Rita Bowling said she’s in favor of any park expansion.

“I’m happy to hear they’re going to expand it,” Bowling said. It’s always a good idea to expand the parks.”

President Theodore Roosevelt established the Pinnacles National Monument in 1908. Rock formations can be found throughout the park, with the most scenic views on its High Peaks trail. The remains of ancient volcanos make up Pinnacles, which is part of the Gabilan Mountain range.

“Passage of this legislation makes the Central Coast the only place in America where national wilderness meets national marine sanctuary,” Farr said, “a proper fit for the greatest meeting of land and sea.”

The monument has previously expanded five times. For information on the monument or visitation, call 831-389-4485.

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