–BY VICTORIA BRANDON, REDWOOD CHAPTER CHAIR
During the past few weeks the proposal to designate the Berryessa-Snow Mountain region as either a National Conservation Area or a National Monument has gained key support from surrounding local governments. On October 7, the Solano County Supervisors voted unanimously to support efforts for the permanent protection of these public lands; on October 21, the Lake County Board, which had endorsed National Conservation Area designation in 2012, confirmed its support for Monument designation as well; then on November 4 both the Yolo and Napa Boards of Supervisors took similar action. Except for Yolo, these counties are all in Redwood Chapter, as is almost all the area proposed for special designation.
As has been previously discussed, securing the permanent protection of these remarkable 350,000 acres of federal public lands has been a major Chapter priority for several years. The region contains lush forests, wildflower meadows, three designated Wilderness areas, and a Wild and Scenic River. It is home to tule elk, river otters, California’s second largest population of wintering bald eagles, and the rare Pacific fisher, while its amazingly diverse assortment of plants make it a biodiversity hotspot of global importance. Berryessa-Snow Mountain also offers a wealth of recreational opportunities to hikers, campers, birders, anglers, and equestrians: in the words of Lake Group Chair (and former Lake County Supervisor) Ed Robey, “this landscape is truly an outdoor wonderland.” With sensitive management, this recreational potential can be enhanced while preserving the conservation values that make the area so special.
Extending more than 100 miles from Solano County to the Snow Mountain Wilderness, this “undiscovered landscape” includes portions of five counties, and is administered by three federal agencies– but with neither formal recognition nor a unifying management framework, it gets hardly any federal funding for stewardship, law enforcement, invasive species eradication, and recreational enhancement. A special designation will give it a formal name, acknowledge its local and national importance, allow landscape-level management, and make funding much easier to obtain while simultaneously offering substantial potential economic advantages to surrounding communities.
Efforts to provide permanent protection by creation of a Berryessa-Snow Mountain National Conservation Area have bogged down in Congressional infighting. So we are seeking an alternative path to the same destination by asking the President to use his powers under the Antiquities Act to declare the region a National Monument. National Monument designation would offer the same advantages as a National Conservation Area, create no additional restrictions on land use or the rights of nearby landowners, and could provide additional benefits because the designation is better known and has a higher profile.
Last spring Redwood Chapter rejoiced in the inclusion of the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands on the Mendocino Coast in the California Coastal National Monument. Then in October the Sierra Club joined many other conservation and recreational organizations in applauding President Barack Obama for assuring the permanent protection of nearly 350,000 acres within the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles by designating the area as a National Monument. Will Berryessa-Snow Mountain become the next major addition to the President’s conservation legacy? Stay tuned!
Brophy Canyon in the proposed Berryessa-Snow Mountain National Monument