Jun 26

Help modify New CA State Wilderness proposal, AB 2923

There is a new bill to propose new California State Wilderness including Henry Coe State Park. Please write your CA Assembly members, CA Senators and the sponsors of the legislation to modify the bill to either permit bikes in California Wilderness, or not designate these areas as Wilderness.

Assemblywoman Noreen Evans
Assembly District 7
Sate Capitol
Sacramento, CA 94249-0007
Room 315
Fax 916-319-2107
Also to the Bill’s Co-Sponsor Senator Pat Wiggins
Second Senate District
Room 4081
State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 94249-0007

This web site can help you locate your assembly member
Fax 916-323-6958

Read more for a sample letter and future actions by IMBA CaliforniaI am writing you on behalf of Responsible Organized Mountain Pedalers, the oldest Mountain biking advocacy agency, our 350 members and the over 100,000 mountain bikers in San Mateo and Santa Clara County whose interests we protect. We oppose AB 2923 California Wilderness Act, 2008.
ROMP applauds the movement to preserve wild areas in California for high quality outdoor recreation. However, we are in favor of land management designations that allow for a flexible range of sustainable, human powered outdoor recreation while preserving the environment for future generations. Unfortunately the State Wilderness designation is an extremely restrictive land use designation that significantly limits recreation activity, specifically human powered bicycle travel. Additional concern is that some of the land parcels cited in AB 2923 are in counties that have a high percentage of private lands, which already limits outdoor recreation. Adding Wilderness use restrictions would further restrict recreation opportunity. At a time when the state’s population is approaching 37 million people, and mountain bike recreation is on the increase, we think it is bad public policy to further limit areas for quality outdoor recreation.
We realize that AB 2923 calls for Wilderness study without actually declaring Wilderness. However in many cases the areas suggested for review are either prime mountain bike destinations or have the potential for mountain bike trail development in the near future. Specifically, ROMP is an active partner with California State Parks in providing safe, sustainable recreational opportunities in Henry Coe State Park in Santa Clara County.
Mountain biking is a very important form of recreation in California. It is a quiet, low-impact, muscle-powered activity. It is promotes healthy lifestyles for kids and adults. There are many high school mountain bike clubs that provide opportunity for physical fitness while at the same time providing the benefits of environmental education. Families find it a way they can all recreate together. There are millions of mountain bicyclists in the state who enjoy riding their bikes in remote backcountry areas on narrow trails. Hence, we work to protect these areas in order to meet the increasing demand for this form of recreation. Unfortunately, the State Wilderness designation excludes bicyclists. When new legislation is proposed that has a potentially negative impact on mountain biking trails and future biking opportunities, we seek modifications by altering language, providing bike corridors, or enabling other less restrictive land use designations that allow our form of recreation.
Mountain biking is a strong economic driver in California. Cyclists contribute millions of dollars annually to the purchase of equipment, food and lodging as well as fees for public land access. The majority of the bicycling industry’s central headquarters resides in California. Companies such as Shimano American Corp., Specialized, Giant and Santa Cruz Bicycles are headquartered in California because of the significant consumer demands of the cycling community. California already has thousands of acres of declared State Wilderness. The state also has 13% (by acreage) of the Federal Wilderness System, second only to Alaska with 14%. Declaring more lands as Wilderness essentially restricts recreation opportunity and has the net affect of causing overcrowding in other areas, leading to negative environmental impacts and conflict between trail users.
We feel it is important to protect remote and wild areas. We also think it is vitally important to provide opportunities for healthy, human-powered outdoor activities with minimal environmental impact. Mountain biking is such an activity. We endeavor to support land use designations that meet the needs of both bicyclists and the environment.
We support efforts to protect California’s unique public lands, but we
also support a prudent approach that recognizes the need for
sustainable recreation for millions of Californians.

Here is a quick summary of Tom Ward’s experience with the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee. First of all, let me say that I had zero expectations that we would come out of the hearing with any changes in the Bill. My main purpose in testifying was to enlighten the Senators of the realities of Wilderness in terms of bike access; something they were obviously not aware of. My second purpose for being there was to serve notice that we will continue to pursue alterations in the Bill as it proceeds through the next seven steps of the process.

The Bill proponents had all their ducks in a row with all their environmental group supporters (6 organizations) and two County Boards of Supervisors testifying in support. The opposition came from us and the Regional Council of Rural Counties. I spoke the longest and had quite a spirited but positive exchange with Senators and the Sponsoring Assemblywoman. The Senators, particularly, the Chair Darrell Steinberg, were very sympathetic to our argument, i.e. State Wilderness means no bikes and significant negative impact to thousands of cyclists. I proposed 2 amendments to the Committee, one to allow bikes in state wilderness the other to strike 3 of the designated properties from the bill (Senators were not aware that bikes are banned from state wilderness). Senator Steinberg told Assemblywoman Evans (author) that the bike community has a valid argument and that he does not want to come down the line in the future to find that a whole lot of bikers have been displaced. Evans assured the committee that this was “only a study” and that the debate for appropriate land uses would be an open public process. The Committee reluctantly voted to move the Bill without our amendments.

What to do now?
I will continue to meet with selected legislators to press our case as it goes through the process. I will also meet with the Governor’s key people to hopefully get their support to veto the bill if it gets that far. In the mean time, letters to Evans and your own Senator and Assembly Reps is vitally important. Keep up the writing campaign. The Bill will eventually go back for a vote to the Assembly Policy Committee and then the full Assembly. Assembly members are crucial players and very sensitive to the public’s response. Besides letters, also meet with your Assembly person or their staff to register your concern. I can’t emphasis enough HOW IMPORTANT IT IS FOR ALL OF US TO MAKE THESE CONTACTS. This not only has implications for state wilderness, but also our ongoing debate on Federal Wilderness.