THOMPSON, BOXER, FEINSTEIN INTRODUCE BILL TO PERMANENTLY PROTECT BERRYESSA SNOW MOUNTAIN REGION
Washington, DC – U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-5) and Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) today introduced legislation in the House (H.R. 761) and Senate (S. 393) to designate the 360,100 acre Berryessa Snow Mountain region as a National Monument. Under this designation, the region would be permanently protected, ensuring continued recreational opportunities and providing an regional economic boost, while also safeguarding the region's beauty, wildlife, rare plants, and waters – which include important sources of drinking water and irrigation for nearby communities. Under a national monument designation all currently owned federal lands within the boundary would be united under one management plan, allowing the region to be managed more efficiently and according to the site-specific needs.
“Protecting the Berryessa Snow Mountain Region will help boost tourism, grow the local economy, improve recreation opportunities and protect important species,” said Thompson. “By designating the region as a national monument, we can unite all federal lands under one management plan and preserve this national treasure for generations to come.”
“The Berryessa Snow Mountain region is one of California’s greatest natural treasures,” Boxer said. “This bill will expand opportunities for outdoor recreation and help preserve this region’s magnificent vistas and diverse wildlife for current and future generations.”
“Creating the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument will preserve the environment and support local communities,” said Feinstein. “By providing permanent protections and coordinated federal management, this legislation will help ensure one of California’s most beautiful and biologically diverse regions continues to thrive.”
The Berryessa Snow Mountain region stretches nearly one hundred miles from Northwest Solano County to the flanks of Snow Mountain. It encompasses more than 350,000 acres across Napa, Mendocino, Lake, Solano and Yolo Counties. The area is rich in biodiversity, including bald and golden eagles, black bears, mountain lions, tule elk, and rare plants found nowhere else on Earth. The area provides habitat to so many kinds of plants and animals that it has been named a biodiversity hotspot.
Establishment of a National Monument will improve coordination between federal agencies and provide additional federal funding opportunities for conservation protection, invasive plant eradication, recreation management, and a coordinated multi-agency fire management plan.
Thompson, Boxer and Feinstein are also working with the Obama Administration to designate the region as a national monument though Executive Action if Congress refuses to act on the legislation.
“The national monument will protect the region’s natural splendor, while providing continued recreational opportunities and boosting visitation,” said Assemblymember Bill Dodd. “This is a great example of how we can protect our environment and support our local economies.”
“I applaud Congressman Thompson and Senator Boxer for their work on this important legislation, said Napa County Supervisor Diane Dillon. “A Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument will preserve environmental treasures, protect water sources, and provide an economic boon for all of the surrounding communities.”
Studies have shown that a national monument designation would be beneficial to the surrounding economies. A study by the Winters Chamber of Congress found protected public lands are major contributors to our country’s $646 billion outdoor recreation economy. In California alone, more than half of all residents participate in outdoor recreation each year, supporting more than 700,000 jobs and generating more than $6 billion for our state’s economy.
The study also found that local economies surrounding national monuments expanded following the creation of a new national monument. Employment, personal income, and per capita income either continued or improved in each of the regions surrounding the national monuments studied.
“The Berryessa Snow Mountain region is a truly spectacular area. The landscape is not only picturesque; filled with iconic California plants, wildlife, and outdoor adventure, it’s also bursting with economic opportunity,” said Sara Husby, Executive Director of Tuleyome. “Over two hundred local businesses support a National Monument designation for the Berryessa Snow Mountain region. Many of these businesses are mom and pop stores, and these folks recognize that a National Monument designation will draw more visitors to the area. It’s also exciting to hear their stories about going out and enjoying the area, as many locals consider these lands to be their ‘wild backyard.’ The local communities surrounding these lands have really embraced our efforts, and they are excited to see such a great amount of support to ensure that these lands will be protected forever.”
The Berryessa Snow Mountain region also includes numerous trails, open spaces, lakes and rivers. These resources provide recreation opportunities for hikers, bikers, hunters, campers, off-highway vehicle users, and both motorized and non-motorized boaters. Many nationally recognized recreation and sportsmen groups support a national monument designation.
“Congressman Thompson has brought all stakeholders to the table, forged partnerships and listened to everyone’s input. He then took those ideas back to Washington, D.C. and made sure they were included in this legislation,” said Don Amador, the western representative for the national off-road organization Blue Ribbon Coalition. “I am proud to support this bill because it will forever safeguard the trails and recreational opportunities that so many people, including myself, enjoy.”
The National Monument designation only applies to land managed by the federal government. Lake Berryessa is not included in the National Monument designation and current access to and uses of private land will not be impacted the legislation. In addition, the bill protects private property rights by stating that nothing in the legislation requires a private property owner to allow public access to their property, and the bill includes legislative language ensuring that the National Monument designation will not impact motorized recreation on Lake Berryessa.
The legislation ensures that all existing grazing will continue unchanged. The bill does not prohibit other grazing in additional areas as long as it is accordance with all laws and regulations. And, the bill allows for the expanded use of grazing as a management tool.
“We own and operate a 3,000 acre cattle ranch adjacent to lands that are proposed to be included in this national monument. Recently, we gifted our ranch to three daughters. We are strongly supportive of the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument” said John and Judy Ahmann, ranchers and adjacent private landowners. “Congressman Thompson has worked closely with local stakeholders to personally hear their thoughts and input, and to incorporate many of their ideas and suggestions into this legislation. Because of this, we want the bill to pass so that this area and its way of life will be preserved."
No legally-open roads or motorized vehicle trails will be closed as a result of the National Monument designation. Federal agencies will retain their existing authority to open new roads and trails or to temporarily close them when necessary, such as during major storms or emergencies.
Hunting and fishing will still be allowed in the National Monument and the California Department of Fish and Game will retain its authority over these forms of recreation. The National Monument designation would not impose any new regulations on hunting, fishing, or firearm use.
Existing laws and policies regarding firefighting will not be changed by the establishment of a National Monument. Federal agencies can continue to reduce fuels before fires start by thinning trees, establishing fuel breaks, and by using controlled-burns and other appropriate tools.
Napa, Lake, Yolo, Solano and Mendocino Counties have all voted in support of permanent protection for the region. Additionally, the Calistoga Chamber of Commerce, Napa County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the cities of Calistoga, Clearlake, Davis, St. Helena, West Sacramento, and Winters support permanently protecting the Berryessa Snow Mountain region.
Also in support of the permanently protecting the region are:
- More than 65 elected officials including former Congressman Pete McCloskey, co-author of the Endangered Species Act.
- More than 200 businesses representing all five involved counties
- Nearly 30 landowners and farmers.
- More than 35 Recreation and conservation groups including the Blue Ribbon Coalition, International Mountain Bicycling Association, Ducks Unlimited, the Backcountry Horsemen of California, and the National Hispanic Environmental Council
The legislation was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources and the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee.
Congressman Mike Thompson is proud to represent California’s 5th Congressional District, which includes all or part of Contra Costa, Lake, Napa, Solano and Sonoma Counties. He is a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Rep. Thompson is also a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition and chairs the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Wine Caucus.
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