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Summer 2012

Two Federal Bill Spell Disaster For North State

Congress members Thompson, Garamendi and Woosley have introduced a bill (HR 5545) to create the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Conservation Area (BSM NCA).  Senator Barbara Boxer has introduced a companion bill in the Senate (S 3375).  These bills are identical and spell disaster for Northern California rural communities.

The bill requires a management plan to be created for the 319,300 acre region, but the federal lands in the region already have management plans that are updated every few years.  The bill would also create and advisory committee for the region, but the Bureau of Land Management all ready has a public advisory committee that meets in the North State every few months. Project proponents all tout branding this region to increase visitors, but this region already has 4 federal wilderness designations, as well as Lake Berryessa.  The economic benefits the project proponents are trying to sell the public for this “paper park” are negligible at best. The existing federal designations have done little to increase visitors to the region, so why would this one be any different?  It is proven that these designations cut off access to our public lands and limit uses to those that are only compatible with conservation and “managed recreation”.

At a time when America is borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend it seems irresponsible to introduce legislation that would appropriate millions of dollars annually to protect a region that is already owned and managed by the federal government.

A  key concern with the NCA bills is that the money will be used for land acquisition.  Land acquisition takes productive land off the tax rolls and only hurts the local rural economies that this designation is aimed to help.  Property taxes paid by the federal government is subject to an annual appropriation by Congress, which leaves rural counties across the west guessing each year if the largest landowner is going to pay what is owed to fund schools, police, and fire. 

The federal government owns over 50 percent of the land west of the Rockies, but less than 5 percent to the east.  50 PERCENT! They also currently own 49 percent of the state of California.  These numbers should alarm all Americans.  Why is there such a huge difference in the western United States?  Utah has asked just that question and has proven that the federal government promised to dispose of all federal lands when Utah became a state as they did in the east.  Utah recently passed a law demanding the federal government make good on that promise and give title to federal lands back to the state of Utah.  It is expected that other states will follow Utah’s lead.

The Berryessa Snow Mountain National Conservation Area is nothing more than a political kickback to appease special interest groups.  The designation would harm our rural economies, take land off the tax rolls and limit access and recreation in the region.  ■

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