Representatives Mike Thompson (CA-1), John Garamendi (CA-10) and Lynn Woolsey (CA-6) today introduced H.R. 5545, the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Conservation Area Act. The legislation would designate the Berryessa Snow Mountain region as a National Conservation Area (NCA). Under this designation, all currently owned federal lands within the NCA boundary would be united under one management plan, allowing the region to be managed according to the site-specific needs. The region would also be permanently protected under a NCA designation, ensuring continued recreational opportunities while safeguarding the region's natural beauty, wildlife, rare plants, and waters -- which include important sources of drinking water and irrigation for nearby communities.
"The Berryessa Snow Mountain Region is a unique national treasure and we have a responsibility to preserve it for our kids and grandkids," said Thompson. "Designating the region as a National Conservation Area will preserve the land, help our local economies, and protect a wide variety of plants and animals. This is the right way forward for the region and our communities."
"Designating the Berryessa Snow Mountain region as a National Conservation Area allows for the coordination of federal land management for the benefit of the public," said Garamendi, a Member of the Natural Resources Committee and former Deputy Secretary of the Interior Department. "This legislation will help preserve the region's natural beauty, increase tourism and outdoor recreation, spur business growth, and create jobs in Northern California. By protecting the Berryessa Snow Mountain region, this commonsense bill gives visitors the ability to appreciate its splendor while providing economic opportunity for local communities."
"The Beryessa Snow Mountain region is a natural wonder that unquestionably deserves the protection that this designation would provide," said Woolsey. "For our wildlife who call this area home; for the cleanliness of local drinking water; for the recreational opportunities it will provide for residents and visitors alike, Congress should pass this bill."
The Berryessa Snow Mountain region stretches more than 100 miles from the lowlands of Putah Creek below Lake Berryessa, across remote stretches of Cache Creek, and up to the peak of Snow Mountain. It encompasses more than 319,000 acres across Napa, Mendocino, Lake 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.
Establishment of a NCA will improve coordination between federal agencies; protect essential migratory corridors for wildlife adapting their ranges to a changing climate; keep water clean; and provide additional federal funding opportunities for conservation protection, invasive plant eradication, recreation management, and a coordinated multi-agency fire management plan.
"We're pleased that Congressman Thompson has recognized the natural wonders and recreational opportunities offered by the Berryessa Snow Mountain region--and the strong desire by community members to protect this scenic treasure so that it can be enjoyed by future generations," said Sara Husby, Executive Director of Tuleyome. "His National Conservation Area proposal is a win-win for everyone."
The white water rapids of Cache Creek, Lake Berryessa's bass fishery, and hiking and horseback riding opportunities make the Berryessa Snow Mountain region a major outdoor recreation destination. Permanent protection for the region would improve management of recreational trails and campsites. It would also increase user education and help draw visitors to the area.
"Protecting this area will help the waterways that so many people already love and use," said Steve Karr, Chairman of the Board for Putah Creek Trout. "A National Conservation Area goes hand in hand with our ongoing efforts to improve the wild trout fishery in Putah Creek and will help foster better outdoor experiences for visitors and residents alike."
Outdoor recreation and protected lands help the local economy. Recent studies by Headwaters Economics, a non-partisan, independent, nonprofit research group, have found that jobs and real personal income rose in local communities after nearby areas were permanently protected. That same potential is offered by the Berryessa Snow Mountain region.
"Permanently protecting the Berryessa Snow Mountain region makes good business sense," said Denise Rushing, a Lake County supervisor. "Gateway communities -- including many here in Lake County -- will benefit from the increased tourism and job creation that a National Conservation Area will bring."
"Proponents of this project have worked hard to bring our community together. It will be good for the public having the federal agencies work together," said Napa County Board of Supervisor Chair Keith Caldwell.
"Lake County is a great place to visit. The National Conservation Area will be good for the environment and for our local economy," said Rob Brown, Chair of the Lake County Board of Supervisors.
"We are excited to know that the National Conservation Ares is moving forward and that it will protect the federal public lands near our Lake Berryessa ranch for future generations," said first generation cattle ranchers John and Judy Ahmann. Judy is the former president of the California Cattlewomen's Association.
The NCA designation only applies to lands managed by the federal government. Current access to and uses of private land will not be changed.
No legally-open roads or motorized vehicle trails will be closed as a result of the NCA 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 NCA and the California Department of Fish and Game will retain its authority over these forms of recreation. The NCA 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 the NCA. 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.
Lake County, Napa County, the Winters City Council, the David City Council, the Clearlake City Council and the Calistoga City Council all passed unanimous resolutions of support in favor of designating the Berryessa Snow Mountain region as a NCA.
Also in support of the designation are:
* 52 elected officials including former Congressman Pete McCloskey, co-author of the Endangered Species Act.
* 148 Businesses representing all four involved counties
* 29 landowners and farmers
* 28 Conservation and Recreation groups including the Blue Ribbon Coalition, California Waterfowl Association and the Yolo Audubon Society
The legislation was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.
Congressman Mike Thompson is proud to represent California's 1st Congressional District, which includes the Counties of Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Sonoma, Napa, and Yolo. 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 sits on the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Wine Caucus.