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California Legislators Are Clear: Protect Berryessa Snow Mountain

DSC_2453Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune (R) visits Berryessa Snow Mountain in January with his family (Photo: Lyndsay Dawkins)

With wild elk herds and black bears roaming on the ground and bald eagles soaring in the air, the Berryessa Snow Mountain region west of Sacramento, California is home to iconic American wildlife and one of the most uniquely diverse ecosystems in the country. It's a scenic treasure for nearby residents and visitors from across the nation.

Those who are lucky enough to take a trip to the Berryessa Snow Mountain region can view the wildlife, like Tule elk, and wildflowers, hike to the 80-foot high Zim Zim waterfall, or go fly-fishing in Putah Creek -- all just a short distance from Sacramento and the Bay Area. To locals, Berryessa doesn't just provide these wonderful recreational opportunities -- it creates jobs. The area is one of the drivers of California's thriving outdoor recreation economy, which creates $46 billion in economic activity each year and supports more than 400,000 jobs statewide.

It's no wonder that there's been an outpouring of support to ensure the area is protected. At town hall meetings in places like Woodland and Clearlake, residents were loud and clear in telling Congressmen Mike Thompson and John Garamendi that they want this region to stay pristine and accessible for everyone. Now, Thompson, Garamendi, and several of their California colleagues in Congress have responded, joining more than 200 local businesses across six counties; dozens of farmers, ranchers, and landowners; and more than 35 local and national recreation and conservation organizations in stepping up for permanent protection of Berryessa Snow Mountain.

Representatives Anna Eshoo, Jared Huffman, and Ami Bera, as wel as Senator Barbara Boxer, are standing alongside Thompson and Garamendi as key supporters of new legislation that would designate Berryessa Snow Mountain a National Conservation Area. The Berryessa Snow Mountain National Conservation Act of 2013 was introduced last week in conjunction with Boxer's companion version of the bill in the Senate.

Diverse interests ranging from the Calistoga Chamber of Commerce to Ducks Unlimited to the Sierra Club to more than 65 elected officials are urging anyone who will listen to take this critical step to protect this hidden California treasure while supporting local economies. Now, after extensive input from the citizens in the region, these legislators have acted to do just that.

Protecting Berryessa Snow Mountain is crucial for both the land and the economy to prosper. Efforts to protect other public land sites, like Giant Sequoia in Porterville, CA, have added more than 11 percent job growth to the surrounding area. At a time when everyone agrees we need both jobs and wild places to explore and enjoy, Thompson, Garamendi, Eshoo, Huffman, Bera, and Boxer understand that protecting Berryessa Snow Mountain can help provide both. Now we only hope the rest of Congress does, too, by supporting this legislation to protect a key part of our nation's wild legacy.

--Kristen Elmore, Sierra Club Media Team

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