It has been a longtime goal to connect Yosemite and Kings Canyon National Parks, and now that goal is closer than ever. The idea is to create new protected parklands between the two National Parks, successfully creating a solid swath of federal lands.
Representative Jackie Speier introduced the Range of Light National Monument bill on Thursday, Dec. 15. The bill calls for new protections for 1.4 million acres of land managed by the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. It would transfer stewardship of the land to the National Park Service.
This vast swath of the Sierra Nevada is one of the largest roadless areas in the lower 48. It is bookended by Yosemite and Kings Canyon National Parks, and is currently open to “logging, mining, grazing, and other activities,” according to a report from the San Francisco Chronicle. Activities that environmental groups say should not be happening on that land considering how well-preserved it has been.
“The Sierra Nevada is an important part of our American heritage,” said Speier in a statement. “It’s unacceptable that extractive industries, roads, and wildfires have placed these treasured lands at great risk, severely degrading some areas already.”
That land is now the Sierra National Forest and the San Joaquin Gorge. The bill would turn the land over to the National Park Service. Leases for timber harvests, livestock, and mineral extraction would eventually be phased out under NPS management, according to SF Chronicle. Hydroelectric facilities and privately owned cabins, however, would be allowed to continue using the land.
New Bill to Join Yosemite and Kings Canyon National Parks Could Face Opposition
This is not a new idea, however. The plan to turn the land over to NPS has been around for years. But, it has faced opposition because of the immense changes that would occur. For example, the loss of logging land. So, there’s definitely a chance that this bill will face opposition as well.
Natural resource industries, such as logging and mineral extraction, on federal land have become crucial for many communities. But, those industries are also destroying that land. Additionally, it’s unclear if the National Park Service and other federal organizations that the bill is built around will even support it.
Deanna Lynn Wulff, executive director of Unite the Parks, commented on the bill also. She commended Representatives Jackie Speier and Jerry McNerney’s bravery in submitting it. “I am so grateful that these members of Congress had the courage to introduce a bill to make the changes to the landscape that need to be made to create a future for people and wildlife,” she said.
Wulff has seen firsthand the degredation of the corridor from logging, and has been working toward more protections. “To me, the Sierra Nevada is the most beautiful mountain range in the world, hands down,” she continued. “I want to make sure it’s protected so other people can have the experience I’ve had there.”