Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park

California Senators Seek to Expand State Parkland

January 27, 2011, 2:15 pm

California's two Democratic senators are renewing plans to add millions of acres of park, wilderness, marine sanctuaries and other conservation lands in the state, including a major expansion of the desert parks, billing the effort in part as a way to boost the tourism economy.

Sen. Barbara Boxer introduced legislation, co-sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, to designate the Pinnacles National Monument in the Salinas Valley as a national park and add 2,715 acres to the 26,000 there now.

The Pinnacles legislation, first introduced in 2009 by Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, has broad local support. The area, established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908, is a popular climbing destination and was the first site for the reintroduction of the endangered California condor. A condor chick was born there in March.

Feinstein's proposal is the largest new parks and wilderness proposal and would expand her 1994 California Desert Protection Act by an estimated 1.6 million acres. The bill was held up last year by a controversy over permitting rules for solar energy and the broader energy and climate-change debates.

Feinstein has removed the energy provisions, and lobbyists and Senate aides said outstanding issues have been resolved.

Feinstein's bill calls for about 800,000 acres in isolated parcels or in wilderness study areas to be transferred through land exchanges to allow energy development, off-road vehicle use and other nonwilderness uses.

Environmental groups are ecstatic over the expanded protection, especially in the desert, an area Spitler said is under heavy development pressure.

The California Desert Protection Act of 2011 would expand Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve. It would create two monuments linking the parks: a 941,000-acre Mojave Trails National Monument and a 134,000-acre Sand to Snow National Monument.

The new monuments and park expansions would create a connected landscape preventing the big parks from becoming ecological islands surrounded by development, said David Lamfrom of the National Parks Conservation Association.

Read more: at sfgate.com.