County lobby group opposes wilderness bill

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By ERIC BURKETT

A statewide organization representing California's rural counties has taken what it describes as an "oppose unless amended" stance against proposed legislation that would greatly expand wilderness areas in the state.

The Regional Council of Rural Counties, an advocacy group representing 29 of the state's rural counties and about 2 million California residents announced the decision in its July newsletter, "RCRC Update."

RCRC lobbies on behalf of rural counties, representing the interests of county governments in Sacramento, and less often at the federal level. Each member county sends a representative a member of its Board of Supervisors to participate in RCRC's board meetings.

Calaveras and Tuolumne counties are both dues paying members of the organization.

RCRC's board voted in June to oppose U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer's proposed California Wild Heritage Act of 2002, which would designate an additional 2.5 million acres in the state as wilderness area. Boxer introduced the legislation to Congress in May.

The bill would take lands already being administered by the federal government and go a step further, putting them under permanent federal protection. Opposition to the legislation has been strong in California's rural regions, but not absolute.

The Nevada County Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted 4-1 to send a letter to Boxer supporting the inclusion of two sites, Grass Lakes and Castle Peak, in her legislation.

The proposed legislation would seriously limit land use, RCRC leaders argue in their newsletter, "and would seriously harm rural communities if not evaluated for longterm effects."

"We are certainly in favor of protecting our natural resources ? ," RCRC Communications Director Maria Caudill told The Union Democrat, "but it needs to be done in concert with the surrounding community that live next door. We are truly seeking a balance."

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The Union Democrat
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