There's a good chance that the popular Clear Creek OHV site in central California could be designated as a National Recreation Area, thanks to legislation introduced today by Congressman Sam Farr.
According to the BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC), the bill could help resolve the ongoing conflict between access interests and the BLM regarding the future of motorized and human powered recreation at the BLM's Clear Creek Management Area.
In 2008, the BLM issued a blanket closure of 70,000 acres to all users, even hikers, citing concerns about a public health risk due to naturally occurring asbestos, though the BRC says there has never been "a documented case of injury despite decades of inhalation of the soils in question by humans in every conceivable activity."
Even so, the BLM has been considering a highly restrictive management plan based on the alleged health concerns. California State Parks Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Commission, San Benito County, IERF scientists, OHV groups and at least one conservation group have questioned the science and BLM's analysis, according to the BRC.
In October 2008, the San Benito County Board of Supervisors petitioned Congress to consider designating the unit as a National Recreation Area and reinstating responsible motorized and non-motorized use there.
"Congressman Farr should be commended for this proactive legislation that emphasizes education and informed choice over heavy-handed closure regarding the purely theoretical public health risk that might occur through excessive use of the area," said Don Amador, western representative for the BRC.
The bill would allow recreational access to resume under the 2005 travel plan generated through formal agency study and public input. The bill would also designate an adjacent portion of qualifying land with full protection as Wilderness.
"This legislation could go a long way in helping restore good relations between the BLM, the County and recreationists," Amador said. "This is a carefully crafted win-win and we hope it gains the support of affected interests and politicians on all sides of the aisle."
To see the San Benito County Resolution in support of a Congressional designation, click on the following link:
To see the unnumbered version of HR6286, click on the following link: