Molera Wilderness Proposal Withdrawn

An unnamed stream flows through a trailless redwood forest deep within the proposed Molera Wilderness

In response to vigorous opposition from locals worried that the plan would interfere with future firefighting efforts, Assembly Member Bill Monning has withdrawn his proposal to give State Wilderness designation to a portion of the Molera State Park backcountry.

Monning and his staff were obviously taken by surprise by the level of opposition to the seemingly benign and uncontroversial plan. Giving Wilderness designation to this clearly deserving area has been under discussion locally and in Sacramento for years, the area has no potential for any mechanized form of recreation, Wilderness designation does not prevent the use of mechanized equipment to deal with fires or other emergencies, and the boundaries of this proposal were carefully drawn to exclude the only ridgeline not already in the Ventana Wilderness that could conceivably be used for a dozer cut fire break.

None of this matters, though, in a community where nerves are still raw from the Basin Complex debacle and where a surprisingly significant number of people still find even the most improbable claims of fire danger and government and/or environmentalist conspiracy more credible and stimulating than the mundane facts.

Monning, understandably, has no interest in stoking Big Sur’s fire terror by pushing a proposal so many are convinced will decrease their safety. Especially as the land will remain de facto Wilderness for as long as the state refrains from selling it off or despoiling it. Sending an uncontroversial bill through the legislature would have been one thing, but with the state in crisis there are so many much more pressing priorities that it is obvious Monning and his staff don’t have time to spend facilitating meetings and hammering out compromises on a Molera Wilderness proposal.

Hopefully, this episode has increased awareness of the existence of this unique and pristine land and more people, both locals and visitors, will be inspired to visit it and come to know and appreciate its value. In the long run, regardless of official designations, it is only through people knowing and caring for the land that it will be truly protected.

See more photos of this unique area at: A Look at the Uplands of the Proposed Molera Wilderness

2 Responses to Molera Wilderness Proposal Withdrawn

  1. Chris L says:

    Monning’s not saying he’s withdrawing this bill for good—but for *this legislative session.* Two excerpts from his announcement yesterday…

    “I want to ensure that concerns expressed are
    adequately addressed before I take further action on this legislation. By not proceeding with AB
    2074 this session, there will be an opportunity for more dialogue regarding the benefits of a
    wilderness designation of a portion of the Andrew Molera State Park…

    “It is my belief that the wilderness area of Andrew Molera State Park is worth protecting. After
    further discussions this year, I will remain open to the prospect of reintroduction of legislation that
    will advance the dual objectives of protecting wilderness while addressing fire prevention and
    protection priorities.”

    The real work to be done—as I see it—is for folks to begin to realize that wilderness and community/culture are congruent, not oppositional forces. Among clear-thinking, non-fearful folks, there aren’t “sides” to this question, only strategies for how to best preserve and integrate both values. However, both (unnecessary) “sides” continue to do a piss-poor job of listening to the “other.”

  2. Chris L says:

    PS. Being at that BSMAAC meeting myself, I didn’t think Bill Monning was surprised by the response of most (but not all) of the Big Sur locals present. He began his own comments with a detailed apology for not bringing the wilderness plan to the meeting in advance of composing the legislative bill. Then he repeatedly encouraged the VWA presenters (and I’m a VWA member myself) to advance and elucidate more completely the firefighting safeguards that the bill would have left in place.

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