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County continues to extend support to Alabama Hills designation

August 13, 2013

The Alabama Hills Stewardship Committee continues working with local, state and federal legislators to create a federal “National Scenic Area” designation for the Alabama Hills. Proponents say that the designation will protect all current uses in the area, from hiking and off-highway vehicle use, to climbing and horseback riding. Photo by Mike Gervais

Inyo County has again voiced its support for the Alabama Hills Stewardship Group and its efforts to preserve the Alabamas and bring the Hills into the national spotlight.
Last week the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to support the Stewardship Group’s efforts to have the hills designated as a “National Scenic Area.”
“The Alabama Hills Stewardship Group is appreciative of the Inyo County Board of Supervisors’ new level of unanimous support for the future ‘Alabama Hills National Scenic Area,’” said Stewardship Group President Chris Langley. “We are hopeful this support will serve as a catalyst with Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Paul Cook, for designation legislation to be introduced and passed this year.”
The Alabama Hills Stewardship Group, Inc. is a local group of community members who have partnered with the Bureau of Land Management over the past seven years to help direct management of the Hills.
“The goal is to make the Alabama Hills as accessible and activity inclusive as possible, while still preserving its ‘semi-primitive’ and scenic landscape,” a press release from the Stewardship Group states.
Over a two-plus-year period, the Stewardship Group met with a variety of stakeholders and user groups who enjoy the diverse activities offered in the Alabama Hills, from hiking and rock climbing, to off-highway vehicle recreation, horseback riding and rock hounding, to explore a federally legislated designation for the 18,000-acre recreation area.
“A designation,” the Stewardship Group said, “will protect (through a Congressional bill) both the spectacular landscape and the various user groups’ access to the Alabama Hills.”
Senator Feinstein’s staff has indicated an interest in carrying the National Scenic Area designation bill, but only if the designation has community support behind it.
In a recent letter to the Stewardship Group, Feinstein said that she would be “happy” to consider legislation for a federal designation for the Alabamas, but “I would first need to hear that this proposal has the support of local elected officials, especially the Inyo County Board of Supervisors.”
Last week, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously (5-0) to continue the county’s support of the federally legislated National Scenic Area designation.
According to the Stewardship Group, an “overwhelming majority of stakeholders and user groups support a designation that promotes (the) area and protects their access and continued use.”
The group also said there is a strong desire by stakeholders and user groups to drive/lead the process “before ‘outside forces’ potentially dictate the future of the Alabama Hills”
According to Stewardship Group member and local business owner Kevin Mazzu, the next step in the designation process is to have Feinstein’s and Cook’s staff officially back the bill and finalize language for the legislation.
From there, the group will work with the county, the BLM and stakeholders to develop a management plan for the Hills and put the legislation to a congressional vote.
If the bill is passed, the management plan will be implemented.
“The AHSG is committed to protecting the jaw-dropping beauty of this area with continued access for hikers, motorists, photographers and rock climbers, while allowing important economic activities like commercial filming, cattle grazing, hunting/fishing and recreation to continue,” the Stewardship Group said. “Balancing all these needs is what makes the Alabama Hills so special to so many people and necessitates its protection.”

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