Wilderness bill draws spirited oppositionBy CHRIS COUNTS
Published: May 27, 2011
AN ANONYMOUS new website apparently created by a very well informed Big Sur activist is taking aim at U.S. Rep. Sam Farr proposed Big Sur forest bill, claiming it “threatens lives, homes and communities,” according to the site (www.farrsbill.weebly.com).
With Farr scheduled to meet Big Sur residents June 18 at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park to discuss the bill, the launching of the website is certain to stir up debate.
The bill, H.R. 4040 or the Big Sur Management Unit Act, would expand the Ventana Wilderness by 2,287 acres. But some Big Sur residents argue that expansions of wilderness areas, where heavy equipment is prohibited, make it harder to maintain firebreaks, and that previous wilderness designations have put communities at risk.
The anonymous web site creator agrees: “During the 2008 Basin Complex Fire there were delays obtaining authorization to use heavy equipment in wilderness areas, including in some of the new 2002 wilderness additions,” the website says. “Congressman Farr denies that this happened. However, it has now been confirmed by fire officials that substantial delays occurred.”
The website solicits comments by email, but whoever is running it did not respond to a request by The Pine Cone to show evidence of that confirmation.
Like many Big Sur residents, the web author also argues that the federal government should not be buying land in Big Sur outside of existing forest boundaries. But he says Farr’s bill will create more land deals outside those boundaries.
“The effect of the bill would be to enable appropriations bills to continue funding Forest Service acquisitions of private land outside the boundaries of the Los Padres National Forest,” the website says.
The author would also like to see the bill amended to help provide a remedy to one of Big Sur’s most pressing issues workforce housing.
“Provide in the bill that the Forest Service is authorized to donate, sell and lease land for use as affordable workforce housing sites in the Big Sur area,” the author suggests. “This would not require the Forest Service to provide land, or to build affordable housing. It would however enable the Forest Service to readily provide land for affordable workforce housing wherever that would be desirable.”
These comments represent only a small fraction of the criticisms, insights and suggestions offered by the anonymous author on the website. Also included is an extensive history of the land use debate in Big Sur.
The author is clearly someone who has great familiarity with both the interworkings government and the politics of land use in Big Sur, and is likely a familiar face at local government meetings. But he wants to keep his name a secret.
“In the tradition of anonymous political commentary, the web master chooses to remain anonymous,” the site says.
Congressman Farr’s office did not offer a comment on the web site. While expansion of the wilderness is one of his bill’s most important provisions, it would also divide Los Padres National Forest in two, giving the portion that’s in Monterey County its own funding source and management. And it would designate portions of five local rivers (Arroyo Seco River, Big Creek, Carmel River, San Antonio River and San Carpoforo Creek) as National Wild and Scenic Rivers.