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when there are no tows available for climbing back up, let me point to the success of just such a system in Tuckerman's Ravine in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Thousands of people during the months of May and June hike up to the ravine and then climb part way up the walls in order to ski down. The only facility which is at the lower end of the ravine is an Appalachian mountain club hut. Most of the skiers pitch tents in the snow. In the
existence of wilderness there exists the potential for development, but in development there never exists the potential for wilderness.
Wilderness is the absence of man and his manipulation of environment. It is only necessary to have stood in virgin forest to feel and know the difference between it and the second growth forests with which most of us are more familiar. The wilderness can be cut and bulldozed in a few weeks or months into a highway and parking lot or ski trails, but it requires many generations for a parking lot to return to wilderness. The growth and development of a mature forest is an exceedingly complex process which scientists are only now beginning to understand.
In addition to offering the kinds of skiing already mentioned, San Gorgonio performs a number of other important functions. In the words of the National Forest Service brochure, it was established "to provide present and future visitors an opportunity to observe, study, and enjoy a unique scenic portion of southern California's 'high mountain country as it was at the time of the pioneers.” Anyone who has been there knows that it fulfills this function magnificently. In keeping with this goal, the area also serves as one of the last outposts for wildlife such as the bighorn sheep and other animals which are rapidly disappearing from southern California.
Since the San Gorgonio wilderness consists essentially of summits and high slopes, it is possible to preserve this area in a more primitive and natural state than is possible for regions of lower elevation into which manmade contamination can flow. This latter factor also serves to insure that the water for which these mountains serve as source will be free from pollution. The development of skiing would add pollutants to this source from the extensive restroom facilities necessary to accommodate thousands of skiers.
The proposed location of the winter sports development presents a basic conflict with the very principles of wilderness preservation. The actual area will encompass only about 10 percent of the total San Gorgonio wilderness; yet its presence will affect an area several times that. To illustrate my point, let me remind you of the size and shape of the area we are considering; The area covers about 35,000 acres, and is roughly the shape of an elongated football. It is something less than 20 miles long and about 8 miles wide at its widest point. The distance across the middle by trail is only 11 to 12 miles—from Poopout Hill via trail 1E05 to South Fork Meadows, 1E04 to Dollar Lake Saddle, and 1E07 to the road near Big Pines—which to a hiker means a 1-day hike. The central location proposed for the winter sports area would require access and development that would cut more than a third of the way across the width of San Gorgonio with a resulting decrease in the time necessary to cross it on foot. As persons familiar with the outdoors know, such increased ease of access by automobile into the heart of a wilderness rapidly destroys its wild character and encourages development. This access and development further decreases the wilderness value of San Gorgonia by cutting the long dimension in half. In effect this reduces the wilderness to two smaller separated areas. The presence of ski facilities will also be felt over a wide area because of the nature of the topography of this region. Many of the major trails, including that to the summit of Mount San Gorgonio, either traverse the proposed ski area or are on the ridges above it. To climb to these ridges only to gaze down on ski lifts and snackbars, a highway with traffic, powerlines, and a huge parking lot would be a disappointment to say the least. The presence of the ski area on only 10 percent of the San Gorgonio wilderness would, in fact, adversely affect much more.
An additional factor of even greater importance is the problem of future growth and development of this ski area. Surely the developers and investors will not wish to see their investment lie idle during the offseason. Year-round recreation will become the cry, as it has in many places, with an increased demand for additional nonski facilities and possibly eventually even “rides to the top.” Development breeds on itself, and if successful there is no reason why development should stop at 3,500 acres. I know of few areas where it has. If the demand for development were at one end of the wilderness area, it might be possible to accommodate it and annex additional acres somewhere else. Coming where it does, no amount of additional acres can replace either the features of the area proposed for development or the value of the present unbroken block of virgin wilderness.
THE NEED FOR RETAINING SAN GORGONIO WILDERNESS
Having discussed the impact of developed ski facilities on the San Gorgonio wilderness, let me now discuss the significance and importance of retaining this region in its present state. On the national level, the establishment of wilderness areas and wild rivers is part of the program of diversified use of natural areas by the public. For example, our national parks are living museums to which we can go to see and learn about the natural wonders of our Nation. The national forests help us to better utilize our natural resources. National seashores and national recreation areas provide places for boating, swimming, and skiing. We have now set aside portions of the wilderness so as to insure to our people at least a vestige of their inheritance of a wilderness continent. Like our national parks and seashore, these regions are set aside for all future generations.
Within the San Bernadino Mountains a remarkable diversity of outdoor recreational facilities is available. The lakes such as Arrowhead and Big Bear have been developed publicly and privately for water sports and_vacations. Ski areas here and in the adjacent Angeles National Forest have been developed on private and national forest land in order to provide winter recreation. The wilderness mountains, meadows, and streams of San Gorgonio with their four seasons offer southern Californians a chance to enjoy and appreciate the natural world from which our technical civilization so effectively insulates us. The close proximity of the San Bernardino Mountains to a large population center gives many people access to these activities in a 1-day outing. To destroy this wilderness by present and inevitable future development would remove from the Los Angeles area
the last region of undeveloped high country that is readily accessible. Our lawmakers established different types of areas for different purposes because they knew that not all uses of a given area were compatible. I think that their wisdom is well demonstrated in the case of San Gorgonio. We have skiing or wilderness, but not both.
The pressure of numbers on our wilderness is already being felt in San Gorgonio and elsewhere. It has been necessary to impose restrictions on the use of these wildernesses in order to prevent their destruction by the many who use them. As our population continues to concentrate in urban and suburban centers, there will be an even greater need to get away from the crowds. I do not feel that fighting a traffic jam into and out of a San Gorgonio parking lot, or waiting in a lift line for an hour with hundreds of others provides relief from weekday congestion. The pressure will get worse with more people and fewer undeveloped areas. Since we will not be able to create new wilderness in the way we can create new ski areas, the wilderness must be set aside now.
The current proposal to open San Gorgonio to development is neither the first nor will it probably be the last. The wilderness status of this region is preserved only by law, and laws can be repealed. Fortunately, the status of our national parks has not been threatened in this way. I hope that once the newness of our wilderness system wears off, it too will not face further challenges.
I was unable to face the first challenge to San Gorgonio in 1937 because I was not yet born. I am grateful to those who faced it for me. Now it is my turn to act on my own behalf; after all, I will be but 62 years old in the year 2000, and plan to be still hiking then, just as I see persons of that age hiking in San Gorgonio now. I am also testifying today so that my children and grandchildren might accompany me there. The developers wish to provide a family recreation area in San Gorgonio. There is already one. Families with teenagers and young children, even with babies packed on their backs, young married couples, and fathers with Scout and youth groups. I have seen them all at San Gorgonio.
Why, when other areas are available for skiing developments, must we destroy the last wilderness? There is surely room for both in the San Bernardino Mountains. Let us build new ski areas on other mountains which have already seen some development. Ski areas can be created by technology and their season extended by the use of such technological advances as snow machines. Unfortunately, we have no technology for the creation and extension of virgin wilderness.
Thank you very much, gentlemen. Mr. BARING. Thank you, sir. Now, our next speaker, Mr. George Peters.
STATEMENT OF GEORGE PETERS Mr. PETERS. Mr. Chairman and subcommittee members, I am a senior design engineer in the aerospace industry. I wish to enter the following statements in the record on any attempts to negate previous proposals on the House floor which soundly defeated attempts to commercialize the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area in southern California.
This area encompasses the highest peak in southern California and has had the distinction of becoming one of the targets of the commercial ski interests who desire to place a complex of ski lifts, roads, buildings, and concessions in this wilderness area.
Present attempts to override previous attempts to gain access to this area now take the subterfuge euphemism “family winter recreation." It would appear that this will be utilized to make an opening wedge for the later commercialized type family activity.
My family and I use this area for hiking and backpacking many times when short weekends do not permit us to "escape” from the mad confusion of the Los Angeles smog basin. As an aerospace engineer, I find a constant requirement to get away to the quiet serenity of our rapidly diminishing forests and mountain areas. These breaks give one the renewals to tackle those difficult challenges of the week with new enthusiasm. The near proximity of the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area for the many similar people within the Los Angeles area demands that it be maintained. As a father of two practically grown youngsters, I often reflect on the conditions I witnessed in North Africa during World War II—the invasions of man through the centuries gradually turned those areas into desolation—what will we leave of our natural heritage?
Spasmodic snowfall quantities in the San Gorgonio area leave much to be desired for anything but small family-type winter recreation, where a family can hike into the area for a few hours of fun and then leave without despoiling the area.
I hope to be on the trails in the area during the weekend when some of your members will make their field inspections. I sincerely hope I may meet some of them to talk over why the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area must be maintained. There are no equivalent trades for this marvelous peak and its environs.
I would like to offer a map showing elevation comparisons.
Mr. BARING. That map will be placed into the file, not in the record but in the file.
Mr. PETERS. Thank you, sir.
If a couple of million people could go up there and get some inner satisfaction from skiing around those hills, is that not for the greater good than a few thousand going up there and doing the same thing, going into ecologically virgin area?
Mr. PETERS. I agree, it should be opened, but not by roadways, tramways, and this type equipment.
The skiing is available, snow play is available, and I would like also to cite the Dyal bill as I understand it.
Mr. HOSMER. Well, they will go in any way they want to go in; you cannot argue with the Dyal bill. If they want to go in on a ski lift, they are going in on a ski lift; they may not be overland skiers.
They apparently get some inner satisfaction from that also—they are people too.
Mr. PETERS. I take opposition to this in this area. I think there are enough commercial-type ski activities and winter recreational activities now that are not fully used to capacity, and I think they could use those without opening this wilderness area.
Mr. HOSMER. Your basic opposition to it is that it is not needed ?
Mr. HOSMER. As far as the equities between the skiers and the hikers are concerned, you will grant that the equities are essentially even?
Mr. PETERS. I believe they are equal, and I think it should be kept equal on a wilderness basis, on a wilderness area basis and protected as such.
Mr. HOSMER. Thank you, sir.
Mr. TAYLOR. Mr. Chairman, if I come tomorrow, may I have a little more time? Mr. BARING. We will try to give you more time tomorrow,
sir. Mr. TAYLOR. Then, I will defer until tomorrow. Mr. BARING. Very well.
Our next group will be Michael Ruiz, Bill Solberg, and Clinton Schonberger.
STATEMENT OF MICHAEL RUIZ
Mr. Ruiz. My name is Michael Ruiz and I attend Fremont High School in southern Los Angeles.
I was a counselor at some of the camps up in San Gorgonio. We took kids up there ranging in age from 8 to 11 to our first camp. These kids had never, most of them anyway, had never been in the mountains at all. They told me after their experience up there that they had a great time and they wished they could do it again, and I believe that we should try to keep this thing going.
But I don't think that a ski lift up there is going to give them the same excitement they had this year.
We would take them up overnight into Slushy Meadow; we would take them horseback riding and things like this. The kids liked this sort of thing because it is kind of rough for them, it was hard, because they were younger kids.
The older people, I guess, had just as much fun, too.
But I am thinking of boys like the ones in my area that I supervise. They are younger than I am and they are considered juvenile delinquents.
I was thinking about, at my own expense, taking them up there next year, but it is not going to look the same with a ski resort there; it is just not the way I had it planned.
My boys had never been up in the mountains before in their lives.
I think that this wilderness area should stay as it is, it should remain the same.
Mr. BARING. Now, there are several people living in big cities who have never seen a cow. Would you do away with all cows, just so they could go out into the country and see the country barren?
Mr. Ruiz. I am not saying that; my boys have seen ski lifts on television, but they have never experienced them.