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STATEMENT OF JOHN TYLER, CHAIRMAN, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
CHAPTER OF THE NATURE CONSERVANCY
Mr. TYLER. The southern California chapter of the Nature Conservancy is opposed to any boundary changes or exclusions of any portion of the San Gorgonio Wilderness to permit commercialized development of the excluded area.
The ink is hardly dry on the signing of the wilderness bill establishing the principle of the importance of the wilderness to the people of this Nation before the despoilers are at work tearing at the heart of nearby San Gorgonio Wilderness. Seven identical bills have been introduced with the “sole” purpose of providing a complete hearing on the matter. Yet this area was one of the most completely discussed areas in the entire wilderness system. Why did there need to be seven?
The proponents wishing to remove the heart of this wilderness say that an equal area outside the present wilderness can be added to the periphery to “replace” the area to be removed. Was it not required to study and determine suitability as to wilderness and include all those areas "suitable?” Did someone err in not including enough at first? Conservationists may well concur that an increase of the periphery would protect the true wilderness with a buffer strip, but to exchange the heart of the wilderness for an edge is nonsense. Because of the noted transition zone, a nearly circular wilderness area is the best shape, a crescent or doughnut shape the poorest, but that is the proposal here. This is as ridiculous as the lumber interests who advocate removing timbered valleys from the forest and replacing the acreage with rock peaks to "keep the balance."
They say that this area is needed for family recreation; namely, downhill skiing, and skiers are being denied. No one has yet prohibited skiing in the wilderness, only that it be on the wilderness terms, no mechanical assists which leave a permanent mark upon the wilder
It is only with this provision that the adventurous skiers can find the exhilarating new snowfield his skis are the first to traverse. Wilderness welcomes the entire family now, the same terms for every
We are a strange people, appreciative but selfish. We find a beautiful area, build our home in the middle to enjoy it better, are then joined by others with similar desires and equal rights until suddenly the original purpose is destroyed, and the only reason for the "city" we have built is to provide for the material wants of one another. We force the farmer from the rich soil of the bottomland, it is easier to build on the flatland. We destroy the fragrant orchards and deplore the smog the green leaves assimilate. We cement our streambeds and deplore the dropping water table; we denude the hills and deplore the muddy streams; dam rivers, flood valleys until they fill with brown silt. We flush our sewage into rivers and deplore the lack of drinking water.
Those who attack the wilderness concept by their advocacy of these bills indicate that they don't understand the wilderness needs, or the act itself because they are not trying to use its provisions for change.
Perhaps they attach for personal gain knowing full well that they have nothing to lose. Conservationists can't invade their domain and create wilderness by the use of bulldozers. Unlike the conservationists, they have only to win once to have won forever.
A scant six generations ago, when this Nation was founded, it was virtually all wilderness. All but 2 percent is gone already. Only the Wilderness Act is a check upon the complete elimination of wilderness within the next generation. It is our good fortune that the present earthmoving machines are only about a generation old or we could be the first generation that received no heritage from our forefathers.
There is a great need for wilderness and developed recreation areas. There is little we can do about wilderness areas, there are so few left, unfortunately, but man's machines can create the conditions for other recreation uses. The rest of the 98 percent is available to the ingenuity of man for this purpose.
It is cheaper—to the developer, that is—to convert a beautiful wilderness area into a recreation development. The rest of us are the losers in wilderness value. It is better to "develop" the less-endowed areas and increase our total of wilderness and recreation areas, a choice in which we all gain.
I urge that we keep intact the spirit of the Wilderness Act as it was intended, and leave the San Gorgonio wilderness with its heart undefiled.
I would also like to discuss some of the comments which have been made today.
May I say that this bill is a blank check; it merely gets the area out of the wilderness so that commercial interests can move in and develop it and nothing more.
The public will continue to ask for more improvement, the commercial interests will bring continually more pressure and we will have a development which we cannot control because we have taken it out of Congress, we have taken it out of the protection of the wilderness bill.
I might indicate that San Jacinto Tramway is just about the same way. One proposal got in and several kept making requests for changes on the economic basis and they are now defunct.
Commercial interests who endorse this bill seem to think we are not going to have any overnight participation, that they will all have to come down off the mountain and stay overnight in their areas, and they are in favor of it.
Commercial interests will not develop any other area near San Gorgonio as long as it is felt that San Gorgonio may be opened up for development, where development might exist.
We must close this door very, very firmly and we do not want commercial interests developing in this area.
It can be developed in the area, but not if they feel that the best area will be opened up after they have made their play:
Most wilderness and recreation needs are increasing with population. Wilderness areas are limited and they will not increase. Recreation can be expanded with the ingenuity of man and his schemes. The wilderness needs increase greatly as popularity and density increases.
It increases at a much more rapid rate than the population itself, and we are not planning for just now, gentlemen; we are planning for the future. The fact that our wilderness is never overused at the present time is just a lucky thing because soon it will be overused. It can only stand so much.
The proponents of downhill skiing—and that is all we seem to be having here-want this area and they point to our Olympic desires. Unfortunately, I think the record shows the only success we have had in Olympics thus far has been in downhill skiing. The crosscountry skiing, we have done nothing and yet San Gorgonio would be an excellent ground for them to use.
There is nothing that says that the ski groups, like the hiking groups, can't find excursions into the wilderness for skiing if they so desire. The wilderness protected area for all cannot be replaced. We cannot reverse our decision here. I think we should stay within the precepts of the wilderness bill and keep it as it is today. Mr. BARING. Thank you, sir.
THE NATURE CONSERVANCY,
November 29, 1965.
GENTLEMEN : As time to speak orally was limited at the field hearings on November 16 in San Bernardino to two minutes, I request that the following statement be added to my oral remarks and formal statement at that hearing.
I called these bills a blank check, and indeed they are. Thirty five hundred acres from the choicest portion of the San Gorgonio Wilderness is to be removed from the wilderness "whichever may be found most suitable for 'family winter recreational use' by the Sec. of Agriculture.” This term is not defined or re stricted. This area most deservedly entitled to this most restrictive, protective classification is suddenly stripped of any protection of the Act, the Congress, or the people for a use termed family winter recreation. Only the mechanical ski-lift and parking lots, food & lodging accommodations associated with them are not now permissive for the area in question. For down-hill's excercise eliminating ski-lift we must give up all other values.
This land to be set aside is not governed by any restrictive clauses, classifications whatsoever except the commercial cries of "protection of the investment”, "necessary to induce customers to come", "essential to accommodate those who do come", "economic feasibility”, “Public convenience”, etc. in a vicious circle of exploitation. It is only because the 'fast buck artist will not use restraint and consider the needs & desires of others that we need a Wilderness Act.
The proponents have discussed no other ‘family winter recreation other than downhill skiing. Some have been willing to settle for a left here, or a lift there, others want several but the Bill provides that the Secretary of Agriculture shall set aside the area he finds most suitable for winter recreational use and develop ment & installation of facilities. No mention is made of attempting to preserve the wilderness or 'natural conditions of the area—anything goes. Only the acreage is limited, not even it's shape which could string out into a vast area.
Again the proponents were divided whether parking needed to be inside or could be outside the wilderness area. Once the area is declassified, parking in the central area will be technically 'outside the wilderness'. Once there is a facility attracting many people, the parking will be nearby. People won't even walk the two blocks to the super-market anymore. They object to climbing up before skiing (coasting) down which is the motivation to provide a ski-lift.
The parking lot, besides being incompatible with the esthetics of a wilderness area experience will shortly become a more real threat. The unique north slope characteristics the skier prizes are the results of torrential thunderstorms of this region. The parking lot eliminating the important absorption of its area will turn it into concentrated runoff with devastating effects. To counteract this will require more of the works of man to be evident.
They speak of running the ski-lifts only in the winter and closing off the road so a rugged summer wilderness experience will be possible. The laws of eco
nomics says this won't happen for long. Ski lift operators will require fat fees and plenty of persons per peak days which means ample parking and fringe benefit inducements to come here for the day etc. They say that there won't be any overnight accommodations etc. All this is mere words-none of it is in the bill, or do they propose to put it in the bill. When YOU start filling in the figures on the blank check, it soon becomes apparent how great is the real cost they have hidden by mere omission in the bill.
They speak of the multiple use concept, and distort the true meaning. It is many different uses, some exclusive, some shared, if they are compatible, in a large area, NOT many uses of each small area. Wilderness is compatible with other uses, including all but the mechanical ski-lift of family winter recreation. We should not be so concerned with using every area to its full capacity now. Our exploding population will bring this to pass soon enough. We should concern ourselves with allowing the future generations to choose their needs for the land, not in making irrevocable decisions for them. You can change wilderness to other types but not create it if destroyed.
Conservationists have been asked to 'get together with the skiers' and work out a compromise. The householder does not tell the burglar how he can be robbed with impunity. We do ask you, the legislators not to take this area out of your control without a firm plan for its development and use, without ample safeguards for protection of the existing wilderness values. We believe that if you see the Whole 'economically feasible' plan, not a mere 'start, plan the exploiters have for this area, you will once again reject it. Their whole plan for success this time seems to be not to make any promises, have no qualification in the bill, but merely to get the area out of your hands, out of its present Wilderness Act protection. Only the words IN the law are legal, not the oral promises or visions.
In order to protect an area, one must control the watershed, which the present Wilderness boundary does—all the way to the top as it should. Mis-use or abuse at the top will affect the areas below. These steeper slopes are naturally more erosion prone. Man-made scars will be widely visible as well as destructive above and below. It is fantastic how the geological, meteorological, ecological guides are ignored by the promotor-builder. It is the public, their 'suckers', who cry loudly for help when the 'rare storm' produces another gully-washer where it has had so many before, as happened just last week in nearby Palm Springs and Palm Desert which were cut in two by the raging waters. The signs are there to see in San Gorgonio, don't ignore them on the hope that it won't happen—it has and will again and again.
We urge that all these bills be set aside for lack of merit as well as the precedent they might set, if enacted, in circumventing the procedure for change incorporated in the Act.
This Wilderness Act has already shown the World that we recognize other values besides the dollar sign, Emerging Nations are trying to emulate us. This will have a stimulating effect to efforts to preserve other areas of natural wonder, beauty throughout the world most of us have only heard about. If we haul up the dollar flag so soon, much of this impact will be lost. Let us keep our new image and the Wilderness to which we owe our greatness as a Nation. Sincerely,
JOHN TYLER, Chairman. Mr. BARING. Next witness, I believe that will be Dr. Vogl.
STATEMENT OF DR. RICHARD J. VOGL, PLANT BIOLOGIST, ASSIST
ANT PROFESSOR OF BOTANY, CALIFORNIA STATE COLLEGE AT LOS ANGELES
Dr. Vogl. Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of this subcommittee, I am Dr. Richard J. Vogl, plant ecologist at the California State College at Los Angeles.
I would like to say first of all that I am not a hiker, I am not a nature boy, and I am not a Boy Scout. I am not a skier, and I am not an adventure boy.
What I am is a researcher No.1 in time, in plant ecology; and, No. 2, I am an educator. I have a bachelor's and master's degree in science. I am not an evaluator of people's esthetic values. As far as most people are concerned, what they feel is esthetic and what I feel is esthetic are two different things. This is not an issue here.
Most people feel that Tiki-torches in front of a nightclub, that is esthetic.
What we are really doing is changing this whole country into one big armpit, as far as I can see. The real thing is and the whole strength of our country is our educational system and our scientists and technological advances, and in that realm of science, there is a whole group of scientists that need outdoor laboratories to research. We have just started to use them. We have just started to see the importance of them. We are building indoor laboratories, indoor classrooms, like crazy; as fast as they can pour concrete, we are building laboratories, but we cannot build any more. We cannot recreate outdoor laboratories.
Let me give you an example of the importance of this: I happened to be connected at one time with the University of Wisconsin. They are doing a continual briefing program. They want bigger and better potatoes along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Every time they get in trouble with potatoes, they say they have too many scabs on them or they have too many grubs or they are not strong enough or the frost killed them, they go look for a new genetic variety; they go look for new potatoes.
You know where they go? They go to the High Andes. Suppose when you got to the High Andes there was a parking lot there where the wild potatoes were, or there is a go-cart there, or there is a pizza stand, or there is a ski-lodge, or a ski resort? What would they do for bigger and better potatoes?' They would say, "Oh, to hell potatoes.
Now, what would Congress say about that, huh? Now, you say compromise, that we should compromise, that they have two sides. The scientist has already compromised. He is letting millions of slobs in every day on foot; and the scientists say that no one should be in there, that that should be reserved for research, and we are finally forced to compromise to let people in there. But now you want to ruin it all, spoil it; you have to let it remain undisturbed to compare it. Biology, agriculture, physics, chemistry, all of these fields finally have to go to the outdoor laboratory; because, you see, we are all animals and we all live in an environment and no matter how thick the walls or how spiritual or how thick-skinned we are, sooner or later we have got to face the environment. We need to know more and more about that. This is where the strength of our country lies.
I ask a few questions in summary here. What you would find in science now, how about tomorrow?
No. 2, what is more important: USC first in downhill skiing and the Olympics; or USC first in agriculture and science ?
Thank you very much. [Applause.]
Mr. HOSMER. Before you go away, Dr. Vogl, assuming everything you said is good in principle, how does it apply to this particular matter?
Dr. Vogl. Sir, one of the things you have been saying is that we have a problem here, we need this area for skiing, and why not go to the next hill?