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Though the need for San Gorgonio Wilderness is by some assessed by the numbers using it, these numbers are meaningless and provide no reason for holding it as wilderness.
If you are to satisfy our needs on an intensity of use basis, then this area should be removed from wilderness status; indeed this being the criteria, there is no justification in my opinion for any wilderness.
However, I feel that you will satisfy our needs on a basis of what these needs are. Certainly there are among us many that need a San Gorgonio Wilderness. Wilderness is recognized as having many values which are recorded in magnificent style. In a strict personal sense, I treasure wilderness as a place to hike, cloud-watch, be alone, bird watch, relax, enjoy a camp fire, a place to enjoy vicariously, etc.
San Gorgonio has repeatedly passed the test required of wilderness territory. San Gorgonio has served a need, is serving a need, and can continue to serve a need for wilderness in this area. Wilderness by all standards is recognized as being presently in short supply with the shortage increasing.
As it was urgent, in my opinion, to enact the Wilderness Act to permit preservation of the little remaining wilderness it is urgent to retain as an entity the San Gorgonio Wilderness.
There exists in the legislative, proposals designed to permit development of the Dry Lake area and adjoining slopes so I understand a requirement that the Secretary of Agriculture shall add lands adjacent to the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area with an area of at least 3,500 acres on removal of the 3,500 acres designated for development for "family winter recreational use."
Gentlemen, if there exists lands suitable in character for inclusion in the Wilderness System adjacent to the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area, they should be added as soon as possible. Our Nation's need for wilderness is crucial and the need for wilderness in California is critical.
Please note there are no lands adjacent to San Gorgonio of a character so as to properly replace Dry Lake and an acre is not an acre is not an acre. I am sure you sense I regard the necessity for justifying the need for wilderness as ludicrous as its need has been well justified by no less a body than the Congress of the United States of America.
Following are a few points serving to illustrate the reason for supporting a continuance of the wilderness status of the present San Gorgonio Wilderness: 1. It is readily accessible to a region that conservatively estimated as having 30,000,000 inhabitants in our time.
2. It provides a readily accessible area for wilderness recreation to a surrounding area with many organizational youth camps (Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, church groups, etc.).
3. San Gorgonio has a use density now that is well in excess of the national average.
4. San Gorgonio combines the highest peak in Southern California with a wilderness area.
5. The proposed development will necessitate roads and structures that can only contribute to the destruction of the wilderness value of the San Gorgonio Wilderness.
6. Presently the San Gorgonio Wilderness shelters significant wildlife which will be grossly disturbed by any ski development.
7. The present San Gorgonio Wilderness Area has a reasonably unified boundary. The Gerrymandered configuration that would result from the proposed ski interest consideration would effectively destroy this.
8. San Gorgonio has repeatedly passed the test for wilderness areas.
9. The San Gorgonio Wilderness Area should be expanded if suitable contiguous land is available.
Our national need for wilderness is critical. Indeed all land that we view was but a short time ago wilderness in character but our growth pattern has reduced our wilderness reserve to a dangerously low level. Let us act swiftly and affirmatively to conserve what little wilderness we have.
Failure to act in this manner will ultimately present us with the more costly and perhaps impossible task of restoring wilderness areas.
In closing I urge you at this time to take steps to conserve this small but significant element of our nation's once great wilderness heritage.
I respectfully request my views be incorporated into the official hearing record regarding the status of the San Gorgonio Wilderness.
LYLE A. TAYLOR.
Hon. WALTER BARING,
Chairman, Public Lands Committee.
LUCERNE VALLEY LEADER, Lucerne Valley, Calif., November 16, 1965.
DEAR SIR: As publisher of a newspaper in a community on one of the main highways used by skiers traveling to the mountain areas, it is my opinion that opening San Gorgonio to skiing would be of great economic benefit to our valley.
And what is more important, it would allow our citizens another outlet for their camping and skiing recreation.
May I respectfully submit that this letter be included in the official report of the hearings.
JOHN HUDSON, Publisher.
RIVERSIDE, CALIF., November 8, 1965.
PUBLIC LANDS SUBCOMMITTEE,
House of Representatives,
Longworth House Office Building,
GENTLEMEN: Before me are the four parts of the hearings before the Subcommittee on Public Lands, 88th Congress, Walter Baring, Nevada, Chairman. These hearings comprise, with inclusions, 1394 pages. Also on my desk are the copies of the Congressional Record of April 8-9, 1963, which contain statements in the House and Senate concerning the Saylor, Dominick and S-4 Wilderness Bills. Finally, I have a copy of the Congressional Record of July 30, 1964, containing the debate, voting and passage of the Wilderness Bill of 1964. In spite of all this great effort to provide a fair and strong preservation of the last remaining wilderness in our nation today, we are again faced with commercial interests who will spend millions and waste our time, and yours, to prostitute these last areas for their own profit. These persons, who are now masquerading their efforts under the poorly disguised name "to provide family recreation," have threatened to "get the San Gorgonio" at any cost.
Today and throughout the year there are thousands of families enjoying recreation in the last remaining untainted wilderness of Southern California. No development is needed for true family recreation, for hiking, for camping, for backpacking, for ski touring. This nation is growing so fast that we must preserve this wilderness area intact. Should this proposed amendment be passed by the Committee and then by the Congress, it would seriously weaken the Wilderness Bill which was nearly ten years in the making. That bill was strongly supported by President Kennedy and President Johnson, both of whom considered it one of the most important pieces of legislation of our time.
Mr. John Saylor, Pennsylvania, made the point in his introduction during the debate on the Wilderness Bill, that lost wilderness is not something which can be reversed should we change our minds later. This is not a construction mistake that can be changed by consultation with an architect or engineer. Once the wilderness is gone, it is lost forever. Man does not create wilderness, he only destroys it; only God can create something so fragile as this.
I urge all members of this Subcommittee to obtain and read the debate on the Wilderness Bill of 1964. Note particularly the point that if one crippling amendment is made to this bill, it will set a precedent which will undermine the whole bill and lead to the loss of many other areas which we thought were preserved for the nation. Note the words of Mr. Fogarty, page 16863 of the Congressional Record just cited: "I call attention to the fact that while this version of the Wilderness Bill includes the wild, wilderness and boundary waters canoe area in the wilderness system on the effective day of the act, the existing San Gorgonio Wild Area, established many years ago, is specifically excluded at this time from the wilderness system.
"Now, this is not only unreasonable, it would be a dangerous precedent. We would be saying that we are only giving lipservice to the creation and protection of these dedicated areas that anytime the pressures are strong enough we would back away and let the wilderness be dismembered."
Following those remarks are several pages of debate, including testimony on the history of the San Gorgonio Area. It has been studied and restudied no less than four times since it was first set aside in 1931. Each time the con
clusion was that wilderness was the best use. Yet here you gentlemen are a fifth time saying that it should be reconsidered. Behind all this effort there must be a tremendous amount of money and profit involved. Are we to see the Wilderness Bill killed here by profit for a few at the expense of the public? Were those of you who have been members of Congress during the previous sessions paying "lipservice" to your trust to the public good? If you recommend that the San Gorgonio be opened, you will cut a loophole in the entire Wilderness Bill which can never be plugged.
Once again I urge you to obtain and read the Congressional Record of July 30, 1964. The portion on the Wilderness Bill should be your guide in this matter, for the arguments to prseerve it still hold true at this time—a year and five months later. Each day there is more pollution, more waste, more lost opportunity. Gentlemen, let us preserve what remains. There will never be any more than exists today.
RICHARD E. PANZER.
LONG BEACH COUNCIL OF CAMP FIRE GIRLS, INC.,
CONGRESSMAN WALTER S. BARING,
Chairman, Subcommittee on Public Lands,
GENTLEMEN: I am speaking for the Long Beach Council of Camp Fire Girls, which serves over 6700 girls, men, and women in Long Beach, Lakewood, Dominguez, Signal Hill, Hawaiian Gardens, Dairy Valley, and Artesia. During each of the past four years, the adults in our Council have voted to inform our Congressman, the Honorable Craig Hosmer, that we are opposed to the development of roads and structures in the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area. I can also speak as one who is very familiar with the area, because during the past seven years my husband and I have hiked on every trail within its boundaries plus most of those on the fringe. We have also explored the desert lands in the vicinity of Mission Creek and the North Fork of the Whitewater, as well as the wooded areas at the base of the Big Draw on the north slope of Gorgonio. Our Camp Fire Council owns a resident camp near Green Valley Lake. But inasmuch as the San Bernardino Mountains are crowded with camps and cabins from Arrowhead to Big Bear, we transport our teenage campers to the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area in order to give them the experience of hiking away from civilization for periods of two to four days. Why do we feel that this activity is a very valuable one?
First, the wilderness is an integral part of our American Heritage. Only by living in the wilds-even for a few days-can today's citybred students really come to appreciate the tremendous accomplishments of our ancestors who trekked across this continent.
Second, the value of the wilderness to refresh body and spirit has been recognized since Biblical times. Closely confined by a complex civilization, we have begun to develop a recognition of the necessity of preserving a few islands relatively free from the touch of man.
Third, almost conversely, the girls learn to appreciate the comforts of civilization, which they have always taken for granted. For example, after a week in the back-country, they become quite certain that the greatest achievement of mankind was the invention of a simple table and chair.
Fourth, a group which undertakes a backpack hike becomes welded together in the finest example of a unit of democracy. Each girl must accept responsibility. in order to make the trip a success. She carries not only her own equipment but also her share of what is necessary for the common good. She arranges her own sleeping spot, but she also performs some of the general tasks of fire-building, cooking, and clean-up. Differences of race, religion, color, or wealth are of no importance on the trail. Instead, a girl learns that each citizen has a contribution to make to the welfare of the group.
Fifth, there is the challenge of attempting a different and difficult activity. After hiking for a week in the wilderness, one of our seniors wrote that, "Sometimes you have to put yourself to a test so that you will learn how great your physical and spiritual resources really are." A long trek requires both stamina
and courage. But the greater the challenge, the greater the feeling of accomplishment and self-confidence at the successful completion of the mission. To climb Southern California's highest mountain provides a thrill which cannot be matched by any experience in the city.
Sixth, we take the girls backpacking in order to introduce them to a sport which can be a major recreational activity for them during most of their adult lives. And this brings us to the point which I wish to stress most strongly.
The highest possible use for the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area is indeed for family recreation, but the type of recreation for which it is uniquely suited is hiking and wilderness camping. The other mountains in Southern California are liberaly sprinkled with cabins and resorts for those who wish to take their children up for a picnic or a day in the snow. But San Gorgonio is the only untouched area remaining for those who wish to take their children wilderness camping during the dry seasons. It is essential that we preserve the Dry Lake basin for this purpose because Slushy Meadow and Dollar Lake are over used. Dry Lake will be the hub of a series of trails now staked out by the Forest Service, not only to North Fork Meadow and up the southeast shoulder of Gorgonio but also to the Fish Creek canyon. The State of California is planning to develop family recreation and picnic areas in the Heart Bar and Fish Creek regions. So, when all these developments are completed, San Bernardino County will have the finest network of trails this side of the High Sierra. However, a road and a parking lot at Dry Lake right in the center of this network would destroy the aesthetic and ecological values of the area. And, what would we have in exchange but another resort with really not very much to offer the person who can remain for only a day. The Dry Lake basin is above nine thousand feet in elevation. Most persons who live near sea level cannot engage in strenuous activity at that altitude without allowing days for acclimatization. Dry Lake is even higher than Mountain Station on the San Jacinto tram; yet, the man in charge of First Aid there has found it necessary to administer oxygen to many persons who merely ride up the tram and do not even attempt to engage in any activity. Furthermore, it appears that there has been some exaggeration of the amount of snow available on Gorgonio.
For example, in November, 1963, I accompanied some girls to above the 10,000 foot level on the northeast slope in the vicinity of the Big Draw. Even our lug soles didn't prevent us from slipping on the thin layer of ice which covered the ground in the shady areas under the trees. There was certainly no snow on the mountain. Yet that very day we read in the Los Angeles Times a long article decrying the fact that a handful of conservationists could deprive the local skiers of the opportunity to use the fresh powder which they said was at that time decorating the very area in which we had hiked. Let's face it: San Gorgonio is not Mammoth!
It is true that a large proportion of the local hikers are members of the youth character-building organizations. But these youngsters are acquiring skills and mountain manners which they can use at many other times and places. In all the families whom we have encountered in the back-country, there has been at least one member who was introduced to the sport through one of the youth groups. So it was in our family. My husband accompanied our son's Scout troop on their expeditions to Mt. San Gorgonio; so our daughter and the teenagers in our Camp Fire Girls group talked me into making a similar climb. Thus, at the age of 43, I became a backpacker, and I shall always be grateful to the girls for opening this new world to me. Hiking is really the only sport in which I can participate, because an attack of polio in 1949 left my shoulders too weak for any activity which requires arm motion. It has been said that only the strong and youthful are able to enjoy the wilderness area, but it was on these trails that I regained the use of my legs. Similarly, by husband is barred by arthritis from any sport which requires the hands to grip an object. Our family vacations during the past six years have all involved backpacking trips-in San Gorgonio Wilderness Area, the High Sierra, the North Cascades, and the Tetons. Since our son and daughter both attend college during the school year and work during the summer, the only family recreational activity which we have shared during the past year was a backpack trek in the shadow of the Grand Teton-there just aren't too many activities which teenagers enjoy sharing with their parents, but hiking can be one of them. Wherever we have travelled, we have met families who have maintained their solidarity
through this activity. There was, for example, one family with four youngsters ranging from 4 to 16. The first grader was a short little fellow, but he was walking ten feet tall because he was carrying a pack the same size as those worn by his big brother. His mother confided that it was stuffed with popcorn and potato chips. Then, last summer after hiking all afternoon in the rain, some of our teenage Camp Fire Girls and I reached our destination as darkness was falling. We were resigned to munching a cold supper because there was no dry wood in the area. But we had scarcely begun to string our tube-tents when a young couple camped nearby with four boys came over to give us enough dry wood to cook dinner. On another occasion when some of our seniors became altitude-sick on a climb up Mt. Whitney, a family of backpackers not only carried their packs but also started a fire for them. It is interesting to note that the seniors who have taken our annual High Sierra treks have all exclaimed about the glorious scenery-true; but they have been even more impressed by the friendliness and helpfulness and the integrity of the families whom they have met. Where else in this state could you leave your camera and wallet in your campsite and know that they will still be there when you return? High school students appear to develop a touch of cynicism about the adult world, but those who take the High Country hikes return with their faith in human nature restored.
The experience which to me best illustrates the ideal of family recreation took place three Septembers ago in the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area. We had hiked past Slushy Meadow and Dollar Lake because they were much too crowded and had proceeded to High Meadow Spring. This is a tiny campsite at the 10,400 foot level with a pocket-size meadow and so little level ground that I felt like tying my sleeping-bag to the tree to prevent my rolling down the mountain into Forest Home. Five families were represented there that night, and we shared the single fire-pit. There was a five-year old boy and a 55-year old grandmother, with assorted teenagers and adults in between. Their homes ranged from San Diego to Santa Barbara. All had come to San Gorgonio in search of the unique experience which only this mountain can still provide.
So you see that families from all over South California recognize that the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area in its present state is already the finest site for the most wholesome kind of family recreation.
When you stand high on the mountain, you can look out over the brownish gray pall which is smothering the coastal plain. Then as you direct your gaze northward toward Big Bear, you are alarmed to see that the smog is beginning to fill the valley of the Santa Ana River up to the 5,000 or even the 6,000 foot level. Gentlemen, please preserve this one small sanctuary safe from cars so that our children will know the experience of viewing clear blue skies and the stars.
Mrs. JOHN W. GERHART, President.
Congressman WALTER S. BARING,
LONG BEACH, CALIF., November 15, 1965.
Chairman, Subcommittee on Public Lands,
DEAR SIR: As a member of the Long Beach Council of Camp Fire Girls for the past ten years I have enjoyed group camping and hiking very much. In my eight years of camping experience I have hiked in the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area many times. I get a great deal of satisfaction out of seeing the wilderness just as God made it without man's invasion. I enjoy meditating upon a high mountain, looking out on a hillside of pines and firs. How can one enjoy such beauty with a large parking lot or pieces of machinery in the way?
Bit by bit, the wilderness for me and others like me is being taken away. Why can't there be a place for people to visit to get away from the mad rush of the city life and the pressures of industrialization? Soon there will be none, if commercialization is allowed to spread further into the mountains.
I ask on behalf of my generation that you allow Mt. San Gorgonio to remain just as beautiful as it is and always should be.