Alabama Hills designated a National Scenic Area
The Alabama Hills, located just west of Lone Pine, was designated a National Scenic Area on March 12.
A signing ceremony at the White House saw President Donald Trump sign into law S. 47, to be formally known as the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act, the largest land conservation bill passed by Congress in the last 10 years.
The Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act overwhelmingly passed in the Senate and House last month. In a press release from his office, Rep. Paul Cook (R-Apple Valley), reported that he had attended the signing ceremony at the White House.
The new law is named in honor of John Dingell, the nation’s longest-serving Congress member, who died last month at 92.
In a press release, The Alabama Hills Stewardship Group (AHSG), along with dozens of area stakeholders and the community of Lone Pine, wrote that they, “are celebrating its passage, which has created the first ever ‘Alabama Hills National Scenic Area!’”
“All the years of community input helped improve and strengthen both our stewardship efforts and this important legislation; as well as our coalition of support,” said Kevin Mazzu, board member of the Alabama Hills Stewardship Group (AHSG). “The heavy lifting was done early in the process; with several final enhancements – based on stakeholder feedback – helping the legislation reach the perfect balance between conservation and access”.
The Inyo County Board of Supervisors supported the legislation and voted unanimously to endorse it, travelling repeatedly to Washington D.C. to lobby for its passage.
Matt Kingsley, 5th District Inyo County Supervisor, whose district includes the Alabama Hills, said, “We are excited to see the cooperation and hard work of local stakeholders finally coming to fruition.”
The Act states: “The purpose of the National Scenic Area is to conserve, protect, and enhance for the benefit, use, and enjoyment of present and futures generations the nationally significant scenic, cultural, geological, educational, biological, historical, recreational, cinematographic, and scientific resources” … With current recreational activities in the Alabama Hills allowed to continue: “including hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, sightseeing, horseback riding, hunting, fishing, and appropriate authorized motorized vehicle use”.
Friends of the Inyo (FOI) worked closely with AHSG. Mike Prather, a founding member of AHSG and current secretary for FOI, wrote the initial legislation before handing it off to federal legislators. Most of his initial draft made it into the final legislation.
The Alabama Hills are the birthplace of the American Western film genre and the Act will also allow the continuation of commercial filming and photography, as well as grazing on two Bureau of Land Management (BLM) allotments, and recreational prospecting/rockhounding in the historic mining area.
Included in the Act is a corresponding land transfer from the Inyo National Forest and BLM to the local Lone Pine Paiute–Shoshone Reservation of 132 acres of culturally sensitive land, a portion of which will be within the National Scenic Area.
“Our Tribe is very excited about the landmark land transfer included in the legislation,” said Kathy Bancroft, AHSG President and Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Reservation. “This is the first time since 1939 that the Tribe has acquired any land, and we will finally take ownership of our own cemetery.”
Mike Johnston, President of the Eastern Sierra Four Wheel Drive Club, said, “It is important that the public has access to the many beautiful areas that Mother Nature provides us, such as the Alabama Hills. And it is just as important, that the public knows how to protect the land, as they enjoy it. This new designation should help provide a means to move in that direction, and we look forward to the implementation of this National Scenic Area.”
There will be the development of a comprehensive plan over the next three years for the long-term management of the National Scenic Area developed by the Bureau of Land Management in consultation, “with appropriate state, tribal, and local governmental entities, and members of the public.”
The bill is the result of a collaborative 10-year process led by the Alabama Hills Stewardship Group. It included input from over 30 stakeholder and 40 different user groups. Feedback was received from local government, conservation, chambers of commerce, cattle ranchers, rock climbers and ATV riders.