During its regular meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 21 Mono County’s Board of Supervisors voted to take “no action” on a resolution to support HR 6129, the “Mono County Economic Development Act of 2010,” legislation authored and introduced in Washington D.C. by U.S. Congressman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-25th District). The bill essentially calls for release of the Bodie Hills Wilderness Study Area (WSA), which surrounds Bodie State Historic Park.
In the legislative equivalent of a stalemate, the Board voted 3-2 to leave the resolution in limbo. The contentious agenda item packed the Bridgeport Boardroom with both supporters for and opposition of the release, and drew fire from both sides.
The Board members, even District 4’s Bob Peters and District 3’s Vikki Bauer, who were the dissenters both favoring release, all generally agreed that there were a few major problems with HR 6129. One was the lack of a heads up to local government. Board Chair Byng Hunt in particular was incensed that the bill was essentially sprung on the Board with perhaps a week’s notice at most, with no timeliness or deadline attached, and further with no contact of any kind from either McKeon or anyone in his office to discuss the matter beforehand.
Another was a perceived link to mining, be it gold or other materials that could be construed as a benefit to companies such as Cougar Gold. The company has already drilled test holes in the Bodie Hills as permitted under the existing WSA. Part of the bill, however, mentions “mining” as being a job creator and tax revenue generator, leading many to make the assumption that a backroom deal of sorts with Cougar Gold may have been part of the motivation behind the proposed release.
Yet another was the manner in which the proposed release was put forth, which ruffled the feathers of Supervisor Hap Hazard, who indicated the U.S. Congress has been putting off dealing with the disposition of this WSA and myriad others nationally for decades, and now wants the Board’s approval to release a single one.
Hunt and Hazard said the item would probably not resurface in its current form as a standalone WSA, but will likely return as part of a package of more than a dozen WSAs in Mono County to be voted on in an “up-or-down” configuration.
Nationally there are some 27 million acres tied up in WSAs.
Read more on the meeting and the arguments presented in this weekend’s edition of The Sheet.