Government / Politics

Bill to reopen Clear Creek Recreation Area passes Congress

The legislation to open the 63,000-acre area and designate a wilderness area was unanimously approved and now heads to Senate

The Clear Creek National Recreation Area and Conservation Act, a bill introduced by Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), unanimously passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday, July 12, and will head to the Senate. The bill directs the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to reopen the 63,000-acre Clear Creek Management Area in San Benito and Fresno counties for use by off-road vehicles.

The legislation would also protect 21,000 acres of BLM land adjacent to Clear Creek by designating the area the Joaquin Rocks Wilderness. California Reps. David G. Valadao (R-CA-21), Jeff Denham (R-CA-10), and Paul Cook (R-CA-08) joined Panetta as co-sponsors to introduce this bill, H.R. 1913.

“Our nation’s public lands are postcards we send future generations, so we must do all we can to protect and preserve them. This bipartisan bill will not only bolster our conservation efforts, it will promote recreation and tourism in our district,” Panetta, a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, said in a press release. “I will be working with my colleagues in the Senate to pass this bill so that locals and visitors can soon enjoy Clear Creek Management Area.”

Once considered a premier off-road vehicle recreation site, Clear Creek was temporarily closed in 2008 to the public after an Environmental Protection Agency analysis about the risk created by naturally occurring asbestos. First proposed by former Congressman Sam Farr, the bill instructs the BLM to develop a rigorous plan to minimize the risk from asbestos exposure and educate visitors about the naturally occurring asbestos. The BLM would also be required to find ways to reduce the impact of off-road vehicles to protect the area’s habitat.

Adam Breen

Adam Breen has been a San Benito County resident since 1980 and graduated from Sacred Heart School and San Benito High School before earning a bachelor's degree from California State University, Fresno. A father of two sons, Adam has taught newspaper, English and yearbook at SBHS for the past decade, after six years as a magazine editor for Santa Clara University. He previously was editor of the Hollister Free Lance and content director for BenitoLink.