Wilderness and Public Lands
California's 43 million acres of public land encompass some of the most magnificent and pristine natural areas in the United States. From Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48 states, to Death Valley National Park, the lowest, our state stands out for the diversity of its natural beauty. California also has some of the nation’s most important historic sites, including some of the first European and Asian settlements in the nation.
Senator Boxer has worked tirelessly to ensure that our state's historic and natural treasures are protected and preserved for generations to come. She has partnered with California lawmakers from both parties on legislation that balances the competing needs of development and preservation – promoting sustainable development in areas where it is appropriate and restricting development in pristine, ecologically important areas. Senator Boxer has worked to provide wilderness designation to California's most unspoiled and sensitive public lands, providing the highest level of protection and conservation afforded under federal law.
Related Email Updates +
Related Press Releases +
Related Videos and Photos +
Wilderness Additions Senator Boxer Has Helped Create
Wilderness on our public lands is crucial to preserving our shared American heritage. Wilderness areas protect natural landscapes, provide clean air and water, serve as wildlife habitat, and provide a place for recreation and spiritual renewal. California sets itself apart from many other states in that it has numerous pristine, diverse ecosystems with a variety of plant and animal life. California is home to 149 federally-protected wilderness areas, encompassing over 15 million acres, nearly the size of the State of West Virginia.
Senator Boxer has worked to provide wilderness designation to California's most unspoiled and sensitive public lands, providing the highest level of protection and conservation afforded under federal law. Since 2002, Senator Boxer has legislatively created 1,031,625 acres of federally-protected wilderness, including within 17 existing wilderness areas and 19 newly-created wilderness areas. This equates to 7 percent of California's wilderness. Senator Boxer remains committed to preserving California's natural heritage, and is looking forward to continuing work on public lands conservation in the 113th Congress. Below is a summary of Senator Boxer's wilderness accomplishments:
Senator Boxer's Statewide Wilderness Bill
Senator Boxer's statewide wilderness bill, the California Wild Heritage Act (introduced from 2002 through 2007) would establish approximately 2.5 million acres of wilderness. Many of the bill's provisions have been signed into law (see below). A total of approximately 1 million acres of these areas have been designated as wilderness so far, and about 1.5 million acres remain.
This law included three wilderness bills authored by Senator Boxer that designated 700,000 acres of new wilderness. This was the fourth largest wilderness designation in California after the California Desert Protection Act of 1994 (7.6 million acres, Feinstein), California Wilderness Act of 1984 (2.7 million acres, Burton), and Wilderness Act of 1964 (1.25 million acres). The three wilderness bills contained in the Omnibus include:
- The California Desert and Mountain Heritage Act– Senator Boxer authored this legislation with Representative Mary Bono Mack (R-CA-45). It established approximately 200,000 acres of wilderness or wilderness study areas and 31 miles of wild and scenic rivers in Riverside County. These areas provide habitat for numerous endangered species, including bighorn sheep and desert tortoises.
- The Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park Wilderness Act- Senator Boxer authored this legislation with Representatives Jim Costa (D-CA-20) and Devin Nunes (R-CA-21). The bill designated approximately 85,000 acres of land within the Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, in Tulare County, as wilderness. This total acreage included expanding the Sequoia-Kings Canyon Wilderness, which includes unique landscapes such as the largest Giant Sequoia grove in the park and one of the most extensive networks of caverns in the western United States. The remainder of this acreage resulted from the creation of the 39,740-acre John Krebs Wilderness Area, named in honor of the former Congressman who wrote the 1978 law transferring the Mineral King Valley to the National Park Service to protect it from development.
- The Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act– Senator Boxer authored this legislation with Representative Buck McKeon (R-CA-25). The bill designated more than 470,000 acres of wilderness on public lands in Mono, Inyo, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles Counties. The bill also designated approximately 74 miles of wild and scenic rivers.
Senator Boxer authored this legislation with Representative Mike Thompson (D-CA-1), and worked to enact the bill in 2006. This legislation established approximately 275,000 acres of wilderness in the Mendocino and Six Rivers National Forests in Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, and Napa Counties.
The Big Sur Wilderness and Conservation Act, authored with Representative Sam Farr (D-CA-17), was signed into law in 2002. It established approximately 54,000 acres of wilderness in Monterey County. Senator Boxer facilitated its passage in the Senate.
Senator Boxer's Actions on Public Lands Conservation in the 112th Congress:
Pinnacles National Park Act: On January 10, 2013, President Obama signed into law Senator Boxer's bill to elevate the Pinnacles National Monument to a National Park. This is the 59th National Park created by Congress and the first since 2004. Learn more about Pinnacles National Park.
Mt. Andrea Lawrence: On January 10, 2013, President Obama signed into law Senator Boxer's bill to name an Eastern Sierra Peak after Olympic Skier, committed conservationist, and Mono County Supervisor Andrea Lawrence.
Gulf of Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries Expansion: In June 2011, the Senate Commerce Committee approved Senator Boxer's legislation, the Gulf of Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries Boundary Modification and Protection Act. The bill would protect the entire coastline of Sonoma County and as far north as Point Arena in Mendocino County. On December 20, 2012, the Obama Administration announced that it would begin working to expand the Gulf of Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries administratively. Learn more about the Gulf of Farallones and the Cordell Bank.
Fort Ord National Monument: At Senator Boxer's urging, President Obama designated nearly 15,000 acres at the former Fort Ord military base north of Monterey as a new National Monument. Learn more about Fort Ord National Monument.
César E. Chávez National Monument Designation: In June 2011, Senators Boxer and Feinstein wrote a letter to the National Park Service asking that the La Paz César Chávez Center be included in the National Register of Historic Places. The Administration went a step further, and President Obama designated the site as a National Monument in September 2012. Learn more about the César E. Chávez National Monument.