03/01/2011 - The golden eagle and mountain lion don’t know or care where Riverside County ends and San Diego County begins. Neither do plenty of humans who want to preserve and enjoy the wilderness of Agua Tibia and Beauty Mountain, now bisected by an arbitrary line on the map.
Where northeastern San Diego County converges with Riverside and Imperial counties, where the mountains create rivers on the west and vast desert to the east, is a beautiful and unscarred territory that now lies in a curious dichotomy.
North of the San Diego County line, thousands of acres of federally owned land were designated as wilderness after a three-year effort by Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Palm Springs. That’s not the case south of the line as separate legislation by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, did not pass. Commendably, the congressman is now trying again to preserve 21,000 acres.
This is land appreciated by more than the fauna and flora that call it home, including some 55 at-risk species. Consider the diverse assortment of humans pounding the table to keep this land in its natural state. There are environmental groups, to be sure: California Wilderness Coalition, Friends of the River, Pew Campaign for America’s Wilderness, Sierra Club Santa Margarita Group and The Wilderness Society. There are recreational associations, too: Adventure 16, Off-Road Business Association and Warner Springs Ranchowners Association. Don’t forget business interests taking a stand for nature: Oceanside and Vista Chambers of Commerce, prAna, Hawk Watch Winery and Stone Brewing Co.
Conservationists say the territory is a crucial corridor for migrating species, a bridge between the coastal sage habitat of the coast range on the west and the harsher ecology of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park on the east.
Read the full editorial A Wilderness Sliced in Two on The San Diego Union-Tribune's Web site.