John Pickerel owns the Buckhorn Restaurant Group with restaurants in Napa, Sacramento, Roseville, Winters, San Francisco, Walnut Creek and New York.

Viewpoints: Protecting region's special places is good for tourism, businesses

Published: Tuesday, Apr. 2, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 9A
Last Modified: Tuesday, Apr. 2, 2013 - 8:08 am

As a businessman in Winters, I am fully behind the effort to designate federal lands in the 100-mile stretch from Lake Berryessa to 7,000-foot Snow Mountain as California's third national conservation area.

Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Mike Thompson introduced the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Conservation Area Act (S.483/H.R. 1025) on March 7, joined by co-sponsors John Garamendi, Jared Huffman, Anna Eschoo and Ami Bera.

Berryessa Snow Mountain is every bit as significant as King Range National Conservation Area on the Lost Coast (established in 1970) and the California Desert Conservation Area (established in 1976) in southeastern California.

This latest bill would bring together the three federal land management agencies – the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation – to coordinate management of 350,000 acres of public land. It would also establish a council bringing together people from five counties – Yolo, Solano, Lake, Napa and Mendocino – state agencies, Indian tribes and other stakeholders to make recommendations for these public lands.

The Berryessa Snow Mountain region, easily reachable from Sacramento and the Bay Area, is home to a wealth of recreation opportunities, a wide range of plants and animals, and beautiful scenic views.

According to the recently released Outdoor Industry Association report, at least 59 percent of Californians participate in outdoor recreation each year, seeking meaningful outdoor experiences near their backyards. In fact, outdoor recreation in California produces $85.4 billion in revenue and is responsible for 732,100 jobs that cater to tourists and residents.

The Berryessa Snow Mountain region is an attractive recreational destination for boating in the summer, as well as hiking, camping, picnicking, mountain biking, horseback riding, hunting, fishing, driving for pleasure, and much more all year round. Many folks that come to enjoy these recreational pursuits stay at local hotels, eat at our restaurants, and shop in our stores. Capturing these tourism expenditures is crucial for maintaining a vibrant local business community.

Berryessa Snow Mountain is good for business in Winters, the eastern gateway to this proposed national conservation area. The whole world can enter or exit this amazing natural resource through Winters via Highway 128. And, why not?

Highway 128 begins its ascent into the Blue Ridge Range one mile past the city limits and meanders past Monticello Dam, Lake Berryessa, hiking trail heads, boating accesses, peaks, gorgeous oak-covered hills, vineyards, wineries, geysers and quaint towns. It finishes by following the Navarro River to a spectacular entrance to the Pacific Ocean at Albion.

If someone from Kansas went to the Napa Valley or the Pacific Ocean this way, instead of Interstate 80, they would have more to tell Aunt Em upon their return home. It's truly an enchanted ride.

Winters will be to the Berryessa Snow Mountain region what Point Reyes Station is to the Point Reyes National Seashore: a jumping-off point to the last vestige of hectic life before entering an immediate respite and miles of recreation and relaxation choices.

In Winters, hotels, restaurants, wineries, gas stations, breweries, evening entertainment venues, grocery stores, sporting goods stores, and more will transcend from weekend wonders to sustainable week-long businesses as the travel habit and marketing for this region become routine.

This is the clean, green kind of business few towns get to experience, and our quality-of-life quotient is going up thanks to it.

Other communities near the Berryessa Snow Mountain region such as Clearlake, Calistoga, St. Helena and Davis could also benefit when lands are permanently protected through federal designation. A recent study found that the counties around Giant Sequoia National Monument saw jobs grow by 11 percent and real personal income rise by 24 percent after the area was permanently protected. That same potential is offered by the Berryessa Snow Mountain region.

Protecting special places safeguards the region's recreational opportunities, natural beauty, wildlife and rare plants as well as encourages tourism, supports local businesses, and creates a desirable place for people to live and work. This is why we must support our members of Congress as they move this important piece of legislation through the House and Senate. Permanently protecting the Berryessa Snow Mountain region is good for the land, recreation, and business.

John Pickerel owns the Buckhorn Restaurant Group with restaurants in Napa, Sacramento, Roseville, Winters, San Francisco, Walnut Creek and New York.

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