THE BLOG
11/12/2012 01:43 pm ET Updated Jan 12, 2013

Uniting to Save a California Wild Space

When I think of the importance of protecting America's wild spaces, I often think of Teddy Roosevelt. Roosevelt, one of America's greatest soldiers, statesmen and also the father of America's conservation movement, was also a Republican. Then, as now, our nation's capital had deep divisions that often required lawmakers reaching across the aisle in an attempt to forge compromise and find solutions to the pressing issues of the day.

In 2011, Representative Daryl Issa introduced HR 41, H.R. 41: Beauty Mountain and Agua Tibia Wilderness Act of 2011. The bill seeks to add more than 20,000 acres to existing wilderness areas in the region building on legislation that was passed in 2009. Rep. Issa was joined in these efforts by an unlikely ally, Senator Barbara Boxer, who unveiled a companion bill in the senate. Both lawmakers have been heralded by conservation groups and community leaders for their vision and leadership on this issue.

Bipartisan compromise such as we have seen on this legislation truly embodies the spirit of Roosevelt, who once famously said, "It is not what we have that will make us a great nation, it is the way in which we use it." I believe Representative Issa and Senator Boxer understand these words.

San Diego serves our state and nation as a tourist mecca. People come to this beautiful region from all over the world to enjoy the beaches of La Jolla as well as natural landscapes such as Beauty Mountain and Agua Tibia. Perched in Northern San Diego County, Beauty Mountain serves as a picturesque backdrop for this area. It is a crucial passage that links the San Jacinto, Santa Rosa and Palomar Mountains. The California riding and hiking trail also crosses through this region. Agua Tibia, known for its beautiful oaks, chaparral and conifer forests of fir and pine, serves as a critical plant and wildlife corridor between Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and the mountains of Riverside and San Diego Counties.

California is also home to the largest veterans' population in the United States.

In June of this year, Vet Voice Foundation conducted a tour of the Beauty Mountain region with veterans, congressional staff and conservation groups. What stood out to the veterans on this tour was the location of the area, close to the heart of one of America's major military hubs, Camp Pendleton and the surrounding naval facilities.

With America's service members returning from recent deployments, it is important that our military and veterans community have places to recover from the wounds they bring home, both seen and unseen. Lands such as these are of great importance as they can be enjoyed with family and friends without a cost for admission. Their therapeutic value to America's heroes is invaluable. It is truly one way that America can give back to its heroes who have paid such a high price for our freedom.

These are lands our men and women in uniform defended. These are lands we love.

While there is still much work to be done by both sides on ensuring that this legislation secures passage it is important that both Representative Issa and Senator Boxer know that veterans, like all Californians, are grateful for their work. This is truly a case of two lawmakers working across party lines to protect a sacred vista for the people of California and our nation.

This is a conservation vision that would make Roosevelt proud. It is truly a precious gift for veterans and all Americans.