A large swath of East Bay open space is one step closer to potential preservation after a bill from the Tri-Valley's state legislators was sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom's desk last Friday.
Authored by Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda) and Senator Steve Glazer (D-Orinda), Assembly Bill 1086 would give the state the option to sell part of the 3,100-acre Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA) located just southeast of Livermore -- better known known as the Alameda-Tesla Expansion Area -- if the California Department of Parks and Recreation decides the sale is in the public interest.
It would also mandate that any sale proceeds be deposited in the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division Trust Fund. Both houses of the State Legislature approved the measure on Sept. 13; the bill passed on the State Assembly floor 56-21 and then in the State Senate 30-10.
For almost 20 years, the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division and State Parks have been caught in a legal battle with local stakeholders over off-highway expansion plans. Bauer-Kahan said the new legislation would add clarity to the situation.
"This rich biological and cultural area has been tied up for years in the courts," Bauer-Kahan said in a statement. "This bill clears up uncertainty that has been plaguing our region by giving the Department of Parks the authority to sell this land if they see fit."
The Carnegie SVRA has experienced declining attendance since 2007, but AB 1086 would not affect the existing riding area or take away any off-highway trail driving areas.
Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California, called the bill "a key step in fixing a mistake that was made in the late 1990s" when the property was acquired.
"Now an incredibly important natural area has a chance to be preserved for all Californians to enjoy," Phillips said.
The entire Alameda-Tesla Expansion area is in Alameda County, but the Carnegie SVRA rests in both Alameda and San Joaquin counties.
Scientists have long studied the area's rare and unique biodiversity, including many threatened, endangered and listed species, critical habitats, and a habitat corridor that is considered crucial for the Diablo Range.
It also boasts several important cultural artifacts including Native American resources and the site of the historic mining town Tesla and mining complex.
"This legislation provides a sound mechanism to resolve a long-standing dispute over the future use and protection of this land," Glazer said. "It is my hope that this legislation will lead to the preservation of these fragile natural lands and important cultural resources."