The Bodie Hills are the real Wild West.
Q. What are the Bodie Hills?
A. The Bodies are a small range of peaks, hills and meadows on the California-Nevada border in California's Mono County, surrounding Bodie State Historic Park. The Bodies are the real "Wild West," one of our last places that still looks and feels like it did when European settlers first came to California. Because the Bodies are the transition zone between the Great Basin and the Sierra Nevada mountains, this area has unique plants and wildlife, as well as exceptional views and wide open spaces. Most of the land in the Bodie Hills is managed by the BLM, and some lands in the Bodie Hills are part of America's National Landscape Conservation System.
Q. Why should the Bodie Hills be permanently protected?
A. The Bodies are a wild, unique and fragile place with important historical values. This wild and historic character could easily be lost or diminished by large-scale gold mining or other proposed development. The Bodies are far more valuable as fish and wildlife habitat, as a nexus of history, and for hiking, hunting, and other outdoor recreation than they are for their subsurface minerals.
Q. Should the Bodie Hills be designated a national monument?
A. The Bodies certainly qualify to become a national monument. National monuments are established to protect areas with unique history and archeology, exceptional natural values, and unusual geologic features. The Bodies have a rare combination of wide-open spaces, scenic views, critical habitat for threatened species, and historical values. Other places with similar values, such as the Carrizo Plain, have been designated national monuments. The Bodie Hills were included in a list of potential national monuments “leaked” to news media from the Dept. of the Interior last winter. Currently, local stakeholders and conservation groups are exploring options for special designations (such as national monument) that would permanently protect the Bodie Hills.
Q. Is there wilderness in the Bodie Hills?
A. There are three areas within the Bodie Hills that have wilderness character and are being managed as Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs). These areas could be designated as wilderness in the future, but only if Congress passes a law to this effect. Some people want to "release" these WSAs (remove various protections and prevent them from ever becoming wilderness) to facilitate mining or other development. But mining is allowed in wilderness and WSAs where a valid claim has been previously established—it just has to be done more carefully, so as not to ruin the qualities of land and water that make that area special. Other traditional uses of the land, such as grazing, are also allowed in wilderness and WSAs.
Q. Wouldn't mining in the Bodie Hills be good for the local economy?
A. Maybe in the short term. No one knows if there is much gold still in the Bodies, but we do know that mining has always been a boom-and-bust enterprise. Also, a majority of profits made from non-local corporations as a result of mining do not remain in the community and the technical high-paying jobs are often given to those from outside the community.
Around the American West, communities that once depended on mining or timber harvest have developed robust new economies based on outdoor recreation and tourism. Mono County would be better off long-term by saving the real Wild West character of the Bodie Hills and promoting the area's recreational and historic values for tourism.
Q. Who supports the idea of permanently protecting the Bodie Hills?
A. Protecting the Bodie Hills is a priority for a number of residents of Mono County as well as local and national conservation and historic preservation groups. These individuals and groups want to make sure that the Bodie Hills stay the way they are today: wild, open, and scenic, with unique habitat and historical values.