4 Wilderness Bills Made Steady Progress in May
Author: teddygirl | Saturday July 14, 2007
The following is from the Campaign for America's Wilderness, an organization that is working to achieve lasting protection for threatened wild lands.
In May, the Wild Sky Wilderness Act (S. 520) cleared yet another hurdle in its long journey to becoming law. The legislation, which would designate more than 106,000 acres of land in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest as wilderness, was unanimously approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on May 23. An identical bill has already been approved by the full House of Representatives. This wildly popular bill enjoys broad local support, and the citizens of Washington state are anxious to see it become law.
Senators Murray and Cantwell and Representatives Larsen and Inslee deserve many thanks for their unwavering commitment to protecting this spectacular and beloved wild place, less than two hours from Seattle. Its proximity to such a large population center highlights the need for protection, but also ensures that millions of people for generations will be able to experience Wild Sky’s ancient old growth forests, sparkling salmon streams, and snow-capped mountain peaks.
The bill now moves to the full Senate, and once approved, will be sent to the President for his signature.
May also saw the eagerly awaited introduction of the bipartisan Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness bill (S. 1380, H.R. 2334). The legislation would permanently protect nearly 250,000 acres (some 95 percent) of pristine backcountry in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. The bill is sponsored by both Senators, Democrat Ken Salazar and Republican Wayne Allard, and by the two House members representing the national park, Democrat Mark Udall and Republican Marilyn Musgrave.
Developing the Rocky Mountain bill has been a years long process of collaboration between the congressional sponsors and the scores of hikers, anglers and other recreational users, along with local communities and businesses. Engaging these many people who use and appreciate the wild places in the Rocky Mountains will likely mean the difference between protecting these beautiful landscapes for future generations, and watching them fade into memory.
In 1974, President Nixon formally recommended designating the undeveloped backcountry of Rocky Mountain National Park as wilderness, and this bill would finally protect lush forested valleys, glistening lakes and rivers, alpine tundra and spectacular mountain peaks.
In May, the House Natural Resources Committee took the important first step of hearing legislation (H.R. 1011) to forever protect some 55,000 acres in Virginia’s Jefferson National Forest as wilderness, wilderness study, and national scenic areas.
This homegrown bill is the shining result of bipartisanship and broad, local backing. Once Congress passes this conservation measure, campers, hunters, hikers, anglers, birdwatchers, horseback riders and others will always be able to use and enjoy special places in southwest Virginia like Stone Mountain, Raccoon Branch, and Brush Mountain.
Senator John Warner’s and Representative Rick Boucher’s commitment to working together for the past several years will help ensure that a piece of Virginia’s wild legacy―what Thomas Jefferson called the state’s “placid and delightful” plains and its “wild and tremendous mountains”―can be handed down to future generations.
Finally, on May 3, the Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests held a legislative hearing on a bipartisan bill (S. 647), sponsored by Sens. Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith to protect more than 128,000 acres within the Mount Hood National Forest. Conservationists, community leaders, and hunters and anglers all eagerly support the legislation. In addition to designating more than 20 new wilderness areas, the bill calls for nearly 80 miles of river to be protected under the National Wild and Scenic River System.
The wild lands in the proposal are a vital source of clean drinking water for Oregonians, home to many indigenous plant and animal species, and popular recreation areas that contribute greatly to the health of the economy.
May was, indeed, a very wild month.
For more information, visit Campaign for America's Wilderness' website: http://www.leaveitwild.org