November was busy month for wilderness legislation
Author: teddygirl | Wednesday January 23, 2008
The following is from the Campaign for America's Wilderness, an organization that is working to achieve lasting protection for threatened wild lands.
November was a busy month on Capitol Hill for wilderness legislation. While new legislation was being introduced by Representative Dave Reichert (R-WA)—bringing to an fourteen the number of wilderness bills on Campaign for America’s Wilderness’ active agenda—the House heard testimony of five additional bills.
Rep. Reichert introduced his bill (H.R. 4113) on November 8 to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in Washington State. Originally protected by Congress in 1976, the Alpine Lakes Wilderness represents a diverse array of forests and lakes spanning the crest of the Cascade Mountains just east of Seattle. H.R. 4113 would add 22,100 acres to the existing 394,000 acre wilderness area, and include some key low-elevation forests which were not a part of the earlier legislation. Rep. Reichert’s bill would also protect a ten mile stretch of the Pratt River – known for its outstanding kayaking and recreational value – as “wild and scenic.”
The measure was the result of much collaboration among local stakeholders, who worked together to provide input on the proposal. As Congressman Reichert noted when introducing his bill, “The legislation…is historic. Not only does it designate and preserve a wilderness area, but it also shows that we can continue the proud Washington State tradition of protecting public lands by working together.”
On November 13, the House’s Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Land held a legislative hearing on five bills that would add more than 500,000 acres to the National Wilderness Preservation System.
These proposals to protect natural places in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Oregon reflect the diversity of America’s wild lands and the people who support them, but the goals and processes underlying each bill are similar. Each bill has strong local support from local governments, business interests, sportsmen and conservation groups.
Subcommittee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) had kind words for each of the bills, while two important issues received considerable attention at the hearing. In developing Representative Mary Bono’s Riverside County, local proponents and congressional staff worked diligently to ensure that the Forest Service had the necessary authority to fight wildfires in the areas proposed. Likewise, Chairman Grijalva’s Tumacacori Highlands bill addressed the need of the Border Patrol to safeguard our borders in proposed and designated wilderness areas in southern Arizona.
The subcommittee’s schedule included:
In Arizona, Chairman Raul Grijalva’s legislation to designate an 80,000-acre wilderness area in the lush desert of the Tumacacori Highlands (H.R. 3287).
In California, Rep. Mary Bono’s (R) legislation to protect 191,000 acres of Southern California desert and forests by creating four new wilderness areas and adding to six existing areas (H.R. 3682). The bill would also protect 31 miles of “wild and scenic” rivers. Senator Barbara Boxer (D) has sponsored identical legislation in the Senate.
In Colorado, legislation by Reps. Mark Udall (D) and Marilyn Musgrave (R) to designate nearly 250,000 acres as wilderness in Rocky Mountain National Park (H.R. 2334). Rep. Udall has sponsored similar legislation every Congress since 1999. Colorado Senators Wayne Allard (R) and Ken Salazar (D) also support the bill.
In New Mexico, Rep. Tom Udall’s (D) legislation to designate nearly 20,000 acres of cliffs and canyons as the Sabinoso Wilderness Area (H.R. 2632).
In Oregon, Rep. DeFazio’s (D) bill to protect 13,700 acres of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, an important watershed for rivers used by coastal salmon and steelhead, would be protected by the Copper Salmon Wilderness Act (H.R. 3513). Rep. Peter DeFazio’s (D) legislation would also designate 9.3 miles of wild and scenic river. Companion legislation in the Senate is sponsored by both Sens. Ron Wyden (D) and Gordon Smith (R) of Oregon.
For more information, visit Campaign for Americas Wilderness website.