Teddy Bear News

First Wilderness Bill of the this Congress to Reach President’s Desk
Author: teddygirl | Friday May 23, 2008

The following is from Campaign for America's Wilderness, an organization that is working to achieve lasting protection for threatened wild lands.

On April 29, just one week after Earth Day, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a major lands package (S. 2739), previously approved by the Senate, which contained The Wild Sky Wilderness Act-the first wilderness bill to be sent to the President by the 110th Congress. The Wild Sky Wilderness proposal will provide the strongest federal protection for approximately 106,000 acres of scenic national forest lands in the Wild Skykomish River region in Washington State.

After almost six years of consideration by Congress, through a cooperative collaboration of many varied interests and the able leadership of Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Rick Larsen (D-WA), the final passage of Wild Sky represents a major achievement to protect some of this nation's most sensitive public lands for all Americans to enjoy. The bill, which had cleared the Senate in three previous Congresses, was finally passed by the House of Representatives in April 2007, but needed to be approved again within the context of the larger lands package in order to be sent to the President for enactment into law.

The first addition to the National Wilderness Preservation System to be cleared by the 110th Congress, the Wild Sky Wilderness Act will safeguard rugged peaks and beautiful sub-alpine meadows, key lower-elevation regions, biologically rich forests along the North Fork of the Skykomish River, as well as critical salmon habitat. This is also an area of world-class outdoor recreational opportunities that will now be protected for all time.

House Passes First Wilderness Bills of 2008
In addition to its approval of S. 2739, on Earth Day-April 22nd-the U.S. House of Representatives also overwhelmingly passed two additional wilderness bills. The Wild Monongahela Act (H.R. 5151) was agreed to by a vote of 368 to 17, and the Copper Salmon Wilderness Act (H.R. 3513) was accepted by voice vote, representing the first individual wilderness bills the House has approved to date this year.

The Wild Monongahela Act, sponsored by Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-WV), and supported by the entire West Virginia delegation, will designate as wilderness more than 37,000 acres of the wildest land left in the Monongahela National Forest. This bill is the first piece of legislation to protect wilderness in West Virginia in nearly 25 years, and will provide outstanding recreation opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts, rafters and kayakers, sportsmen, hikers, and campers. The bill will also ensure the region's numerous rare species of plants and animals are protected.

The Copper Salmon Wilderness Act, sponsored by Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), will designate as wilderness some 14,000 acres of pristine, old-growth forest in the headwaters of the Elk River in the Siskiyou National Forest on Oregon's southern coast-ensuring the protection of some of the healthiest wild Chinook and steelhead runs on the west coast. The permanent protection of Copper Salmon as wilderness will also provide a boost to the local economy through increased tourism and outdoor recreation, and help guard against logging and development that could harm the health of the Elk River.

Both pieces of legislation have broad, bipartisan support.

Senate Action
On April 15, the Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing on a number of pending public lands bills, including S. 570/H.R. 1011, the Virginia Ridge and Valley Act; S. 2109/H.R. 3682, the California Desert and Mountain Heritage Act; and S. 2581/H.R. 5151, the Wild Monongahela Wilderness Act.

The Virginia Ridge and Valley Act will designate some 55,000 acres in the Jefferson National Forest as wilderness, wilderness or national scenic areas, and was passed by the House on October 23, 2007. The California Desert and Mountain Heritage Act will permanently protect over 190,000 acres in Riverside County as wilderness, add 31 miles of four rivers to the Wild and Scenic River System, and expand by 5,000 acres the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. The Wild Monongahela Wilderness Act will expand three existing wilderness areas-Cranberry, Dolly Sods and Otter Creek; create three new wilderness areas-Big Draft, Roaring Plains west and Spice Run; and will become the fist new wilderness in the state in 25 years.

In a second day of hearings held on April 22, the Subcommittee considered S. 2833, the Owyhee Public Land Management Act; and S. 2834, the Washington County Growth and Conservation Act.

The Owyhee Public Lands Management Act includes a provision to permanently protect as wilderness 517,000 acres in Idaho's Owyhee-Bruneau Canyonlands in the southwestern corner of the state-creating the largest protected area in Idaho since the 1980 designation of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, as well as provide wild and scenic status to nearly 315 miles of rivers. The Washington County Growth and Conservation Act aims to resolve longstanding land management issues in Washington County, Utah, and, among other provisions, will protect nearly 265,000 acres of wilderness in the county, including such special places as Canaan Mountain, Red Mountain, Doc's Pass, and Cougar Canyon.

Finally, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is expected to further consider a number of public lands and wilderness bills in the near future. As early as the first full week of May, the Committee may mark-up over 40 bills, which may include the Virginia Ridge and Valley Act, the Wild Monongahela Act, and the Owyhee Public Land Management Act, amongst others.

For more information, visit Campaign for Americas Wilderness website.

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