November 2009 Congressional Update on Wilderness Bills
Author: teddygirl | Saturday December 05, 2009
The following is from Campaign for Americas Wilderness, an organization that is working to achieve lasting protection for threatened wild lands.
The beginning of autumn has seen renewed activity on wilderness legislation in Congress. As the First Session of the 111th Congress winds down, both the House and Senate have taken steps to move several wilderness bills forward in the legislative process.
On Wednesday, October 28, the House Natural Resources Committee marked-up the Devil’s Staircase Wilderness Act (H.R.2888), sponsored by Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR). The bill was favorably reported to the full House, where it awaits a vote on passage. The Devil’s Staircase legislation will protect as wilderness approximately 30,000 acres of strikingly unique areas in Oregon and designate more than 14 miles of waterways as Wild and Scenic Rivers. Stunning “staircases” of waterfalls; classic old-growth Coastal Range forest; and a plethora of native species — including threatened spotted owls — will all be protected by Congressman DeFazio’s legislation.
The next day, Thursday, October 29, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Wild Pratt River Act (S. 721), introduced by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA). This legislation will expand the existing 394,000-acre Alpine Lakes Wilderness by some 22,100 acres and designate parts of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt Rivers as Wild and Scenic. These latter areas include glacier-cut valleys, old-growth forest, and whitewater rivers that maintain healthy and vigorous native trout runs.
The wilderness area is the closest and most accessible to residents of the greater Seattle metropolitan area — providing excellent opportunities for various recreational activities. A companion bill (H.R. 1769) has been introduced in the House by Representative David Reichert (R-WA).
Earlier in the month of October, a new wilderness bill was introduced by Representative John Salazar. The San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act (H.R. 3914) will protect more than 61,000 acres of public lands in southwestern Colorado. The result of a rigorous collaborative process with local interests, this legislation is the first new wilderness proposal for the San Juan Mountains since 1993. The legislation is broadly supported, and will serve to protect several critical landscape linkages within the San Juan National Forest — protecting some of the most spectacular wild country in Colorado.
And, on October 8th, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on Chairman Bingaman’s (D-NM) Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks Wilderness Act (S. 1689), as well as the Senate version of the Devil’s Staircase Wilderness Act (S. 1272) sponsored by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). The Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks Wilderness Act will designate nearly 260,000 acres of wilderness and establish just over a 100,000 acre National Conservation Area for striking public lands in southern New Mexico near Las Cruces. The Organ Mountains are known as a New Mexican icon, with breathtaking scenic views. These lands are also renowned for excellent recreational opportunities such as hunting, hiking, camping, climbing and horseback riding.
All in all, a positive early fall for wilderness.
For more information, visit Campaign for Americas Wilderness website.