Congress Moves to Protect American Wilderness

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Massive public lands bill introduced; Senate action expected soon

Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) today introduced S. 22, the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009, that would permanently protect over 2 million acres of America’s wilderness. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the measure would be voted on by the entire Senate this Sunday.

The omnibus lands act would provide the greatest expansion of the National Wilderness Preservation System in 15 years, and includes 16 Wilderness bills from nine states. These bills would protect such emblematic treasures as California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range, Oregon’s Mt. Hood, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, and parts of the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia.

Together, these bills would protect over two million acres of new Wilderness, providing the greatest expansion of the National Wilderness Preservation System in 15 years.

Incompatible with these conservation measures, however, is the Izembek provision, which could result in removal of 200 acres of wilderness in Alaska to build a harmful and unnecessary road. The proposed road would adversely affect an internationally significant wetlands complex which is critically important habitat for hundreds of thousands of migrating birds that rely on the Refuge’s eelgrass beds to nest, rest, and feed. The Wilderness Society is working to strip this provision from the package because the measure.

Summary of Provisions

The omnibus lands act includes provisions that would:

* Designate over 2 million acres of Wilderness in California, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Michigan, Virginia and West Virginia.

* Codify the National Landscape Conservation System, which currently protects 26 million acres of natural treasures including such American icons as the California coastline, and the Grand Canyon-Parashant and Sonoran Desert national monuments;

* Protect 1.2 million acres of the scenic Wyoming Range in western Wyoming from oil and gas development;

* Protect free-flowing rivers in California, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Arizona, Utah, and Massachusetts as Wild and Scenic Rivers; and

* Designate numerous new National Scenic Trails, Natural Historic Sites, and, National Heritage Areas across the United States.

A more detailed description of the key conservation provisions in the omnibus lands act is located at http://wilderness.org/content/key-legislation-omnibus-public-lands-manag ement-act-2009.

For more information the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act, or other wilderness-related questions, contact Paul Spitler at (202) 429-2672 or [email protected]