113th Congress Wilderness Bills

Mount Daniel over the Robin Lakes in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in Washington. A bill has been introduced that would expand this area.
flickr, Jeff Pang
Wilderness areas are those lands that are so unique and prized that they are given the most protection. Every year, Congress has the choice to preserve these wild areas by passing legislation that designates them as federal wilderness.

The last Congress had the opportunity to pass multiple wilderness bills that would have protected special places from Alaska to Maine - but didn't designate a single acre! Many of these bills have already been reintroduced in the 113th Congress.

Here is a look at the wild areas Congress could protect in the coming year. We are working with local partners to get these bills passed and will continue to provide updates on their progress.

 

Alaska

The Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act (H.R. 139) would designate the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as Wilderness, permanently protecting it from harmful human development. The Arctic coastal plain is the birthing ground for thousands of caribou, migratory and resident birds, and polar bears—an area of unmatched ecological importance for the human inhabitants and wildlife of the region. Yet the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, now celebrating more than 50 years of protection, has faced continual threats from oil drilling. (Pictured above: Caribou on coastal plain of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; credit: flickr, USFWS Headquarters)

Status: Introduced by Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), with co-sponsor Rep. Michael G. Fitzpatrick (R-PA) in the House on January 3, 2013.

Arizona

The Arizona Sonoran Desert Heritage Act (H.R. 1799) would protect roughly 954,000 acres of critical wildlife habitat and recreation areas west of Phoenix. The legislation would preserve critical tracts west of Phoenix that serve as important wildlife and recreation areas, safeguard the viability of Luke Air Force Base and the Barry M. Goldwater Range, and protect environmental amenities to boost economic opportunities for West Valley communities. (Pictured above: Prickly Pear Cactus at the Sonoran Desert; credit: flickr, Dave Bates)

Status: Introduced by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D, AZ-3) in the House on April 26, 2013.

Colorado

The San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act (S. 341) would protect over 60,000 acres of southern Colorado wildlands, including the designation of 32,200 acres of wilderness. The legislation would protect the heart of the San Juan Mountains, including cool, azure blue lakes, jagged peaks, lush old growth spruce and fir forests, meadows laden with wildflowers, and golden groves of aspen. The bill has tremendous community support from local elected officials, conservation and recreation organizations, and businesses. (Pictured above: San Juan Mountains; credit: flickr, J B Foster)

Status: Introduced by Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) and co-sponsored by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) in the Senate on February 14, 2013. Hearing held in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Public Lands on April 25, 2013. Passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on June 18, 2013.

 

 

The Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act (S. 841/H.R. 1839) would protect the Hermosa Creek watershed in the San Juan National Forest in southwest Colorado. The bill would protect 38,000 acres as wilderness and 70,000 acres as a special management area. The Hermosa Creek watershed offers breathtaking views, and contains some of Colorado’s more pristine old-growth ponderosa pine forests, which provide critical wildlife habitat for species such as the Canada lynx and native trout. (Pictured above: San Juan Wilderness; credit: flickr, JustTooLazy)

Status: Introduced in the House and Senate by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Rep. Scott Tipton (R, CO-3) and co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) on April 25, 2013.

 

Idaho

The Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (H.R. 145) would protect more than 333,000 acres of the snowy mountain peaks and gorgeous lake-filled terrain in the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains. Home to some of the tallest peaks and mountain lakes in Idaho, the dramatic Boulder-White Clouds Mountains offer great solitude and an abundance of hiking trails through pristine mountain terrain. People visit for opportunities to scramble, view wildlife, fish and hunt, and horseback ride. (Pictured above: Boulder-White Cloud Mountains; credit: Congressmen Mike Simpson's website)

Status: Introduced in the House by Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) on January 3, 2013.

 

Maine

The Maine Coastal Island Wilderness Act (H.R. 1808) would establish new wilderness on 13 islands off the coast of Maine. These remote and scenic uninhabited islands are havens for wildlife, and provide important nesting habitat for a variety of sea birds. Several of the islands are also popular destinations for kayakers and boaters, who can enjoy the scenic ocean views and remote beaches. (Pictured above: Petit Manan Island at the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge; credit: flickr, US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Status: Introduced by Rep. Michael Michaud (D, ME-2) and co-sponsored by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D, MI-1) in the House on April 26, 2013. Hearing held in the House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation on July 23, 2013.

Michigan

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Conservation and Recreation Act (S.23/H.R.163) was recently enacted. It protects 32,557 acres of wilderness. Located on Lake Michigan, Sleeping Bear Dunes is a popular getaway where hikers, hunters, anglers and boaters come to experience nature. The area includes a diverse array of natural landscapes, from the towering dunes themselves to quiet inland lakes, beech and sugar maple forests, and rocky shorelines - all important habitat for native wildlife and plants. (Pictured above: Sleeping Bear Dunes; credit: flickr, Amy Selleck)

Status: Introduced in House by Rep. Dan Benishek (R-MI) on January 4, 2013. Introduced in Senate by Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) on January 22, 2013. Passed out of Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on March 14, 2013. Passed out of the Senate on June 19, 2013. Hearing held in the House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation on July 23, 2013. Update: The bill was approved by the House of Representatives on March 4, 2014 and was signed into law by President Obama on March 13, 2014. 

 

Montana

The Forest Jobs and Recreation Act of 2013 (S. 37) would permanently protect nearly a million acres of spectacular backcountry throughout western Montana, including nearly 700,000 acres as wilderness on three national forests in Montana: the Kootenai, Beaverhead-Deerlodge and Lolo National Forests. It would create important additions to the headwaters of Rock Creek, the Italian Peaks, the Snowcrest Range and Pionner Mountains in Southwest Montana. It would create important additions to the renowned Bob Marshall Wilderness Area and further protect one of the most intact ecosystems in the lower 48 states called the “Crown of the Continent.” These additions are magnificent places conservationists have fought hard to protect for decades. (Pictured above: Lolo National Forest; credit: flickr, Forest Service-Northern Region)

Status: Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) and co-sponsored by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) on January 22, 2013.

 

The Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act (S. 364) would add 67,000 acres to the Bob Marshall and Scapegoat Wilderness Areas, would establish a 208,000-acre Conservation Area in the heart of the Rocky Mountain Front, and help federal agencies better control harmful noxious weeds. The Rocky Mountain front forms the eastern edge of the vast Bob Marshall wilderness complex where the Northern Rocky mountains meet the plains. Home to some of the last remaining intact ecosystems in North America, the Front provides habitat for elk and native trout. As part of the Crown of the Continent, it’s one of the last places in America where grizzly bears still roam the plains. The Front is a world-class destination for hunting, wildlife viewing, birding, backpacking and horseback riding.  The Act will ensure that critical components of this vital ecosystem are permanently protected and the traditional uses along the Front will be protected for generations. (Pictured above: Rocky Mountain Front lakes; credit: flickr, Sam Beebe-Ecotrust)

Status: Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) and cosponsored by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) on February 14, 2013. Hearing held in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee's Subcommittee on Public Lands on July 30, 2013.

 

Nevada

The Pine Forest Range Recreation Enhancement Act of 2013 (S. 342/H.R. 433) would protect 26,000 acres of wilderness in the northwest Nevada’s Pine Forest Range. Overlooking the Black Rock Desert, the Pine Forest Range is blanketed by limber and whitebark pines and provides some of the region’s best trout fishing. Named by Field & Stream as a “Best Wild Place” for trout fishing and outdoor adventure, the Pine Forest Range is a true crown jewel. The legislation is the result of a local collaborative effort and has support from a broad and diverse local constituency. (Pictured above: Blue Lakes, Pine Forest Range; credit: flickr, Beau Rogers)

Status: Introduced in the House by Rep. Mark Amodei (R, NV-2) on January 29, 2013. Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) on February 14, 2013. Hearing held in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Public Lands on April 25, 2013. Passed out the Senate Natural Resources Committee on May 16, 2013. Hearing held in the House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation on July 23, 2013.

 

The Lyon County Economic Development and Conservation Act (S. 159/H.R. 696) would protect Wovoka Wilderness, home to critical wildlife habitat and prehistoric natural resources. This legislation would designate approximately 48,000 acres of central Nevada’s Pine Grove Hills as wilderness. Situated between the Sweetwater Mountains and Wassuk Range, the Pine Grove Hills contain a variety of Great Basin habitats, offer outstanding recreational opportunities, and harbor world-class archeological resources. The proposed wilderness provides water to the East Walker River, which flows just outside the wilderness boundary. The East Walker is a premier fly fishing destination, bounded by lush riparian habitat interspersed with lovely beaches. (Pictured above: East Walker River adjacent to the Wovoka Wilderness; credit: Kurt Kuznicki)

Status: Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Dean Heller (R, NV) and cosponsored by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) on January 28, 2013. Introduced in the House by Rep. Steven Horsford (D, NV-4) on February 14, 2013. Hearing held in the House Natural Resource Committee’s Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation on April 18, 2013. Hearing held in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Public Lands on April 25, 2013. Passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on June 18, 2013.

Gold Butte National Conservation Area (S. 1054) would protect both a large National Conservation Area as well as areas reserved as pristine wilderness, spanning 348,515 acres. Within this area, 129,500 acres would be designated as federally protected wilderness and 92,000 acres as wilderness within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The land's rugged mountains, iconic Joshua trees and Majava yucca, sandstone formations and unique canyons provide recreational and tourist opportunities. The site is also home to rock art and numerous Native American artifacts. (Pictured above: Gold Butte; credit: flickr, Andrew)

Status: Introduced by Sen. Harry Reid (D, NV) and Congressman Steven Horsford (D, NV-4) in the Senate on May 23, 2013 and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and introduced in the House on June 6, 2013.

 

New Mexico

The Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act (S. 776/H.R. 1683) would designate the 45,000-acre Columbine Hondo Wilderness Study Area as permanently protected wilderness. Columbine Hondo is nestled deep in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in northern New Mexico. Located outside the towns of Taos, Questa and Red River, it is a recreation haven, attracting hikers, hunters, anglers, horseback riders and wildlife lovers. The area serves as home for elk, deer, mountain lion, black bear, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and is critical habitat for the endangered Rio Grande cutthroat trout. In addition to the exceptional wildlife, the 12,711-foot “Gold Hill” is one of Columbine Hondo’s main attractions. (Pictured above: Gold Hill Summit, Columbine-Hondo; credit: flickr, NJP9)

Status: Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and co-sponsored by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) on April 22, 2013. Introduced in the House by Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D, NM-3) on April 23, 2013.

 

The Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area Establishment Act (S. 241/H.R. 560) would protect as wilderness roughly 13,500 acres of the Ute Mountain and 8,000 acres of the Rio San Antonio areas. In response to the community’s longstanding support for conservation, President Obama recently designated the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, but only Congress has the ability to designate wilderness. Rio Grande del Norte includes some of the most ecologically significant lands in northern New Mexico. This includes Ute Mountain, which towers over the region and provides habitat for elk, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, and great horned owl, among other species.  The new national monument will also protect the vast recreational opportunities enjoyed by many within the Rio Grande Gorge and Taos Plateau, such as hiking, biking, camping, rafting, hunting and fishing. (Pictured above: Rio Grande Gorge; credit: flickr, laszlo-photo)

Status: Introduced in the House by Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D, NM-3) on February 6, 2013. Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and co-sponsored by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) on February 7, 2013. Designated as a national monument on March 25, 2013. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Public Lands passed this legislation out of committee on May 16, 2013.

 

Oregon

The Oregon Treasures Act of 2013(S.353/H.R. 1240) would protect three miles of the Chetco River, add 60,000 acres of wilderness to the Wild Rogue Wilderness, and designate 21.3 miles of the Molalla River as “recreational” under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. It will also protect 143 miles of tributaries that feed into the Rogue River and preserve more than 17,000 acres near Horse Heaven and Cathedral Rock. With over 100,000 anadromous fish returning from the ocean each year, the Rogue is one of Oregon’s most important salmon fisheries, and commercial and recreational fishing here brings in millions of dollars to the state’s economy. The watershed also features lush ancient forests that provide habitat for an array of old-growth dependent species including spotted owls, marbled murrelets, and Del Norte salamanders. Hiking opportunities abound, and the Rogue is very popular for rafting and kayaking. (Pictured above: Molalla River; credit: flickr, Ian Sane)

Status: Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and co-sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) on February 14, 2013. A version of this bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Kurt Schrader (D, OR-5) on March 15, 2013. Hearing held in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Public Lands on April 25, 2013. Passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on June 18, 2013. Passed out of the Senate on June 19, 2013.

 

The Devil’s Staircase Wilderness Act of 2013 (S. 352) would designate approximately 30,540 acres of National Forest and BLM lands in the central Oregon Coast Range into the National Wilderness Preservation System. It would also include roughly 14.6 miles of Wasson and Franklin Creeks into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Perfect for the adventurous explorer, the Devil’s Staircase area is one of the most remote and intact old-growth stands in Oregon’s coastal range. The area’s namesake is a series of cascading pools, hidden deep within the heart of Wassen Creek near Reedsport, Oregon. The forest is so remote that it escaped much of the coastal logging of past decades. (Pictured above: Devils Staircase; credit: flickr, Martin Kohn)

Status: Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and co-sponsored by Sen. Merkley (D-OR) on February 14, 2013. Passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on March 14, 2013. Passed out of the Senate on June 19, 2013.

 

Tennessee

The Tennessee Wilderness Act (S. 1294) would permanently protect nearly 20,000 acres of public land in Tennessee's Cherokee National Forest, expanding five existing wilderness areas and creating the new Upper Bald River Wilderness Area. This area is one of the most biologically diverse temperate forests on earth. The forest contains hundreds of miles of hiking trails and is home to black bears, bobcats, white-tailed deer and grey foxes among others. In addition to the benefits of the land, the many tributaries within the area contain important sources of water that sustain a popular and lucrative trout fishery and provide shelter for a wide range of endangered species, including the Smoky madtom and Citico darter. (Pictured above: Cherokee National Forest; credit: flickr, John W. Iwanski)

Status: Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and co-sponsored by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) on July 15, 2013.

 

Utah

The Wasatch Wilderness and Watershed Protection Act (H.R. 2808) would protect 26,000 in the central Wasatch Mountains outside of Salt Lake City. The bill would protect 15,000 as wilderness and 11,000 acres as special management areas. The canyons of the Wasatch Range provided clean water for the early pioneers to Utah and continue to do so today to more than 500,000 people in the Salt Lake Valley. Protection will ensure drinking water for future generations, provide outstanding recreational opportunities, and secure important economic benefits to the region. (Pictured above: Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest; credit: United States Department of Agriculture)

Status: Introduced in the House by Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT) on July 24, 2013.

 

Washington

The Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and the Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act (S. 112/H.R. 361) would protect an additional 22,173 acres of Wilderness adjoining the existing Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area and would designate nearly 30 miles of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River and 10 miles of the Pratt River as Wild and Scenic Rivers. These additions include diverse low-elevation forests with thriving fish and wildlife populations that include cougars, black bear, elk and native trout. The area is one of the most visited wilderness areas in the country, and a haven for the residents of Seattle, who live just 45 minutes away. (Pictured above: Alpine Lakes Wilderness; credit: flickr, Jeff Pang)

Status: Introduced in the House by Rep. Dave Reichert (R, WA-8) and in the Senate by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) on January 23, 2013. Passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on March 14, 2013. Passed out of the Senate on June 19, 2013. Hearing held in the House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation on July 23, 2013.

 

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