Last year, our legislators in Washington proved to be some of the most anti-wilderness lawmakers in history. The 112th Congress earned the name ‘worst congress ever for wilderness’ when they become the first Congress in more than 40 years NOT to protect even a single acre of wilderness. Not only that, but they introduced bill after bill to give wildlands away to developers and to undermine bedrock conservation laws. Wildlands need Congress to do better this year.
Reasons why Congress will resist
While the new 113th Congress may prove friendlier to wilderness, many of the same anti-wilderness legislators are still in office. These legislators have blocked good wilderness bills in the past and continue to unleash bills that exploit and harm wild areas for the profit of industry.
Reasons why Congress may protect wilderness
The good news is that we have several wilderness champions in the 113th Congress.These wilderness advocates have not missed a beat this year, rolling out wilderness bill and after wilderness bill.The bills they've introduced would protect spectacular America's unique natural legacy, preserving swaths of special wildlands from Alaska to Nevada. But Congress still must pass these bills, as opposed to leaving them to languish on the House or Senate floor as the last Congress did with 27 wilderness bills
Ways you can help
American citizens must start by putting pressure on Congress to make preserving our natural heritage a priority. You can help by urging your legislators to do the right thing and vote 'yes' for wilderness preservation bills.
Here's a look at the wild places up for protections in Congress this year
Alaska: Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Michael G. Fitzpatrick’s (R-PA) bills would designate the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness, protecting this crown jewel of our refuge system from oil and gas drilling.
Colorado: Bills from Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Rep. Scott Tipton (R, CO-3) would protect old-growth spruce and ponderosa pine forests and mountain meadows in the heart of Colorado’s San Juan Mountains and the Hermosa Creek Watershed as wilderness.
Idaho: Snowy peaks and lake-strewn valleys stand to gain if a bill from Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) is passed to protect the Boulder White Clouds Mountains.
Michigan: The popular Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore would gain greater protections through Rep. Dan Benishek (R-MI) and Sen. Carl Levin’s (D-MI) bill to give parts of it wilderness designation.
Montana: Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Sen. Max Baucus’ (D-MT) bill would preserve the Rocky Mountain Front and backcountry throughout western and southwest Montana and make additions to the renowned Bob Marshall and Scapegoat wilderness areas.
Nevada: Bills introduced by Rep. Mark Amodei (R, Nev-2) and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev) would protect northwest Nevada’s Pine Forest Range, named by Field & Stream as a “Best Wild Place” for trout fishing and outdoor adventure as wilderness. Bills from Sen. Dean Heller (R, Nev), Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev) and Rep. Steven Horsford (D, Nev-4) would protect parts of Pine Grove Hills, home to critical wildlife habitat and prehistoric natural resources.
New Mexico: The Columbine Hondo area, nestled deep in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in northern New Mexico and the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument near Taos, N.M., would both gain wilderness protections if two bills by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and y Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D, NM-3) are passed.
Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, N.M., Ryan Wick
Oregon: Tributaries of the Rogue river, Oregon’s most important salmon fishery would be protected by bills from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Rep. Kurt Schrader (D, OR-5). Their bills would also make additions to the Rogue River Wilderness and designate parts of the Molalla River as ‘recreational.’
Washington: Bills from Rep. Dave Reichert (R, WA-8) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) would designate wilderness in the central Oregon Coast Range and protect roughly 10.4 miles of Wasson and Franklin Creeks as national wild and scenic rivers.
The Wilderness Society will continue to press Congress to get these bills past the finish line. You can help by sending a message to Congress.
Why Congress must listen
The vast majority of the bills have bipartisan support in local communities where people of all walks of life have formed diverse partnerships in order to get the bills passed. They know that protecting their nearby wildlands will also protect their sources of clean water and air, the places they go to play and relax, and a sustainable source of jobs and economic activity.
In a recent poll, 91 percent of people surveyed agreed that public lands are essential to their state’s economy. From Maine to Washington state, people want to protect America’s wilderness.
What is a Wilderness bill?
Wilderness areas are those lands that are so unique and prized that they are given the highest form of protection. Unlike national monuments, only Congress has the ability to designate wilderness.
Due to Congress’ inaction last congress, President Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act to protect five new national monuments (bringing his total designation roster to nine).
See a list of wilderness bills that have been introduced during the 113th Congress here.