Tremendous day for Wilderness!

Dolly Sods Wilderness within the Wild Monogahela Act in West Virginia, a part of the Omnibus package. Photo by Jonathan Jessup.

Great news! The largest land conservation bill in decades has finally become law! After a long awaited victory in Congress, President Obama signed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act into law Monday, March 30. Read Wilderness Society President Bill Meadows’ March 25 blog celebrating the victory below.


This a tremendous day for wilderness and for all who cherish our public lands.

Congress just passed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act, the largest addition to the National Wilderness Preservation System in over a decade and one of the biggest public land conservation measures ever. It now goes to the president’s desk for signature. The Omnibus package rivals some of the greatest pieces of land protection legislation passed during the past fifty years.

As the president of The Wilderness Society, I could not be prouder of all who have worked so hard to make this a reality. This victory is an astounding achievement for our organization and for The Wilderness Society’s many supporters.

The scope of the bill cannot be cannot be overstated: Nine states, 2.1 million acres of wilderness, landmark protection for over one million acres of wild landscapes in the Wyoming Range, and the designation of four national conservation areas and a national monument. It also formally establishes the National Landscape Conservation System, the first new system of conservation lands in more than half a century.

See a map of America's newest wild lands and Wilderness.

With passage of this bill, Congress has made a great gift to present and future generations of Americans. These protected wildlands make our communities better places to live, clean our air and water for free, and provide ecological resilience in the face of climate change. And, of course, they are also great places to seek solitude or to hike and camp and fish with our family and friends.

The one dark spot in an otherwise stellar piece of legislation is the inclusion of a provision that keeps alive the possibility of a road being built through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. The Wilderness Society’s staff is already planning our next steps, and I am committed to doing whatever it takes to make sure this road is never built.

Bristlecone pine in the White Mountains, a part of the Eastern sierra and Northern San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act in California. Photo by John Dittli.From the forested mountains of Virginia to the High Sierra of California; the red cliffs of Dominguez Canyon in Colorado and the canyons at Sabinoso in New Mexico; the landscapes and geography of the places protected today read like a narrative from a history book of the American experience. And what a joy to celebrate new wilderness in Utah and Idaho! In addition, the creation of the National Landscape Conservation System sets the stage for us to be able to discuss landscape-level protections on Bureau of Land Management lands in ways we never could have been imagined just a few short years ago.

I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t add that equally impressive is the role The Wilderness Society’s staff and members played in this protracted effort. As you may know, the path of the Omnibus Act has been circuitous at best. For many of the places that will now be preserved forever — places like the rich spruce and fir forests of West Virginia and the twisting volcanic rock and deep canyons of the Owyhee Desert — The Wilderness Society has been working tirelessly, hand in hand with our partners, for years, and in some cases decades, to garner this kind of protection.

Working with old friends and new allies, we were able to help build consensus in states long-overdue for wilderness protection, and benefited from the committed participation of members of many state delegations.

To all of you who have worked to pass this monumental legislation, you have my most profound and sincerest thanks for a job well done. We all stand on the shoulders of conservation giants, the heroes who have preceded us in this work. Today, you are heroes too.

Watch our video message of thanks from our National Wilderness Campaigns Associate Director Paul Spitler.

photos:
Dolly Sods Wilderness within the Wild Monogahela Act in West Virginia, a part of the Omnibus package. Photo by Jonathan Jessup.
The Wilderness Society President Bill Meadows.
Bristlecone pine in the White Mountains, a part of the Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act in California. Photo by John Dittli.

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