WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) will receive the Ansel Adams Award from The Wilderness Society Wednesday night for his conservation leadership, particularly his role in passing a bill in March that protected two million acres of wilderness.
"Throughout his career Senator Bingaman has played an enormously important role in protecting our natural heritage for future generations,” said William H. Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society. During the 110th Congress (2007-2008) Bingaman received a 96 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters.
"Earlier this year, as opponents threw a series of obstacles in the path of the most sweeping public lands protection bill in a generation, Senator Bingaman’s persistence and dedication played a critical role in turning this bill into law,” Meadows said. That legislation preserved wilderness in nine states, designated more than 1,000 miles of wild and scenic rivers, and protected cherished places such as the Wyoming Range. Some 16,000 acres in northern New Mexico’s stunning Sabinoso area were among the additions to the National Wilderness Preservation System. Senator Bingaman was also a sponsor of the National Landscape Conservation System Act, which passed as part of this major lands bill. And just this month, he successfully defended the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from an amendment offered in his committee to open the refuge to oil and gas development.
“Guarding our public lands ensures that we protect our nation’s natural, cultural and historical legacies,” said Sen. Bingaman. “Being a Western Senator, I am well aware of the importance of protecting our special places, so I am especially proud to receive this prestigious honor.”
The Silver City native, who has served in the Senate since 1983 and has been the chair and ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee since 1999, has introduced a measure (S. 874) that would create the El Rio Grande Del Norte National Conservation Area, encompassing 235,000 acres northwest of Taos. Within that area, 13,500 acres featuring Ute Mountain would become the Cerro del Yuta Wilderness and 8,000 acres would become the San Antonio Wilderness.
The award that Bingaman will receive is named for the celebrated photographer who, until his death, was an outspoken advocate for safeguarding the nation’s natural heritage. Prior winners of the Ansel Adams Award include former Congressman Mo Udall (D-NM), former Interior Secretary Stewart Udall, President Jimmy Carter, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-ME), Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT), former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus, and former Senators John Chafee (R-RI) and Jim Jeffords (I-VT).