WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 28, 2014) – Wilderness bills in Michigan and Nevada were approved today by the House Natural Resources Committee, but The Wilderness Society is urging the House to remove egregious anti-conservation language that was attached to the Nevada bills behind closed doors and without the consent of the local communities who are supporting the legislation. The amendments would harm natural resources, jeopardize public safety, and undermine the integrity of the National Wilderness Preservation System. For The Wilderness Society’s statement on these measures, click here.
Last-minute provisions added to the Nevada wilderness bills would effectively prohibit the Secretary of the Interior from closing any road outside the wilderness, even where public safety was jeopardized or natural resource damage was occurring. Other provisions added by those not involved in the development of the legislation would preclude natural resource protection on lands near the wilderness, prohibit private landowners from selling inholdings to the federal government, and exempt all wildfire-related activities—including some logging—from the Wilderness Act.
“We applaud the committee for moving these locally supported and broadly vetted bills along in the legislative process,” says Jeremy Garncarz, Senior Director of Wildlands Designations with The Wilderness Society. “However, adding these last-minute poison pills is clearly an attempt to advance ideological agendas that undercut local communities and their good faith efforts to protect special places in their backyards.”
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Conservation and Recreation Act (H.R. 163) would designate 32,557 acres along the shores of Lake Michigan as wilderness, and enjoys broad, bipartisan public support.
The Pine Forest Range Recreation Enhancement Act of 2013 would protect 26,000 acres of wilderness in the northwest Nevada’s Pine Forest Range, and is supported by ranchers, sportsmen, conservation and recreation interests and the Humboldt County Commission.
The Lyon County Economic Development and Conservation Act would protect Nevada’s Wovoka Wilderness, named for the Northern Paiute spiritual leader and home to critical wildlife habitat and prehistoric natural resources.
The committee also voted on several other measures, including Rep. Rob Bishop's H.R. 2095, the Land Disposal Transparency and Efficiency Act, which would prohibit land acquisition by federal agencies until certain conditions are met. This measure would undermine the ability of private landowners to sell their land to the federal government, jeopardize natural resource protection and access to public lands, and harm local economies.
H.R. 2259, the North Fork Watershed Protection Act, which would preserve a nationally significant watershed next to Glacier National Park and in the heart of the Crown of the Continent ecosystem. The Wilderness Society supports this legislation.
The Wilderness Society opposes H.R. 2657, the Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act, because it would require the disposal of vast tracts of public land based on an outdated study and without regard for their ecological value or importance to local communities. The Wilderness Society supports the sale of excess Bureau of Land Management lands through the Federal Land Transaction and Facilitation Act (FLTFA), which provides a common-sense “land for land” approach to land disposal.