Monumental National Wilderness Bill Passes Congress

Mar 25, 2009

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives today passed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, which would permanently protect more than 2 million acres of America’s wilderness in California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia. The omnibus lands act provides the greatest expansion of the National Wilderness Preservation System in 15 years. It now advances to the President’s desk, where it is expected to be signed into law.

“This is a monumental day for wilderness and for all Americans who enjoy the great outdoors,” said William H. Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society. “With passage of this bill, Congress has made a great gift to present and future generations of Americans. These special places make our communities better places to live, clean our air and water for free, and provide ecological resilience in the face of climate change. They’re also great places to hike and camp and fish with family and friends, of course.”

The bill is the culmination of more than a decade of work by citizens from across the country. In addition to the new wilderness, the bill also makes permanent the National Landscape Conservation System, comprised of 26 million acres of the best lands and waters administered by the Bureau of Land Management, and provides additional protections to more than 1.2 million acres of wild landscapes in the Wyoming Range of western Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest.

Unfortunately, the package also includes a provision that is incompatible with the bill’s conservation measures. The Izembek provision could result in removal of 200 acres of wilderness in Alaska to build a harmful and unnecessary road. Meadows said The Wilderness Society will continue to work to ensure that this valuable wilderness and wildlife resource remains protected.

“Today, Congress made a huge investment in America’s natural heritage,” said Paul Spitler, The Wilderness Society’s Associate Director for National Wilderness Campaigns. “Future generations will thank us for preserving these special places and Congress deserves the gratitude of the American people for setting aside these magnificent landscapes.”

For a description of key conservation provisions in the omnibus public land management act, click here. To see the amount of wilderness designated by past Congresses, click here.

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