Senate Subcommittee Hears Critical Wilderness Bills

Mar 22, 2012

The Wilderness Society urges full Committee to pass key wilderness legislation

The Wilderness Society today applauded a hearing  of five wilderness and land conservation bills in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests.

The bills being considered today demonstrate that wilderness protection continues to receive broad support from the American people. This welcomed Senate activity stands in stark contrast to the barrage of anti-conservation measures that have been introduced this year, primarily in the House. The bills are now primed for passage in the full Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. 

“Today’s hearing is a great first step and we are thrilled to see these bills moving forward,” said Paul Spitler, director of wilderness policy at The Wilderness Society. “Wilderness is great for America and we urge the Congress to send these bills to the President this year.”

The Wilderness Society supports the following bills:

  • The Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act (S. 1774): Introduced by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), the Act would add 67,000 acres to the Bob Marshall and Scapegoat Wilderness Areas, and would establish a 208,000-acre Conservation Area in the heart of the Rocky Mountain Front. The Front is the eastern edge of the vast Bob Marshall Wilderness complex in the northern Rockies. Home to some of the last remaining intact ecosystems in North America, the “Bob” provides habitat for elk, bull trout, and grizzly bears and offers legendary opportunities for hunting, fishing, hiking, and camping.

 

  • San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act (S. 1635): Introduced by Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) and co-sponsored by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), the Act would protect over 61,000 acres of southern Colorado wildlands, including the designation of 33,000 acres of Wilderness. The legislation would protect the heart of the San Juan Mountains, including cool, azure blue lakes, jagged peaks, lush old growth spruce and fir forests, meadows laden with wildflowers, and golden groves of aspen.  The bill has tremendous community support from local elected officials, conservation and recreation organizations, and businesses.

 

  • The San Juan Islands National Conservation Act (S. 1559): Sponsored by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and co-sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the Act would provide protection for nearly 1,000 acres of small islands, rocks and reef, headlands, historic lighthouses, and ecologically important areas in the San Juan Islands of Washington. The legislation is the product of a community dialogue about strategies to preserve the natural, cultural, and historic values of the San Juan Islands.

 

  • The Pine Forest Range Recreation Enhancement Act (S. 1788): Introduced by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and co-sponsored by Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), the Act would establish 26,000 acres of Wilderness in the northwest Nevada’s Pine Forest Range. The legislation is the result of a local collaborative effort and has support from a broad and diverse local constituency. This measure would ensure that important resources are protected in perpetuity.

 

  • The Rogue Wilderness Area Expansion Act (S. 2001): Introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden and co-sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley, this legislation would add 58,000 acres to the Wild Rogue Wilderness Area, while establishing dozens of miles of wild and scenic rivers and adding protection to many Rogue River tributaries. With over 100,000 anadromous fish returning from the ocean each year, the Rogue is one of Oregon’s most important salmon fisheries, and commercial and recreational fishing here brings in millions of dollars to the state’s economy. This measure would protect the wonderful resources of the Rogue River watershed.

Recent polls and studies have shown that conservation is a win-win for America’s economy and environment.  In a recent Colorado College poll, 78 percent of voters across the West said that “we can protect land and water and have a strong economy with good jobs at the same time, without having to choose one over the other.” The same survey found that close to 90 percent of Western voters agreed that “our national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas are an essential part of your state’s economy.”