The Wilderness Society condemns bill rolling back protection for millions of acres of wilderness

Apr 15, 2011

Cherished places like Tongass National Forest, Utah red rock country, and much more at risk

WASHINGTON - The Wilderness Society today condemned the introduction of a bill by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) that would roll back existing protections and place at risk tens of millions more acres of wilderness-quality but unprotected National Forest and BLM public lands.

"This is the biggest attack on wilderness we have seen in the history of The Wilderness Society," Wilderness Society policy analyst Paul Spitler said of the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act. "This proposal flies in the face of values Americans hold dear with respect to stewardship of our public lands. It also flies in the face of nearly fifty years of legislation designating new wilderness areas. Your favorite places where you love to hunt, fish or hike? Gone. Protection for our drinking water and habitat for wildlife? Gone".

If passed, this legislation would open wilderness-caliber lands to destructive threats, including oil and gas development, uncontrolled off-road vehicle use and other unchecked development. It would essentially prohibit the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management from managing pristine lands to protect their wilderness values.

"That this proposal comes from the Republican leadership in Congress makes it more alarming," Spitler said. "An attack of this magnitude does not represent the vision of Theodore Roosevelt or all the other great Republican leaders who love our public lands."

Background on the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act

Rep. McCarthy introduced the bill today. The proposal would:

  1. Remove existing legislative protections from millions of acres of Bureau of Land Management “Wilderness Study Areas.”
     
  2. Remove existing protections on tens of millions of acres of unroaded national forest wild lands by terminating a decade-old policy that protected those places.
     
  3. Repeal recent BLM policy that assures the agency will identify and protect lands harboring wilderness values when it prepares its land use plans.
     
  4. Prohibit future administrations from ever protecting the wilderness characteristics on tens of millions of acres of wilderness-caliber lands