Two Million Acres Up for ‘Wilderness’ Designation

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Congress is on the brink of barring all development on huge swaths of forest and desert in nine states, in what would be the most sweeping land-protection law in 15 years.

Land-preservation advocates, such as Paul Spitler of the Wilderness Society, say the bill's passage may usher in a new era of wilderness protection. "We're likely to see new wilderness legislation for years to come," Spitler says. "This is the start of a wave here."

…Lawmakers who back the bill say support is growing for land preservation. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, says she's "optimistic" that Congress can make "a fresh start with public lands legislation and find a way to find consensus on these types of bills."

Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., has said he's likely to introduce a bill to establish wilderness in southern Arizona.