Wilderness bills- 112th Congress

Kingston Range, Silurian Valley
John Dittli
Every year, Congress has the choice to preserve wild areas by passing legislation that protects the wildest of them as federally designated wilderness.

Last year, Congress had the opportunity to pass multiple wilderness bills that would have protected special places from Alaska to Maine. Many of these bills will be reintroduced in the 113th Congress.

See also:

Why protect wilderness
How we designate wilderness
Wilderness Act

Here is a look at the wild areas Congress could have protected last year. We worked with local partners to get these bills passed and will provide updates on what is reintroduced in the 113th Congress.

Wilderness bills from the 112th Congress


The Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act (S.33/H.R. 139), introduced by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA)  with numerous co-sponsors in the House and Senate  would designate the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge as Wilderness, permanently protecting it from harmful human development.


The California Desert Protection Act (S. 138)  introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)   would protect nearly 1.5 million acres of southern California’s unique desert lands by creating two new National Monuments, adding over 346,000 acres of Wilderness, expanding Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks, and protecting historic treasures like Route 66.

The Pinnacles National Park Act (H.R 3641/S. 161)  introduced in the House by Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) and co-sponsored by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), and in the Senate by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and co-sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)  would upgrade Pinnacles from a National Monument to a National Park, while also adding nearly 3,000 acres of the Monument to the National Wilderness Preservation System. This bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives, without the 3,000 acres of wilderness protection. 

A total of 21,000 acres of exceptional rock formations, steep canyons and chaparral and oak woodlands in San Diego County would be protected through the Beauty Mountain and Agua Tibia Wilderness Act of 2011 (H.R. 41/S. 1574), introduced in the House by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and in the Senate by Sen. Barbara Boxer.

The Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests Protection Act (H.R. 113)  introduced by Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) and co-sponsored by Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA)  would protect an additional 18,000 acres of public lands in the San Gabriel Mountains as Wilderness.

Introduced by Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA), the Los Padres Conservation and Recreation Act (H.R. 4109) would protect 64,000 acres of Wilderness, establish an 18,000-acre Scenic Area, and designate 89 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers in Southern California.


Introduced by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), the Colorado Wilderness Act (H.R. 2420) would designate over 729,000 acres of Wilderness throughout Colorado.

Introduced by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), the Eagle and Summit County Wilderness Preservation Act (H.R. 1701) would protect 166,000 acres of wildlands, with roughly half being designated as Wilderness and half given other protective designations.

Introduced by Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) and co-sponsored by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act (S. 1635) would protect over 61,000 acres of southern Colorado wildlands, including the designation of 33,000 acres of Wilderness.

The Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act of 2012 (S. 3400) – introduced by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) – would protect the Hermosa Creek watershed in the San Juan National Forest in southwest Colorado. The bill would protect 38,000 acres as wilderness and 70,000 acres as a special management area. 


More than 333,000 acres of the snowy mountain peaks and gorgeous lake-filled terrain in the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains would be forever protected through passage of the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (H.R. 163), introduced by Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID).


The Maine Coastal Islands Wilderness Act (H.R. 2984)  introduced by Rep. Michael Michaud (D-ME) and co-sponsored by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME)  would establish over 3,000 acres of new Wilderness on 13 islands off the coast of Maine.


Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Conservation and Recreation Act (S. 140/H.R. 977) - introduced in the Senate by Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and in the House by Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI) - would protect 32,557 acres of Wilderness.


The Forest Jobs and Recreation Act of 2011 (S. 268)  introduced by  Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) and co-sponsored by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)  would designate 669,160 acres of Wilderness and 336,205 acres of recreation, protection, and special management areas on three national forests in Montana: the Kootenai, Beaverhead-Deerlodge and Lolo National Forests.

Introduced by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act (S. 1774) 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.


Introduced in the House by Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) and co-sponsored by Reps. Joe Heck (R-NV) and Shelley Berkeley (D-NV), and in the Senate by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and co-sponsored by Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), the Pine Forest Range Recreation Enhancement Act of 2011 (S. 1788/H.R. 3377) would establish 26,000 acres of Wilderness in the northwest Nevada’s Pine Forest Range.

New Mexico

Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and co-sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), and in the House by Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) with Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) as a co-sponsor, the Rio Grande Del Norte National Conservation Area Establishment Act (S. 667/H.R. 1241) would protect 21,420 acres as Wilderness within a 235,980 acre National Conservation Area in northern New Mexico.

The Cibola National Forest Boundary Expansion (H.R. 490)  sponsored by Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM)  adds nearly 900 acres to the Manzano Mountain Wilderness.

The Organ Mountains-Dona Ana County Conservation and Protection Act (S. 1024)  introduced by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and co-sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)  would protect 241,000 acres of Wilderness and 159,550 acres as a National Conservation Area.

The Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act (S. 2468) – introduced by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and co-sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) – would protect 45,000 of wilderness in the Carson National Forest outside of Taos, New Mexico. 


The Cathedral Rock and Horse Heaven Wilderness Act of 2011 (S. 607) introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and co-sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)  would establish over 16,000 acres of Wilderness.

Devil’s Staircase Wilderness Act of 2011 (S. 766/H.R. 1413) - introduced in the Senate by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and co-sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and in the House by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and co-sponsored by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) - would protect 29,650 acres of Wilderness and almost 15 miles of Wild and Scenic River within Oregon’s coastal rainforest.

The Rogue Wilderness Expansion Act (S. 2001/H.R. 3436)  introduced in the Senate by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and co-sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and in the House by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) with Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) as co-sponsors  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.


The Tennessee Wilderness Act, (S. 1090)  introduced by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and co-sponsored by Bob Corker (R-TN) would permanently protect 19,556 acres of Wilderness in Tennessee’s Cherokee National Forest.


The Wasatch Wilderness and Watershed Protection Act (H.R. 4267) – introduced by Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT) – would protect 26,000 acres in the central Wasatch Mountains outside of Salt Lake City.  The bill would protect over 15,000 as wilderness and more than 10,000 acres as a special management area. 


The Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and the Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act (S. 322/H.R. 608) would protect an additional 22,000 acres of Wilderness adjoining the existing Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area and would designate nearly 30 miles of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River and 10 miles of the Pratt River as Wild and Scenic Rivers.

The Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 2012 (S. 3329/H.R. 5995) – introduced in the Senate by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and in the House by Norm Dicks (D-WA) and co-sponsored by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) – would protect over 126,000 acres of wilderness in Olympic National Forest. The bill would also designate over 460 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers. 


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