Report: conservation bills mired in Congress despite public support

New Mexico's Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks area, which is the subject of a concerted national monument push including long-overdue legislation.

Credit: Bob Wick (BLM California), flickr.

A new report highlights 10 major conservation bills that have languished in Congress for years despite local and bipartisan support.

The study, released by the Equal Ground campaign on March 20, vividly illustrates that partisanship and general disorder in Washington have impeded what was once a relatively straightforward aspect of governing—protecting unique pieces of wild land for the enjoyment of all Americans.

The 10 conservation bills profiled in the report, some carrying sponsors from both parties, have been mired in Congressional limbo for years. In all, versions of those bills have been introduced in the House or Senate a combined 52 times over the last three decades without a single one becoming law.

Here are a few of the places highlighted in the report, as well as stats on how long they have been waiting for their turn at-bat:

Berryessa Snow Mountain (California)

Fewer than 100 miles from California's Bay Area and Sacramento, this hotbed of biodiversity extends north from Lake Berryessa to the Snow Mountain Wilderness. It contains lush forests and meadows and supports wildlife including tule elk, ospreys, bald eagles, river otters and a variety of butterflies.

  • 2 years since protections first proposed
  • 4 bills introduced to protect the landscape

Hermosa Creek (Colorado)

A beautiful section of Colorado’s San Juan National Forest, the Hermosa Creek Watershed contains 17 distinct ecosystems, one gauge of its great value as a natural space. It also encompasses the largest unprotected roadless area in the Southern Rocky Mountains, and major elk and deer habitat have helped make it a national treasure. A proposed Wilderness area, part of recent protection plans for the area, is a crescent of land thick with old growth ponderosa pine immediately to the west of Hermosa Creek.

  • 2 years since protections first proposed
  • 3 bills introduced to protect the landscape

Browns Canyon (Colorado)

Chaffee County business owners, veterans, river guides, and sportsmen are advocating for Central Colorado’s Browns Canyon be protected as a national monument, with nearly half of that newly-protected land to be set aside as Wilderness. Proposed legislation would protect about 20,000 acres along the Arkansas River between Salida and Buena Vista, a mountainous expanse replete with granite canyons and home to wildlife including black bears, bighorn sheep, elk, bobcat and mountain lions. In addition to being beautiful, it is one of the best whitewater rafting venues in the American West.

  • 23 years since protections First proposed
  • 13 bills introduced to protect the landscape

Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks (New Mexico)

The subject of a recent, concerted national monument push, this stretch of iconic lands near Las Cruces features dramatic mountain peaks, colorful plants, sprightly antelope and majestic birds of prey. Recent proposals for protection contain designated Wilderness perfect for hiking, camping and hunting, as well as monument area that will allow existing uses like motorized vehicle recreation and livestock grazing. Monument status would solidify the region's standing as a travel destination and driver of jobs and economic development.

  • 5 years since protections first proposed
  • 3 bills introduced to protect the landscape

Boulder-White Clouds (Idaho)

The Boulder-White Clouds Mountains have been waiting for protection for a long time, and they deserve it. Here, a new national monument could preserve thousands of acres for generations of sportsmen, hikers and sightseers to come—land that includes craggy mountain peaks, high-elevation lakes and delicately-balanced habitat for wildlife including mule deer, elk, moose, black bears, wolverines and mountain lions.

  • 30 years since protections first proposed
  • 11 bills introduced to protect the landscape

Despite recent public lands victories, like President Barack Obama’s expansion of the California Coastal Monument and the passage of a bill converting parts of Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to protected Wilderness, Congress has protected very little public land in the last few years. Making matters worse, a new House bill would effectively gut the Antiquities Act, a venerable law used by presidents of both parties to protect land as national monuments.

Tell Congress to defend the Antiquities Act, a tool to protect land in the face of bipartisan gridlock