Wilderness History in the Making? Congress Postpones Answer ‘Til Next Year

In October, you heard us talking a great deal about a historic piece of conservation legislation that was poised for passage.

The Omnibus Public Lands Management Act included 15 separate wilderness bills totaling nearly two million acres across eight states. This would have been the largest expansion of the National Wilderness Preservation System in nearly 15 years.

However, the legislation never made it to the floor during the 110th Congress.

While the passage of this important act would have been a wonderful parting gift from Congress, there’s still great hope for its success in the next Congress.

In fact, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has committed to take up the bill early in 2009 at the start of the 111th Congress.

Sen. Reid postponed this fall’s vote after Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., vowed to use parliamentary tactics to hold up the bill, including demanding that the more than 1,000-page bill be read in full and threatening a filibuster.

In fact, the 111th Congress will likely be one of the most productive for new wilderness designations in decades.

In addition to the wilderness bills already proposed in omnibus legislation, nearly two dozen other wilderness campaigns may be ready for legislation in 2009 or 2010.

With a Congress that is increasingly receptive to new environmental protection and a supportive presidential administration, it’s possible we could well be entering a wilderness revival not seen since the 1980s.

If you’ve written letters on behalf of this campaign, be proud of all you’ve done. We’ve made great strides towards passage of this legislation. Stay involved and get regular updates on this issue by signing up for WildAlerts and our RSS subscription.