House Committee hears first wilderness bill of the 113th Congress

Apr 18, 2013

East Walker River adjacent to the Wovoka Wilderness

Kurt Kuznicki

The Wilderness Society welcomes hearing, but urges passage of stalled wilderness legislation from 112th Congress

The Wilderness Society today welcomed the first hearing on wilderness legislation in the House of Representatives. The hearing on the Lyon County Economic Development and Conservation Act in the House Natural Resource Committee’s Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation comes on the heels of the Worst Congress Ever for wilderness—the 112th Congress—which was the first Congress in nearly 50 years to not protect a single acre of wilderness.

The Lyon County Economic Development and Conservation Act (H.R. 696) would designate approximately 48,000 acres of central Nevada’s Pine Grove Hills as wilderness. Situated between the Sweetwater Mountains and Wassuk Range, the Pine Grove Hills contain a variety of Great Basin habitats, offer outstanding recreational opportunities, and harbor world-class archeological resources. 

“Finally, the subcommittee heard its first wilderness bill of the 113th Congress,” said Paul Spitler, director of wilderness campaigns at The Wilderness Society.  “This is a balanced bill that the committee should approve immediately.  It has been 1,480 days since Congress last protected an acre of wilderness, and the House Natural Resources Committee failed to advance a single wilderness bill in the 112th Congress. Let’s hope the committee puts an end to that dubious distinction and moves H.R. 696 and other locally supported bills as soon as possible.”

In contrast, the subcommittee also heard H.R. 934, a bill that would actually shrink the amount of protected public lands by undoing a longstanding Wild and Scenic conservation designation on the Merced River in northern California. This legislation removes the Wild and Scenic designation for 1,800 feet of the Lower Merced River that is used annually by thousands of rafters, kayakers and hikers. 

Frustrated with the 112th Congress’ inaction, local communities on the ground asked President Obama to protect the places they care about -- such as Fort Monroe in Virginia and the Rio Grande del Norte in northern New Mexico -- and he listened. The Wilderness Society urges Congress to now lead and pass wilderness legislation.

Paul Spitler
(202) 360-1912