Senate Committee passes wilderness and conservation bills

May 16, 2013

Capitol Building

Library of Congress
The Wilderness Society applauds the continued momentum and looks forward to a Senate floor vote


The Wilderness Society today applauded the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, under the Chairmanship of Senator Ron Wyden, for reporting from the committee an array of wilderness and public lands protection measures.

The mark-up is a further sign of continued momentum that The Wilderness Society is hopeful will mark a stark difference between the 112th and 113th Congress. The 112th Congress was the first Congress since 1966 to not protect a single acre of wilderness. It was also the first Congress since World War II to not protect a single new acre of public land as a park, national monument, or wilderness area.

“We applaud the Senate Natural Resources Committee for turning a new page and priming wilderness and conservation bills for a Senate floor vote,” said Anne Merwin, director of wilderness policy at The Wilderness Society.   “America’s public lands are truly unique, and communities on the ground are rallying to protect our natural treasures for future generations to enjoy.”

The Wilderness Society supports the following measures:

  • Pine Forest Range Recreation Enhancement Act (S. 342) – sponsored by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and co-sponsored by Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) – would establish 26,000 acres of wilderness in the northwest Nevada’s Pine Forest Range. Overlooking the Black Rock Desert, the Pine Forest Range is blanketed by limber and whitebark pines and provides some of the region’s best trout fishing. Named by Field and Stream as a “Best Wild Place” for trout fishing and outdoor adventure, the Pine Forest Range is a true crown jewel. This measure would ensure that these important resources are protected in perpetuity.
  •  Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area Establishment Act (S. 241) – sponsored by Tom Udall (D-NM) and co-sponsored by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) – would protect as wilderness roughly 13,500 acres of the  Cerro del Yuta and 8,000 acres of the Rio San Antonio areas.   In response to the community’s longstanding support for conservation, President Obama recently designated the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, but only Congress has the ability to designate wilderness within this area.
  • The Hill Creek Cultural Preservation and Energy Development Act (S.27) would provide the opportunity to advance the preservation of one of the most important wilderness landscapes in the lower 48 states. It would do so in a way that benefits the Ute Indian Tribe and State of Utah as well.  It is sponsored in the in the Senate by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and co-sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT).
    Companion legislation, H.R. 356, passed the House yesterday and is sponsored by Rep. Rob Bishop (R, UT-1), and co-sponsored by Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R, UT-3), Jim Matheson (D, UT-4) and Chris Stewart (R, UT-2).  
  • Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act Reauthorization (S. 368) is sponsored by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and co-sponsored by Sens. Max Baucus (D-MT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dean Heller (R-NV), Jon Tester (D-MT), Mark Udall (D-CO), Tom Udall (D-NM) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). The bill would achieve economic and environmental goals by selling Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands identified for disposal, generating revenue from those sales for high-value federal conservation projects throughout the West. Through this balanced approach, the BLM has more capacity to sell identified acres to private landowners, counties, companies and others for ranching, community development, and businesses. The revenue from these sales allows federal agencies to acquire high-priority lands with recreational access, historic significance, ecological importance and other conservation values.


Anne Merwin