Wilderness Bills Move Forward in the Senate

Aug 3, 2011

The Organ Mountains-Dona Ana County Conservation and Protection Act (S. 1024) and the Tennessee Wilderness Act (S. 1090) are making their way through Congress with a hearing in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests.

The Organ Mountains-Dona Anna County Conservation and Protection Act would protect 241,000 acres of Wilderness and 160,000 acres as a National Conservation Area.  Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Tom Udall (D, NM) re-introduced this act this Congress, which is supported by local elected governments and Chambers of Commerce, sportsmen organizations, community groups and conservation organizations.

“For years, a critical mass has been building to protect the spectacular Organs that make up Las Cruces’ horizon,” said Michael Casaus, New Mexico state director at The Wilderness Society. “Senators Bingaman and Udall, and the thousands of on-the-ground supporters, understand that Wilderness designation would mean a win for our local economy and a win for the health of our citizens and visitors.”

The Tennessee Wilderness Act would protect 20,500 acres of wilderness in Tennessee’s Cherokee National Forest, including the headwaters of the Upper Bald River. The act was re-introduced this Congress by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Bob Corker (R-TN). The legislation is supported by local businessmen, sportsmen and outdoorsmen, and elected officials.

“Passage of The Tennessee Wilderness Act is critical if we are going to continue to enjoy clean air and drinking water and exceptional outdoor activities in our own natural ‘backyard,’” said Brent Martin, southern Appalachian program director at The Wilderness Society. “With strong bipartisan support locally and in Congress, we are encouraged that this bill will become law this year.”

To view a full list of bills moving through the 112th Congress, please visit wilderness.org/content/112th-congress-and-wildlands.

Unfortunately, the Organ Mountains-Dona Ana County Conservation and Protection Act and the Tennessee Wilderness Act come on the heels of a hearing in the House of Representatives on the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act, or the Great Outdoors Giveaway.

The Great Outdoors Giveaway (H.R. 1581) gives corporate polluters and developers, who already have access to 76 percent of all national forests and Bureau of Land Management lands, access to even more of America’s vanishing wilderness. Yet these two Wilderness bills being considered in the Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests are working to protect, not destroy, our last wild places.

Paul Spitler