Wilderness Legislation Clears House Committee Hurdle

Jul 30, 2014

Wilderness Society applauds House for moving beyond ‘gridlock’ but says new amendments lead legislation astray

The Wilderness Society today praised the House Natural Resources Comamittee for advancing Wilderness designations for Washington state and Nevada but worries House legislation departs too significantly from more locally supported counterpart bills in the Senate. 

The Wilderness Society also expressed their support for additional legislation approved by the committee that would revise how user fees are handled on public lands.   

According to Paul Spitler, Director of Wilderness Campaigns for the Wilderness Society, approval of two wilderness bills out of the House Natural Resources Committee is a step in the right direction. But he cautions new amendments to the legislation run contrary to the 1964 Wilderness Act and don’t reflect the intent of local constituents who helped craft the legislation.

“We are pleased that these bi-partisan bills have finally received a vote after awaiting action for years,” said Spitler. “However, amendments that undermine the Wilderness Act threaten to sink these important bills. We urge the House to honor the intent of the local stakeholders who crafted these bills by removing provisions that jeopardize their path forward.”

The Wilderness Society offered the following statements on specific legislation which advanced out of the House Natural Resources Committee today:

Statement by Benjamin Greuel, Washington State Regional Director, on H.R. 361, Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Protection Act

The Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Protection Act is the product of more than five years of stakeholder outreach by Senator Murray and Congressman Reichert resulting in strong local support from local businesses, elected officials, recreationists and sportsmen, among many others. The amendments from today’s House Committee are unnecessary and Congress will need to iron the differences out before the legislation crosses the finish line.

Statement by Paul Spitler, Director for Wilderness Campaigns, on H.R. 5205, Northern Nevada Land Conservation and Economic Development Act

We are pleased that the Committee has approved this important Nevada wilderness bill that has broad public support and bipartisan support in Congress. We look forward to continuing to improve this legislation and see it signed into law this year.

Statement by Paul Sanford, Senior Recreation Specialist, on H.R. 5204, Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Modernization Act of 2014

The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Modernization Act is an improvement over current law.  However, the bill requires Congress to approve every new fee imposed by the agencies, which is not very practical. In addition, certain aspects of the bill may make it more difficult for schools to take kids out on public lands. At a time when American children are spending too much time indoors, we should be doing everything we can to expand opportunities for kids to get outside.