The Wilderness Society opposes two bills and applauds one in House Subcommittee hearing

May 9, 2013

Organ Mountains. 

flickr by Paul Garland.
Two non-local bills would jeopardize wilderness protections


The Wilderness Society today took a position on three bills being heard in the House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation.


The Wilderness Society opposes:

o   Sec. 4(e)(1) - Under this provision, all existing wilderness would be open to construction of temporary roads, use of motorized equipment, use of mechanized vehicles, landing of aircraft, construction of structures or installations, or new motorized access for agencies, where such activities are related to hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, or fish and wildlife conservation to serve the same.

o   Sec. 4(e)(2) could be interpreted to allow the use of motorized vehicles, temporary road construction, and other activities within wilderness areas where such activities used for hunting, fishing, or recreational shooting.


o   Section 4(c)(2) states that no analysis or consideration of environmental effects is necessary for any action taken under the Heritage Act.  This means that a federal agency may open or close an area to hunting or fishing, or develop shooting ranges on public land without considering any public input of environmental impacts, and the National Environmental Policy Act will not apply to such actions.


“The Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act has ‘Trojan Horse’ language in it that would undermine the protection of over 100 million acres of America’s Wilderness,” said Paul Spitler, director of wilderness campaigns at The Wilderness Society. “Hunting and fishing are time-tested traditions enjoyed in wilderness, and this bill would weaken protections of critical wildlife habitat.” 


Unfortunately, H.R. 995 is inconsistent with that community-supported vision and would weaken existing protections in the Organ Mountains.  It would also fail to preserve 90% of the area including important areas for hunting like the Sierra de las Uvas and Potrillo Mountains, iconic American treasures like the Butterfield Stagecoach Trail, and thousands of Native American Petroglyphs.


“Unlike the community-driven Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks proposal, H.R. 995 has not been thoroughly vetted by the Doña Ana County community,” said Michael Casaus, the New Mexico state director at The Wilderness Society. “There are incredible natural, historical and culturally significant lands and places in the region that should be protected, and H.R. 995 fails to do so.”


The Wilderness Society supports:

  • The California Coastal National Monument Expansion Act (H.R. 1411) would protect 1,100 acres of public land that is recognized for its natural and scenic values. Located three hours up the coast from San Francisco, this monument is home to the Point Arena Mountain Beaver, wetlands and wildlife, and could become the first land-based addition to the California Coastal National Monument. Residents of the area have worked with previous Congresses to introduce legislation that would protect the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands.


“The 112th Congress was the first one since World War II to not protect a single new acre of public land as a national monument, national park or wilderness area,” said Anne Merwin, director of wilderness policy at The Wilderness Society. “We are hopeful that the House Natural Resources Committee starts a new chapter and continues to hear citizen-crafted proposals like the California Coastal National Monument Expansion Act.”


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.  In Doña Ana County, a diverse group of stakeholders have come together to ask President Obama to protect the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks national monument.  The Wilderness Society urges Congress to now lead and pass citizen-crafted conservation.



Anne Merwin, (202) 556-2920,

Paul Spitler, (202) 360-1912,