Senate Will Vote on Bill Protecting 2 Million Acres of American Wilderness

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Between all the clumsy ash spills due to corporate oversight and the midnight rulemaking by the exiting administration, it seemed the tide of bad news for the American wilderness was never going to relent. (Bush’s two head-scratching aquatic national park additions notwithstanding). But then New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman introduced a promising bill last Wednesday that would protect over 2 million acres of land nationwide—the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act.

The bill would be the biggest expansion of the Wilderness Preservation Act in 15 years—and will protect lands across 9 states. Will your state be getting wilderness protection?
The Omnibus Act is a collection of conservation focused legislation from red and blue states alike—California, Utah, Michigan, Oregon, New Mexico, Virginia and Wyoming among them—that will designate lands as National Parks, prevent oil and gas development, protect rivers, and create National Heritage sites, as well as initiating other refreshingly pro-environment action.

Among the iconic landmarks receiving protection are California's Sierra Nevadas, Oregon's Mt. Hood, the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, and the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia.

Here’s a summary of what the bill would do, from the Wilderness Society:

* Designate over 2 million acres of Wilderness in California,
Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Michigan, Virginia and West
* Codify the National Landscape Conservation System, which
currently protects 26 million acres of natural treasures including such
American icons as the California coastline, and the Grand
Canyon-Parashant and Sonoran Desert national monuments;
* Protect 1.2 million acres of the scenic Wyoming Range in western
Wyoming from oil and gas development;
* Protect free-flowing rivers in California, Oregon, Idaho,
Wyoming, Arizona, Utah, and Massachusetts as Wild and Scenic Rivers; and
* Designate numerous new National Scenic Trails, Natural Historic
Sites, and, National Heritage Areas across the United States.

And here’s more detailed info on some of the Act’s key provisions.

The Senate will likely vote on the bill tomorrow, according to Majority Leader Harry Reid, so keep your fingers crossed. About now, our wilderness could use some news.

More on American Wilderness Preservation
Mapping North American Environmental Issues
New Map Shows Wilderness Disappearing

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