Monday, May 09, 2011

Wilderness Bills Proliferate as Promoters Hope to Break 2-Year Drought

Conservationists are working to build support for more than a dozen wilderness bills introduced in Congress that would provide the highest level of protections to more than 1.5 million acres in seven states. The bills, two of which were included in a failed last-gasp public lands package last December, represent unfinished business for wilderness supporters who lobbied hard for their passage during the last Congress. Proponents say they hope the bills can pass the 112th Congress despite lingering skepticism from Republicans who now control key committees in the House. While the political terrain has changed, wilderness has a history of bipartisan and local support, proponents say. For example, four of the newly introduced bills come from Republicans, three of whom chair their own panels. But most of the bills will face an upward climb in the House, where leaders of the Natural Resources Committee say certain criteria must be met before they can support new wilderness. "I'm not opposed to creating wilderness per se, but I want to make sure that first of all it has the consent of local elected officials as well as the members of Congress from that area," said Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chairman the House National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee, which reviews wilderness proposals. Wilderness bills also should not create economic hardship or endanger private property, he added. Bishop warned that the Interior Department's new "wild lands" order to evaluate and consider protections for roadless lands could be a "stumbling block" for efforts to create permanent wilderness. The policy was defunded this month as part of Congress' continuing resolution, and opponents have vowed to strip funding again in the 2012 budget...more


Anonymous said...

There will be more and more wilderness unless greater pressure is put on the House of Reps. The geeens will never rest until all public and then what's left of private land is taken out of production.

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