Senate Passes Historic Protection for Wilderness

The Senate voted today to safeguard millions of acres of new wilderness, protect hundreds of miles of rivers, expand trails, and protect critical habitat in Wyoming from oil and gas leasing. This is the bill’s last stop in the Senate, with final passage in the House of Representatives expected to come next week.

The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (H.R. 146 – formerly S. 22) passed on a vote of 77 to 20. The bill protects more than two million acres of wilderness in eight states, including the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, Oregon’s Mt. Hood, and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

“This is the biggest wilderness protection bill in decades,” said Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope. “Today, Congress has helped ensure that we will have a wild legacy to pass on to our children and grandchildren. This bill helps guarantee that future generations will be able to hike in pristine forests from California to West Virginia. They’ll be able to fish America’s untouched rivers, watch antelope migrate through Wyoming, and take their families camping in the stunning Rocky Mountains.”

In addition to safeguarding new wilderness, the bill finalizes the 26-million-acre National Landscape Conservation System, protects hundreds of miles of free-flowing rivers in six states, and designates numerous new National Scenic Trails, Natural Historic Sites, and National Heritage Areas across the United States. It also shelters over a million acres of key hunting and fishing grounds on the Wyoming Range from oil and gas drilling.

“Wilderness, rivers, trails and parks support important tourist economies across the country,” said Pope. “This legislation will protect the tourist dollars and jobs that outdoor recreation generates by keeping our last, best places safe from unchecked industrial development.”

Overview of the Omnibus Lands Package:

-The bill codifies and adds permanence to the National Landscape Conservation System, which includes all of the Clinton/Babbitt-era national monuments, wilderness study areas, and other protective designations, encompassing more than 26 million acres.

-The bill will protect more than 1 million acres of the Wyoming Range from oil and gas development.

-The bill also includes the Forest Landscape Restoration Act and the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act.

-The package includes five important ocean protections: 1. NOAA Undersea Research Program Act, 2. The Ocean and Coastal Mapping Integration Act, 3. The Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act, 4. The Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act, and 5. The Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program.

-Wilderness Protection includes: 1. Wild Monongahela Wilderness – WV 2. Virginia Ridge and Valley Wilderness – VA 3. Mt. Hood Wilderness – OR 4. Copper Salmon Wilderness – OR 5. Cascade Siskiyou National Monument (Includes Soda Mt. Wilderness) – OR 6. Owyhee Public Land Management – ID 7. Sabinoso Wilderness – NM 8. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Wilderness – MI 9. Oregon Badlands Wilderness – OR 10. Spring Basin Wilderness – OR 11. Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Wilderness – CA 12. Riverside County Wilderness – CA 13. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park Wilderness – CA 14. Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness – CO 15. Washington County – UT

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