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Senate Passes First 3 Wilderness Bills of Session

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Legislation to protect wilderness in Michigan, Oregon, and Washington cleared the U.S. Senate on Wednesday (June 19), marking a key step toward the addition of nearly 90,000 acres to the National Wilderness Preservation System. The Pew Charitable Trusts is working in support of 13 other measures to safeguard wild public land.

“We are pleased to see the Senate take early action for wilderness and other public lands bills,” said Tim Mahoney, a director of U.S. public lands initiatives for The Pew Charitable Trusts. “We are especially appreciative that Chairman Ron Wyden of Oregon, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and leadership are working cooperatively, moving past partisan gridlock to protect these important landscapes.” 

See the pending wilderness bills Pew is working on in the 113th Congress


Passed Senate

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Conservation and Recreation Act (S 23)

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Conservation and Recreation Act (S 23)

On January 4, 2013, Rep. Dan Benishek (R-MI) introduced legislation to protect over 32,500 acres of wilderness in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

This area is on the mainland shore of Lake Michigan and is popular with hunters, anglers, hikers and boaters.

Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) introduced companion legilsation on January 22, 2013.

Reps. Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI), Dave Camp (R-MI), Bill Huizenga (R-MI), Mike Rogers (R-MI), Fred Upton (R-MI) and Tim Walberg (R-MI) are co-sponsors.

On March 14, 2013 the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved this legislation.

On June 19, 2013 the Senate passed this legislation.


Devil’s Staircase Wilderness Act (S. 352)

Devil’s Staircase Wilderness Act (S 352)

Considered one of the most secluded locations in Oregon, the Devil’s Staircase is home to some of the finest old-growth forest left in the Coast Range. Many native species are found within the wilderness, such as the threatened spotted owl, elk, black bear, mountain lions, river otters, and mink.

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the Devil’s Staircase Wilderness Act on February 14, 2013, a measure that will permanently protect nearly 30,000 acres of wilderness on Wassen Creek in Oregon’s Coast Range.

The bill would also place more than 14 miles of Wassen and Franklin creeks in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, a designation given to rivers or sections of rivers that possess “outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations.

On March 14, 2013 the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved this legislation.

On June 19, 2013 the Senate passed this legislation.


Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act (S 112)

Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act (S 112)

On January 23, 2013, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. David Reichert (R-WA) introduced legislation that will expand the existing 394,000-acre Alpine Lakes Wilderness by 22,100 acres and designate parts of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt Rivers as Wild and Scenic.

The areas protected by this bill lie in the Pratt River Valley and the Middle and South Fork Snoqualimie River Valleys, an area that includes glacier-cut U-shaped valleys, snow-capped peaks, old-growth forests, whitewater rivers and strong native trout runs.

This area is the closest and most accessible to residents of the greater Seattle metropolitan area.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA) are co-sponsors. On March 14, 2013 the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved this legislation.

On June 19, 2013 the Senate passed this legislation.


Awaiting Senate Vote

San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act of 2013 (S 341)

San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act of 2013 (S 341)

On February 14, 2013, Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced legislation to protect nearly 55,000 acres of public land in southwest Colorado, including 33,000 acres as wilderness. This addition to the 480,000-acre San Juan National Forest wilderness will provide protection to critical landscape linkages.

The San Juan Mountain range is one of the most geologically diverse mountain ranges in the world and is home to the threatened Canada lynx and the Gunnison sage grouse and Colorado River cuttthroat trout, whose status is under review. The wilderness legislation is supported by local communities, elected officials, ranchers and recreation groups.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) is a co-sponsor.

The Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests held a hearing on April 25, 2013.


Pine Forest Range Recreation Enhancement Act of 2013 (S 342)

Pine Forest Range Recreation Enhancement Act of 2013 (S 342)

On January 29, 2013, Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) introduced legislation to designate the 26,000 acre Pine Forest Range Wilderness in northwest Nevada.

The Pine Forest Range is a popular destination for sportsmen and recreationists and is prime habitat for mule deer, sage grouse, and mountain lion.

Sens. Harry Reid (D-NV) and Dean Heller (R-NV) introduced companion legislation on February 14, 2013.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved this legislation on May 16, 2013.


Lyon County Economic Development and Conservation Act of 2013 (S 159)

Lyon County Economic Development and Conservation Act of 2013 (S 159)

On January 28, 2013, Sens. Harry Reid (D-NV) and Dean Heller (R-NV) introduced legislation to designate 48,000 acres of wilderness in Lyon County, protecting historic cultural and natural resources. It will also convey 12,500 acres of land to the city of Yerington for economic development surrounding the Nevada Copper mine.

The Wovoka Wilderness will be named in honor of the Native American spiritual leader and father of the Ghostdance, who lived near the area.

Reps. Steven Horsford (D-NV), Mark Amodei (R-NV) and Joe Heck (R-NV) introduced companion legislation on February 14, 2013.

The House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation held a hearing on April 18, 2013.

The Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests held a hearing on April 25, 2013.


Cerros del Norte Conservation Act (S 241)

Cerros del Norte Conservation Act (S 241)

On May 16, after the creation of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) successfully amended the Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area Establishment Act, which he and Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) introduced February 7, making it a wilderness-only bill. The renamed bill would designate two new wilderness areas – Ute Mountain (Cerro del Yuta) and San Antonio Mountain (Rio San Antonio) – within the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.

The original bill was amended after President Barack Obama protected the land that had been the basis for the legislation. The two proposes wilderness areas would comprise 21,420 acres of the 242,500-acre national monument northwest of Taos, New Mexico.

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) sponsors the original Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area Establishment Act (HR 560) in the House, which he introduced February 6.

Learn more about Rio Grande del Norte by watching this clip from "This American Land".


The Oregon Treasures Act (S. 353)

The Oregon Treasures Act (S 353)

On February 14, 2013, Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-NM) introduced legislation to protect five areas in Oregon.

The Oregon Treasures Act will designate 60,000 acres of wilderness on the Rogue River in southwest Oregon and over 17,000 acres of wilderness in the Cathedral Rock and Horse Heaven areas along the lower John Day river. It will also protect 143 miles of the Rogue River and its tributaries as wild and scenic as well as 23.1 miles of the Molalla River as recreational under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

In addition the legislation will protect 3 miles of the Chetco River from invasive mining practices.

This bill combines four previously introduced bills.

The Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests held a hearing on April 25, 2013.


Awaiting Committee Action

Arizona Sonoran Desert Heritage Act of 2013 (HR 1799)

Arizona Sonoran Desert Heritage Act of 2013 (HR 1799)

On April 26, 2013, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) introduced legislation to protect approximately 950,000 acres of Sonoran Desert lands west of Phoenix.

The bill will establish the 276,000 acre Belmont-Harquahala NCA and the 406,000 acre Gila Bend NCA. It will also designate 291,000 acres of wilderness, including additions to two existing areas and the creation of four new ones. In addition, the bill will designate two special management areas.

The area is critical habitat for bighorn sheep, bobcat, mountain lions, desert tortoise and more than 300 species of native birds. Protections in this legislation will safeguard the viability of Luke Air force Base and Goldwater Air Force Range and provide an economic boost to surrounding communities.


Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act (HR 1829/S 841)

Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act (HR 1829/S 841)

On April 25, 2013, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) introduced legislation to protect the 108,000 acre Hermosa Creek watershed in the San Juan National Forest of southwest Colorado.

The bill will designate nearly 38,000 acres of wilderness within the watershed.

The area is prized for its stunning vistas, pristine water quality and diverse plant and animal species.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) is a co-sponsor.

Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) introduced companion legislation on May 6, 2013.


Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (HR 163)

Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (HR 163)

On January 3, 2013, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) introduced legislation to permanently protect over 330,000 acres of wilderness in central Idaho.

The bill will create three wilderness areas in the Sawtooth and Challis National Forests and the Challis District of the Bureau of Land Management within the Boulder-White Clouds Mountain range.

Boulder-White Clouds is the largest unprotected wild roadless area in the national forests of the lower 48 states. Its broad range of elevations and habitats lends to the area’s enormous biological and geographical diversity. Since the land is uninterrupted by roads, Boulder-White Clouds is a popular hunting and fishing destination, with spawning salmon and big game such as elk, moose, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, black bear, and cougar.

Learn more about Boulder-White Clouds by watching this clip from "This American Land".


Maine Coastal Islands Wilderness Act (HR 1808)

Maine Coastal Islands Wilderness Act (HR 1808)

On April 26, 2013, Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME) introduced legislation to protect 13 islands of the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge.

The bill will designate 3,125 acres of wilderness, protecting pristine habitat for migratory seabirds and waterfowl and elevating the profile of the area to boost tourism for the area’s economy.

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) is a co-sponsor.


Forest Jobs and Recreation Act (S 268)

Forest Jobs and Recreation Act (S 268)

On January 22, 2013, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. This bill will protect nearly 700,000 acres of wilderness across the Beaverhead-Deerlodge, Lolo and Kootenai National Forests, including the East and West Pioneers, the Sapphires, Lost Cabin and Lima Peaks, and additions to the Lee Metcalf, Anaconda-Pintlar, and North Fork Blackfoot Monture Creek Wilderness areas.

The bill will also improve forest health and fish and wildlife habitat as well as protect the lands for hunting, fishing, hiking and horseback riding. Along with wilderness protection, the measure will designate areas for backcountry recreation and areas for forest stewardship.

Learn more about this area at-risk by watching this clip from "This American Land".


Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act (S 364)

Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act (S 364)

On February 14, 2013, Sens. Max Baucus (D-MT) and Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced legislation to protect 275,000 acres of rustic public land in western Montana. The bill will add 50,500 acres to the Bob Marshall Wilderness and 16,700 acres to the Scapegoat Wilderness.

The legislation will also designate 208,000 acres as Conservation Management Areas and prioritizes noxious-weed eradication and prevention on the protected lands.


Gold Butte National Conservation Area Act (S 1054)

Gold Butte National Conservation Area Act (S 1054)

On May 23, 2013, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) introduced legislation to protect over 440,000 acres of land in Gold Butte just outside of Mesquite, NV.

The bill will designate a nearly 350,000 acre National Conservation Area, containing 129,500 acres of wilderness. An additional 92,000 acres of wilderness will also be designated within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

These protections will preserve ancient petroglyphs, cultural resources and wildlife habitat, while also keeping over 500 miles of roads open for ORV use. They will also raise the profile of the area, driving tourism and helping to support the local economy.

On June 6, Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) introduced the Virgin Valley Tourism and Lake Mead Preservation Act (HR 2276), which includes identical NCA and wilderness protection. Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) is a co-sponsor.


Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act (HR 1683/S 776)

Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act (HR 1683/S 776)

On April 22, 2013, Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM)introduced legislation to protect 45,000 acres of wilderness north of Taos in the Carson National Forest.

The area encompasses the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, including Gold Hill, its highest peak and is home to elk, mountain lion, black bear, pine marten and Rio Grande cutthroat trout. It also contains the headwaters for two rivers that supply water to the acequias used by the local community.


The Pew Campaign for America's Wilderness is working on 16 bills pending in the 113th Congress.

Jump to a state:
Arizona | Colorado | Idaho | Maine | Michigan | Montana | Nevada | New Mexico | Oregon | Washington

 

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