WILDERNESS LEGISLATION PASSED IN THE 109TH CONGRESS (2005 – 2006)
Below is a list of the Wilderness legislation passed by the 109th Congress and signed into law by the President. The 109th Congress approved six bills adding approximately 1,030,500 acres of public land to the National Wilderness Preservation System. Ojito Wilderness Act (New Mexico) (Public Law No. 109-94)The measure designated the approximately 11,000-acre Ojito Wilderness Study Area northwest of Albuquerque as Wilderness and allowed certain adjacent land managed by the BLM to be purchased by the Pueblo of Zia as open space. The measure was sponsored by Representatives Tom Udall (D-NM) and Heather Wilson (R-NM) and Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Pete Domenici (R-NM). Caribbean National Forest Wilderness Act (Puerto Rico)(Public Law No. 109-118) Congressman Luis Fortuno (R-PR) and Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) sponsored House and Senate versions of this bill. The measure designated the 10,000-acre El Toro Wilderness area in the Caribbean National Forest in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico creating the first tropical rainforest wilderness on National Forest land in the National Wilderness Preservation System. National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2006 (Utah) (Public Law No. 109-163)Representative Rob Bishop (R-UT) sponsored the Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR) Protection Act which would prevented high-level nuclear waste storage in Utah’s West Desert, preserved military training capabilities via UTTR, and designated 100,000 acres of magnificent, desert land known as the Cedar Mountains as Wilderness. The measure, co-sponsored by Utah Reps. Chris Cannon (R-UT) and Jim Matheson (D-UT), was included in the final version of the Defense Authorization Act signed into law by President Bush in January 2006.Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act (California)(Public Law No. 109-362)This measure designated 275,000 acres of Wilderness and 21 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers in California’s Humboldt, Del Norte, Mendocino, Lake, and Napa Counties. The proposed wilderness areas and rivers encompassed in the bill are found in the congressional district of Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) who was the House sponsor of the bill. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Diane Feinstein (D-CA) sponsored the legislation in the Senate. New England Wilderness Act of 2006 (New Hampshire & Vermont) (Public Law No: 109-382) The New England Wilderness Act of 2006 increased the number of designated wilderness areas in both Vermont and New Hampshire. The bill combined two separate bills introduced in the 109th Congress, the Vermont Wilderness Act and the New Hampshire Wilderness Act and designated 42,000 acres of wilderness in six different parcels in Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest and two areas totaling 34,500 acres in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest. The measure also creates the Mount Moosalamoo National Recreation Area in Vermont, a 15,857-acre tract south and east of Middlebury, Vermont. White Pine County Conservation, Recreation and Development Act (Nevada) (Public Law No. 109-432)Senator John Ensign (R-NV) and Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) sponsored the White Pine County Conservation, Recreation and Development Act which designated 12 new Wilderness areas, totaling approximately 558,000 acres managed by the US Forest Service and the BLM in White Pine County along with two significant additions to existing Wilderness areas. The legislation contained nine different titles that address a number of public land issues including wilderness designation, release of portions of wilderness study areas, land disposal, public purpose conveyances, land transfers from Forest Service to Bureau of Land Management (BLM), authorization for a study of an ORV trail, land transfers to the Ely Shoshone Tribe, authorization for restoration projects, amendments to the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act, and establishment of the Great Basin Heritage Route.