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11 minutes reading time (2131 words)

Status of Wilderness Legislation in the 110th Congress

Status of Wilderness Legislation in the 110th Congress

Here is a quick refresher on the basics of how a bill becomes a law. An elected member of Congress introduces a bill in his or her chamber (House or Senate). The bill is referred to the appropriate committee, which reviews it, amends it, and approves it. The full chamber then debates it, possibly amends it again, approves it and forwards it to the other chamber, which does the same. If there are differences between the two versions, those differences are resolved, both chambers (if changes have been made) approve the final version, and send it to the White House. The President signs it, and it becomes law.

The following is a description of the wilderness bills that have been introduced to date in the 110th Congress and a summary of where each measure stands in the legislative progress. To read the full text of any of these wilderness bills, visit the Library of Congress at: http://thomas.loc.gov

ALASKA: Alaska Rainforest Conservation Act (H.R. 3757)
Introduced on 10/04/07 by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), this bill proposes to designate wilderness on the Tongass National Forest. The bill, which has been referred to House Committee on Natural Resources, currently has 43 co-sponsors.

ALASKA: Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act (H.R. 39/S.2316)
The Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act would designate the 1.5 million-acre coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as Wilderness. Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced the measure in the House on 1/4/07. The bill, which has been referred to House subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, currently has 147 co-sponsors. On 11/08/07, Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) introduced the Senate version of this bill, which has 26 co-sponsors. The bill was referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

ARIZONA: Tumacacori Highlands Wilderness Act of 2007 (H.R. 3287)
On 8/01/07, Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) introduced in the House legislation to expand southern Arizona’s Pajarita Wilderness and designate the Tumacacori Highlands in the Coronado National Forest as wilderness. The proposed wilderness would total 83,300 acres. The bill had a hearing in the House subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands on 11/13/07.

CALIFORNIA: California Desert and Mountain Heritage Act (H.R. 3682 / S. 2109)
On 9/27/07, Representative Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced the California Desert and Mountain Heritage Act. The legislation proposes to designate over 190,000 acres of wilderness, add new areas to the Santa Rosa National Monument, and designate 31 miles of Wild and Scenic River. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The House subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands held a hearing on the legislation (H.R. 3682) on 11/13/07. The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing on the legislation (S. 2109) on 04/15/08.

CALIFORNIA: California Wild Heritage Act of 2007 (H.R. 860/S.493)
This bill, introduced on 2/6/07 in the House by Rep. Solis (D-CA) and in the Senate by Sen. Boxer (D-CA), would designate over 2.4 million acres of Wilderness and segments of Wild and Scenic Rivers in California. The measure has been referred to the House subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

CALIFORNIA: Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park Wilderness Act (H.R. 3022/ S. 1774)

On 7/12/07, Senator Boxer (D-CA) and Representative Costa (D-CA) introduced legislation to designate the John Krebbs Wilderness and to make additions to the Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park Wilderness totaling nearly 115,000 acres. The bill was referred the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The House subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands held a hearing on the legislation on 10/30/07.

COLORADO: Colorado Wilderness Act of 2007 (H.R. 3756)
The bill would designate nearly 1.6 million acres of Wilderness in western Colorado on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and some adjacent National Forest Service lands. The bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) on 10/04/07 and was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.

COLORADO: Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness and Indian Peaks Wilderness Expansion Act (H.R. 2334 / S. 1380)
The bill would designate nearly 250,000 acres of Rocky Mountain National Park as wilderness – approximately 94 percent of the land in the Park and to adjust the boundaries of the Indian Peaks Wilderness and the Arapaho National Recreation Area. Much of the Park was recommended for wilderness protection in the early 1970s and has been managed to preserve its wilderness character for the past 30 years. Reps. Mark Udall (D-CO) and Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) introduced legislation on 5/15/07. Senators Ken Salazar (D-CO) and Wayne Allard (R-CO) introduced companion legislation in the Senate. A hearing was held in the Senate subcommittee on National Parks on 7/12/07. The House subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands held a hearing on 11/13/07.

GEORGIA: Chattahoochee National Forest Act of 2007 (H.R. 707)

On 1/29/07, Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA) introduced the Chattahoochee National Forest Act of 2007 (H.R. 707), a bill that would establish the 13,382-acre Mountaintown National Scenic Area and would further protect 8,448 acres of the Chattahoochee National Forest through Wilderness designations. The bill was referred to the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands and the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry.

IDAHO: Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (H.R. 222)

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) introduced the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (H.R. 222) on 1/4/07. The measure includes a number of titles dealing with the designation of more than 300,000 acres in Idaho’s Boulder-White Clouds mountains as Wilderness, small land conveyances, authorization of grants for rural economic development, and continued motorized recreation opportunities, among other provisions. The bill has been referred to the House subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands.

IDAHO: Owyhee Initiative Implementation Act (S. 2833)
On 4/9/08, Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced a new version of the Owyhee Initiative Implementation Act, which was previously introduced on 3/7/07 as (S.802). The legislation would permanently protect 517,000 acres of Wilderness, safeguard 315 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers, and addresses a broad spectrum of complicated Owyhee County public land issues. The bill has been referred to Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

NEW MEXICO: Sabinoso Wilderness Act of 2007 (H.R. 2632)
Representative Tom Udall (D-NM) introduced the Sabinoso Wilderness Act on 6/11/07. This legislation would designate almost 19,880 acres of wilderness in northern New Mexico. The area is one of the best examples of great-plains ecosystem left in the state. Sabinoso is an ecological jewel, rising 1,110 feet from the surrounding plains, the area has colorful cliffs at the top of long, deep canyons. The House subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands held a hearing on the legislation on 11/13/07.

NORTHERN ROCKIES: Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (H.R. 1975)

This measure - introduced by Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Christopher Shays (R-CT) on 4/20/07 - would designate over 22 million acres of wilderness, wild and scenic rivers, national park and preserve study areas, wild land recovery areas, and biological connecting corridors on certain public lands in the States of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming. The bill currently has 137 House co-sponsors. A hearing was held in the House subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands on 10/18/07.

OREGON: Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness Act of 2007 (S. 647)
On 2/15/07, Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) introduced the Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness Act of 2007 (S. 647) to permanently protect nearly 129,000 acres of wilderness on Mount Hood and in the Columbia River Gorge. Their proposal also would grant Wild and Scenic River protections to an additional 79.6 miles of rivers in Oregon and create more than 34,000 acres of Mount Hood National Recreation Areas, which would provide access for mountain biking and other diverse recreational opportunities, while allowing forest health projects to be completed where necessary. On 5/3/07, a hearing was held on the bill by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. This bill was marked up and an amended version was approved by the Senate committee on 7/25/07.

OREGON: Copper Salmon Wilderness Act (S. 2034/ H.R. 3513)

This measure was introduced on 9/10/07, by Senator Wyden (D-OR) and Representative DeFazio (D-OR). Their proposal would designate 13,700 acres as the Copper Salmon Wilderness and would designate segments of the North and South Forks of the Elk River as Wild and Scenic Rivers. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved the bill on 1/30/08. The House subcommittee on Natural Parks, Forests, and Public Lands held a hearing on the bill on 11/13/07. The was marked up and an amended version was approved by the House committee on 4/2/08.

OREGON: Soda Mountain Wilderness Act (S. 2379)
On 11/16/07, Senators Wyden (D-OR) and Smith (R-OR) introduced legislation to designate the Soda Mountain Wilderness among other provisions to voluntarily retire grazing leases in the Cascade-Siskyou National Monument. The legislation would designate approximately 23,000 acres. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

UTAH: America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act (H.R. 1919/ S. 1170)

On 4/18/07, Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced legislation to permanently preserve roughly 9.5 million acres of exceptionally wild and rare public lands on the Colorado Plateau and in the Great Basin – southern Utah’s famous redrock country. The bills were referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources and Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The measure currently has 155 co-sponsors in the House and 19 in the Senate.

UTAH: Washington County Growth and Conservation Act of 2008 (S.2834)
On 4/9/08, Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT) introduced the Washington County Growth and Conservation Act of 2008. The legislation addresses a range of public lands issues including wilderness designation and land sales. The bill has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

VIRGINIA: Virginia Ridge and Valley Act of 2007 (H.R. 1011/ S. 570)
On 2/13/07, Senator John Warner (R-VA) and Congressman Rick Boucher (D-VA) introduced the Virginia Ridge and Valley Act of 2007. The measure would protect nearly 43,000 acres of the Jefferson National Forest in southwestern Virginia as wilderness and nearly 12,000 acres as scenic areas. In total, the bill would designate seven new wilderness areas, add to existing wilderness areas, and create two new National Scenic Areas. The bills were referred to the House subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry, the House subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. On 5/10/07, the House Natural Resources subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands held a hearing. In late June, the House Natural Resources Committee approved this legislation and in September the House Agricultural Committee, which has joint jurisdiction over the measure, held a hearing on the legislation. On 10/23/07, the House approved the legislation in a floor vote.

WASHINGTON: Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Wild Pratt River Act (H.R. 4113)

On 11/08/07, Congressman Reichert (R-WA) introduced the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Wild Pratt River Act (H.R. 4113) that would designate more than 22,000 acres of wilderness adjacent to the existing Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area and protect nearly 10 miles of the Pratt River as a Wild and Scenic River. The bill was referred to the House Natural Resources subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands.

WASHINGTON: Wild Sky Wilderness Act of 2007 (H.R. 886/ S. 520)

This bill would protect approximately 106,000 acres in the Wild Sky region in Washington’s Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest as Wilderness. On 2/7/07, the measure was introduced by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Representative Rick Larsen (D-WA). The bill was referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and House Committee on Natural Resources respectively. The House approved the bill on 4/17/07. On 6/28/07, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources approved the Wild Sky Wilderness Act. The full Senate approved the legislation on 4/10/08 as part of a larger package of non-controversial public lands bills (S.2739).

WEST VIRGINIA: Wild Monongahela Act: A National Legacy for West Virginia's Special Places (H.R. 5151/ S. 2581)
On 1/29/08, the West Virginia Congressional delegation introduced legislation to protect new wilderness in West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest. The Wild Monongahela Act will protect over 47,000 acres of forest as wilderness – expanding Dolly Sods, Cranberry, and Otter Creek Wilderness Areas as well as creating four new wilderness areas across the forest. The bills were referred to the House subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry, the House subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The House subcommittee held a hearing on the legislation on 2/26/08, and marked up the legislation and approved the bill as amended on 4/2/08.
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