Monday, January 12, 2009

The Senate Presses Forward Land Protection Bill

Yesterday, in a rare Sunday session and with a 66-12 vote, the Senate moved forward legislation that would reserve more than 2 million acres in nine states as wilderness. Final Senate approval is expected later this week and supporters of the bill hope the House will also approve the legislation.

The bipartisan package of bills represents years of work by many senators from many states to continue the legacy pushed forward by Theodore Roosevelt in 1891 when Congress passed the Forest Reserve Act allowing the President of the United States to set aside forest lands.

The bill is actually a collection of about 160 bills sponsored by many states to give the land the government's highest level of protection. The lands that have been designated as wilderness include Zion National Park in Utah, California's Sierra Nevada mountain range, Oregon's Mount Hood, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, parts of the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia, Idaho's Owyhee canyons, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan. The bill would also limit further oil and gas leasing in the Wyoming Range. Additionally, 387 miles of rivers and streams in Snake River headwaters will be protected.

If this bill continues forward and passes in the House, it will represent a real victory for environmental groups. Hopefully this type of positive reform will continue with this new Congress. How do you believe this legislation will impact your nonprofit organization? Is this the first of good things to come with regard to protection of the environment? Give us your thoughts.