January 16, 2009
Senate Approves Aggressive Conservation Measure
With a vote of 73-21, the members of the US Senate on Thursday voted to approve what is expected to be the first of many aggressive conservation measures that will be signed into law by President-elect Barack Obama.
The measure, which contains more than 160 bills, will be sent to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to be approved.
The bill provides protections for the largest expansion of National Wilderness Preservation System in 15 years, designating 2.1 million acres of wilderness in California, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Michigan, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia.
The National Landscape Conservation System Act would make permanent a 26 million-acre (10.5 million-hectare) system composed of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's best lands and waters.
"Congressional recognition of the National Landscape Conservation System is long overdue and very much worth celebrating," said William Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society.
"Thousands of volunteers and professionals from many walks of life have worked for years to protect these places, and it's our hope that more Americans will now have the opportunity to discover and enjoy the Conservation System," he added.
Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said the bipartisan vote to pass the measure was "greatly appreciated."
"The national monuments, wilderness areas, scenic rivers, trails, and historic sites that make up the National Landscape Conservation System have correctly been called BLM's "crown jewels," said Moe.
"These are some of the last places where people can experience the history and wild beauty of the American West."
Nineteen Republican senators voted in support of the measure alongside a Democratic majority after some Republicans delayed the measure for months.
On Sunday, the Senate met for a rare session that ended with a vote to stop partisan debate.
"I am happy that after months of delay we will finally be moving forward," Reid said on Sunday.
"Real conservatives understand how important it is to foster greater appreciation of America's history and our country's natural beauty. The public lands bill is a fine example of having 'reverence for the past,' as conservative author Russell Kirk taught," said David Jenkins, Republicans for Environmental Protection vice president for government and political affairs.
"We urge the House to pass this bill quickly and send it on to the President for final approval."
"As we begin the new Congress, it's apparent that its business as usual for the Democratic majority and the so-called change coming to D.C. is only in words, not action," said Sen. Jim Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican.
On The Net:
National Wilderness Preservation System
National Landscape Conservation System Act
The Wilderness Society