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Senate Moves to Protect Nearly 30 Million Acres

The House of Representatives approved a bill that calls for protection of some of America’s finest natural landscapes. The Senate has already approved the bill, which is expected to be signed by President Obama. Among its key features are these:

  • The Wyoming Range in western Wyoming, home to grizzly bears, elk, and other large creatures, is prized by hunters, fishermen, backpackers, and oil and gas companies. It was the target of relentless leasing efforts by the Bush administration. Earthjustice attorneys in Montana helped keep the drilling rigs at bay until outstanding on-the-ground organizing persuaded the late Senator Craig Thomas, not generally sympathetic to environmental concerns, to introduce the Wyoming Range Legacy Act. Thomas’s replacement, Senator John Barrasso, picked up the torch and fought vigorously to move the bill through the legislative process.

  • The National Landscape Conservation System was created in 2000 by then-Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt to protect worthy areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management. These include the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the Missouri River Breaks National Monument in Montana, the Headwaters Forest Reserve in Northern California -- and another 800 areas in the West and Alaska. Grand Staircase has been of particular interest to Earthjustice, as sloppiness by the Bush administration led to repeated attempts by local counties to take over management of the monument, especially as concerns off-road vehicles.

  • The wilderness part of the bill includes additions to wilderness in the Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, including Mineral King Valley, which played a major part in the genesis of Earthjustice.