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Utah, and a number of other states, will acquire about 2 million acres of new wilderness under an omnibus public lands bill that passed the last congressional hurdle on Wednesday, 25 March 2009. It's expected President Obama will sign the bill shortly.
In addition to the new wilderness, Utah gets a number of other conservation benefits including a little over a hundred acres of open space forever protected for Park City and Utah's first stretch of Wild and Scenic River Designation: 166 miles of the Virgin River. The bill also provides for the sale of up to 5,000 acres of BLM land around St George; however, all the proceeds must be used to acquire other lands, including sensitive watersheds.
The most significant protected acreage is in Washington County where approximately 256,000 acres of wilderness will be designated. Of this total, 124,000 acres will be lands within Zion National Park that will receive the additional protection the Wilderness Act of 1964 provides. This acreage represents most of the park away from roads. Most of the remaining 132,000 acres is BLM land and includes part or all of the land recommended by the Utah Wilderness Coalition-of which the Sierra Club is a founding member-in the following units:
WHAT CARL POPE SAYS
Below is a portion of Carl Pope's quote from the 3/25/09 Sierra Club press release on the bill's passage.
"This is the biggest wilderness protection bill in decades," said Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope. "Today, Congress has helped ensure that we will have a wild legacy to pass on to our children and grandchildren. This bill helps guarantee that future generations will be able to hike in pristine forests from California to West Virginia. The bill ensures that Americans will have a chance to fish untouched rivers, watch antelope migrate in the wild, and take their families camping in the stunning Rocky Mountains."
The bill protects more than two million acres of wilderness in nine states, including the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, Oregon's Mt. Hood, and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
"As global warming begins to impact wildlife, it's urgent that we protect the corridors where animals migrate and the habitat where they live and raise their young," Pope said. "This bill will help do that."
It also shelters over a million acres of key hunting and fishing grounds on
the Wyoming Range from oil and gas drilling.
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