In a vote that the Sierra Club called a "victory for America's public lands," the House of Representatives approved the National Landscape Conservation System Act by a nearly 2-to-1 margin Thursday.
The Wilderness Society, which together with a coalition of 70 conservation groups championed the bill, describes the bill as a way to make permanent land protection covenants agreed to in the Clinton Administration:
"Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt established the system during the Clinton administration to protect some of the agency's most ecologically and historically important lands. It includes more than 850 federally recognized areas and approximately 26 million acres.
"The conservation system includes the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, Headwaters Forest Preserve in California, the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area in Arizona and the Lewis and Clark Trail. [The Sonoran Desert, Oregons lower Deschutes River, and stretches of the Pacific Crest and Continental Divide trails are also part of the system, according to the Sierra Club.]
"But unlike the National Parks and the National Wildlife Refuges, there currently is no guarantee that the NLCS as a whole will exist in the future."
Until, that is, the Senate passes the legislation and the President signs it. The Wilderness Society believes there's a good chance the Senate will pass the bill, particularly since President Bush has expressed support.
"Some of our best public lands are part of this system, from red rock desert to high alpine trails and stunning coastlines. Protecting this network of lands helps secure Americas wild legacy," said Sierra Club representative Keren Murphy. "Thanks to this legislation, Americans will be able to camp, hike, hunt and fish in these wild places for generations to come."
Watch two Wilderness Society videos on the subject, and enjoy some of the grandeur of these natural areas from your desk:
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