Chesapeake: The Sierra Club Maryland Chapter Newsletter
 
Chapter Home
 
Chesapeake
Newsletter Home
Past Issues
 

Congress Takes an Important Step in Protecting Utah Wilderness
click for print view

by Chris Yoder | 2009

Legislation to protect the unique and vulnerable natural legacy embodied in the wilderness quality wildlands of Utah took an important step forward on October 1, 2009. The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands held a hearing on H.R. 1925, a bill that would designate about nine million acres of these priceless lands as wilderness. This was the first hearing on a comprehensive Utah Wilderness Bill since Utah Congressman Wayne Owens first introduced the “America’s Red Rock Wilderness Bill” in 1989

Legislation to protect the unique and vulnerable natural legacy embodied in the wilderness quality wildlands of Utah took an important step forward on October 1, 2009.   The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands held a hearing on H.R. 1925, a bill that would designate about nine million acres of these priceless lands as wilderness.  This was the first hearing on a comprehensive Utah Wilderness Bill since Utah Congressman Wayne Owens first introduced the “America’s Red Rock Wilderness Bill” in 1989. 

The good news: both the Obama Administration, speaking through the Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM),  and Utah political leaders recognized the value of Utah’s wildlands and accepted that those values can best be protected through wilderness designation. 

The bad news: they opposed enactment of HR 1925.  In effect, they want Utah wilderness, just not much and not that way.  Their waffling brings to mind a prayer ascribed to St. Augustine when he asked the Lord to make him celibate, “just not yet.”  

While HR 1925 opponents voice a desire for “compromise,” people and corporations blind to the scenic, habitat, and ecological values in these irreplaceable lands continue creating new “facts on the ground.”  They are obliterating wilderness values in a relentless campaign of destructive exploitation through commodity development, such as mining and oil and gas exploration, and motorized ”wreckreation.”

More cosponsors for HR 1925 would increase the likelihood that the bill will pass.  That prospect would give competing interests an incentive to come to the negotiating table in order to have  voices in the final decisions.  As it is, these competing interests are quite satisfied with the status quo and have little reason to negotiate.

At the deadline for this issue of the Chesapeake, only two members of the Maryland Congressional delegation (Sen. Ben Cardin and Rep. Elijah Cummings) have joined 22 Senators and 137 Members of Congress as cosponsors of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.

BLM has a statutory responsibility to protect wilderness values until Congress makes a final decision on designating wilderness. Congressman Maurice Hinchey, the lead sponsor of HR 1925, and 89 Members of Congress have signed a letter to Secretary of the Interior Salazar, urging him to meet that responsibility by completing a thorough inventory of lands proposed for wilderness protection, by barring energy leases and development in lands proposed for wilderness protection, and by finalizing new mining claims until after Congress reaches a decision on the fate of the lands.  Congressman Hinchey’s letter also asks the Secretary of the Interior to prohibit uses incompatible with wilderness protection, such as off-road vehicle use, logging, and road construction.

> 2009 Table of Contents

   
   

Up to Top