Designating Wilderness requires congressional legislation. But congress doesn’t act in a vacuum. Politics, it has been said, is the “art of the possible.” What is possible depends on what has already happened before; and it depends on what else is going on now. There is a constant give and take in the dance that leads to legislation. Bills build upon bills so that any action being considered plays out in the context of a larger national situation.
What’s happening around the country, and especially what is happening in our region, has a broad impact on the course of gaining congressionally designated wilderness protection for the Scotchman Peaks. Today we are going to take a brief look at Wilderness around the country.
Good news – this is shaping up to be a banner year for Wilderness around the Country! The passage of the “2009 Lands Omnibus Bill” in March designated 52 new wilderness areas and added acreage to 26 existing wilderness, bringing a total of approximately 2.1 million acres of new wilderness, in 9 states, into the national Wilderness Preservation System. Such gems as the Owyhees, the Eastern Sierras, Rocky Mountain National Park and Pictured Rocks in Michigan are now permanently protected, by congressional act, as Wilderness.
And it doesn’t stop there! So far this year members of Congress have introduced eight new wilderness bills for areas in California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. From additions to the Alpine Lakes area in Washington, to the Dona Ana in New Mexico, critical gaps in the Colorado San Juan Mountains and closer to home in Montana, new wilderness, these bills, if passed and signed would protect as wilderness more than 1.6 million acres of public land.
More areas are on the way – with proposals being worked on in other areas including Utah, Nevada and Arizona and all may find action taken yet in this session of congress.
So, overall, for wilderness lovers there is a lot to celebrate! And the general situation is positive, and ripe, for future developments. Tomorrow we will come closer to home and look at the landscape for wilderness in our region.