March 31, 2009 Capital Press
signs bill protecting wilderness acreage
Obama signs bill protecting wilderness acreage WASHINGTON (AP) -
President Barack Obama signed legislation Monday setting aside
more than 2 million acres as protected wilderness.
Obama called the new law among the most important in decades "to
protect, preserve and pass down our nation's most treasured
landscapes to future generations."
Also included in the legislation signed by Obama is a provision
named for "Superman" actor Christopher Reeve that provides for
paralysis research and care for persons with disabilities.
At a White House ceremony, Obama said the law guarantees that
Americans "will not take our forests, rivers, oceans, national
parts, monuments, and wilderness areas for granted, but rather we
will set them aside and guard their sanctity for everyone to
share. That's something all Americans can support."
The law - a collection of nearly 170 separate measures -
represents one of the largest expansions of wilderness protection
in a quarter-century. It confers the government's highest level of
protection on land in nine states.
Land protected under the 1,200-page law ranges from California's
Sierra Nevada and Oregon's Mount Hood to Rocky Mountain National
Park in Colorado and parts of the Jefferson National Forest in
Land in Idaho's Owyhee canyons, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
in Michigan and Zion National Park in Utah also won wilderness
protection, and more than 1,000 miles of rivers in nearly a dozen
states were designated as wild and scenic. The law expands
wilderness designation - which blocks nearly all development -
into areas that previously were not protected.
The law also protects land in Alaska under a contentious land swap
that allows the state to go forward with a planned airport access
road in a remote wildlife refuge near the Bering Sea. Critics call
the project a "road to nowhere."
Environmental groups and lawmakers in both parties said the law
will strengthen the national park system, restore national
forests, preserve wild and scenic rivers, protect battlefields and
restore balance to the management of public lands.
Opponents, mostly Republicans, had called the legislation a "land
grab" that would block energy development on vast swaths of
The Associated Press