March 19, 2009
WASHINGTON – The Senate on Thursday passed a long-delayed bill to set aside more than 2 million acres in nine states as protected wilderness, from a California mountain range to more than 1,000 miles of rivers.
[efoods]The 77-20 vote sends the bill to the House, where final legislative approval could come as early as next week.
The Senate first approved the measure in January, but it was defeated last week in the House amid a partisan dispute over a plan to allow concealed, loaded guns in national parks.
The legislation — a package of nearly 170 separate bills — would confer the government’s highest level of protection on land ranging from California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range and Oregon’s Mount Hood to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and parts of the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia.
Land in Idaho’s Owyhee canyons, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan and Zion National Park in Utah also would win designation as wilderness, and more than 1,000 miles of rivers in nearly a dozen states would gain protections.