March 12, 2009

Wilderness preservation bill narrowly defeated

Washington Post
March 12, 2009

Washington -- A bill to designate 2 million acres in nine states as protected wilderness was narrowly defeated in the House on Wednesday when it failed to garner the necessary two-thirds vote.

The measure -- which has passed the Senate -- received 282 yes and 144 no votes, leaving it two votes short. It came to a vote under special rules requiring the super-majority.

Conservation groups and many lawmakers said the package, which combined more than 170 separate bills, would preserve some of the nation's remaining pristine landscapes, but several Republicans argued that it would cost too much and would stand in the way of energy development.

Despite the defeat, Mike Matz, executive director of the advocacy group Campaign for America's Wilderness, said the proposal had significant support and would move forward. "It's a question of timing; that's the big issue," Matz said.

The bipartisan bill would apply to areas including Oregon's Mt. Hood and part of Virginia's Jefferson National Forest. Other affected states are California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, New Mexico, Utah and West Virginia.