House Passes Wilderness Protection Bill

On Wednesday Congress approved the largest expansion of the wilderness system in 15 years. The highest level of federal protection will affect 2 million acres in nine states and will launch one of the most ambitious river restoration efforts in the West.

The bill passed the House 285 to 140 and is set to be signed by President Obama. This first major conservation measure would protect almost as much land as was set aside during the past administration.

The legislation combines about 160 bills, including: 1) measures to strengthen the protection of Oregon's Mt. Hood; 2) $61 million toward cleanup of polluted groundwater in the San Gabriel Valley; 3) the creation of the Magic Mounain Wilderness in California; 4) the protection of 428,000 acres in the Eastern Sierra; 5) 147,000 acres in Riverside County (including parts of Josha Tree National Park); 6) about 85,000 acres in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks; and, 7) $88 million to help fund a project to return year-round flows and a prized salmon run to the San Joaquin River for the first time since the 1940s.

According to the Los Angeles Times:

Environmentalists went to court two decades ago to get back some of the San Joaquin's water and won a court settlement in 2006. The legislation authorizes the federal government to carry out the settlement and spend $88 million on restoration efforts.

"It's going to initiate one of the largest river restoration projects in the nation. It's a great day," said Monty Schmitt of the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has been involved in the river fight since its inception.

To read the full article in the Los Angeles Times, click here.