Congress Passes 246,300 Acres of Federally Protected Wilderness

Earlier this month, we posted a call to action in the hopes of raising awareness about adding more protected public lands to our nation before the year's end. Today, we're proud to announce that just days ago, the United States Senate voted in favor of passing the National Defense Authorization Act, which included many public lands protection bills. All in all, the passed bill brought with it 524,300 acres of federally protected land, including 246,300 acres of new Wilderness in Washington, Nevada, Colorado, Montana, and New Mexico. That is officially the largest public lands protections that Congress has passed since 2009.

Our friends at The Conservation Alliance have outlined the specific lands that were protected in this week's vote. From their latest post

The newly protected areas are:

  • Alpine Lakes Additions, WA: Just 45 minutes east of downtown Seattle, the Pratt, Middle Fork and South Fork Snoqualmie Valleys are the closest mountain valleys to Puget Sound population centers. The legislation permanently protects 22,000 acres of additions to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and 40 miles of the Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers as Wild and Scenic.
  • Hermosa Creek, CO: The bill protects the 108,000-acre Hermosa Creek Watershed in the San Juan National Forest of southwestern Colorado, including nearly 38,000 acres of new Wilderness within the watershed.
  • Rocky Mountain Front, MT: Montanans rallied around the new protections for 275,000 acres of public land in western Montana. The bill adds 50,500 acres to the Bob Marshall Wilderness and 16,700 acres to the Scapegoat Wilderness. The legislation also designates 208,000 acres as Conservation Management Areas.
  • Columbine-Hondo, NM: The protects 45,000 acres north of Taos, in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, including Gold Hill, its highest peak. The new Wilderness also contains the headwaters for two rivers.
  • Wovoka, NV: In Nevada, the bill designates 48,000 acres of wilderness in Lyon County, protecting historic, cultural, and natural resources. The Wovoka Wilderness will be named in honor of the Native American spiritual leader and father of the Ghost Dance, who lived near the area.
  • Pine Forest Range, NV: The bill protects the 26,000 acre Pine Forest Range Wilderness in northwest Nevada. The Pine Forest Range is a popular destination for sportsmen and recreationists and is prime habitat for mule deer, sage grouse, and mountain lion.