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Public Lands Bill Headed to Prez


Thursday, March 26, 2009   

Las Vegas, NV – It's the biggest move to protect public land in 15 years, and it is now on its way to President Obama for a signature. On Wednesday, the U.S. House passed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act (HR 146) by a vote of 285 to 140. It designates more than two million new acres of wilderness in nine states.

In addition to wilderness protections, says Mike Matz, executive director of the Campaign for America's Wilderness, the legislation also provides economic benefits to local businesses and governments, including nine projects in the state of Nevada.

"Some of these have been cooking for years — it doesn't happen overnight, so it's very gratifying when it actually gets to this point and heads to the president's desk."

Included in the measure are flood control projects to protect Las Vegas; land for green spaces in Henderson; and final settlement of Native American water rights in Duck Valley.

Opponents have been concerned about the scope and cost of the legislation, which encompasses more than 160 separate bills related to public lands and natural resources. In the end, however, it won broad bipartisan support.

The Omnibus also sets up the new 26-million-acre National Landscape Conservation System. Shaaron Netherton, executive director of Friends of Nevada Wilderness, says passage of the far-reaching package shows Congress is putting public lands preservation on par with the National Park Service. For Nevadans, she adds, it should mean better protection for the state's national treasures.

"Whether it's Wilderness Areas or National Conservation Areas like Black Rock, or Red Rock Canyon, it elevates them in importance - and so, more money could flow to the agencies to better protect them."

California's Eastern Sierra Nevada, Mount Hood in Oregon, Zion National Park in Utah, and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado also benefit from the package of bills.

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