Press Release

House passes huge wilderness bill to protect 1.3 million acres

San Gabriel Mountains, California.

San Gabriel Mountains, CA

Michael Gordon

House bill would protect 1.3 million acres of wilderness and scenic rivers in California, Colorado, Washington

WASHINGTON, February 12, 2020 ---- Today, the House approved a significant legislative package to protect more than 1.3 million acres of wilderness and 1,000 miles of Wild, Scenic, and Recreational Rivers across California, Washington and Colorado. 

The Protecting America’s Wilderness Act, H.R 2546, combines six public lands bills that would collectively protect a wide range of landscapes, key wildlife habitats and outdoor recreation opportunities across the three states. This important legislation also includes new or expanded national monuments, recreation areas, special management areas, trails and additional protections for our shared public lands for the benefit and enjoyment of all. 

Drew McConville, Senior Managing Director, The Wilderness Society

“It is great to see the House acting to protect some of our wildest landscapes across the country and creating more equitable access to parks and open space. Protecting our lands, water and wildlife has strong support across the political spectrum, and we hope protecting important landscapes like these remains atop the priority list for Congress now and in the future.”

In California, the bill would protect over one million acres of public land and more than 584 miles of rivers to safeguard old-growth forests, wild rivers, vital wildlife corridor connectors and habitat for over 450 wildlife species. This bill would also provide critical access to open space and improve recreation opportunities for the 17 million people living in Los Angeles - one of the most park-poor and populous areas of the nation. In Washington, the Protecting America’s Wilderness Act would protect 126,554 acres of the Olympic National Forest as wilderness and designate 464 miles of wild and scenic rivers. Finally, the Act would designate over 600,000 acres of federal land as wilderness for recreation and conservation in central and western Colorado. 

The protections afforded in the bill would safeguard some of these states’ most spectacular lands and watersheds, clean drinking water, ancient forests, wild and free-flowing rivers and habitat for many wildlife species, including salmon, steelhead trout, and the California condor. The Act would also provide protection for critical wildlife corridors that support vital habitat for endangered species such as the Nelson Bighorn Sheep and the Santa Ana Sucker. 

Protecting America’s Wilderness Act would also enhance and expand outdoor recreation opportunities for numerous communities, including under-resourced communities that lack access to open space. The bill ensures access to world-class outdoor recreation opportunities and builds a strong outdoor recreation economy by providing new opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, motorized vehicle use, horseback riding, camping, hunting, and fishing. 

Background: 

This legislation combines six public lands bills that include more than 1.3 million acres of protected wilderness, a national monument expansion, designation of a restoration area and an urban national recreation area, and more than 1,000 miles of Wild, Scenic, and Recreational Rivers across California, Washington and Colorado. The package includes the following titles: 

  • Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act (Rep. Huffman, D-CA) which would designate 312,500 acres of wilderness, 480 miles of wild and scenic rivers and 730,000 acres as a restoration area.
  • Central Coast Heritage Protection Act (Rep. Carbajal, D-CA) which would designate 287,500  acres of wilderness, 230 miles of wild and scenic rivers and 35,000 acres as scenic areas.
  • San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act (Rep. Chu, D-CA) which would designate 30,700 acres of wilderness, expand the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument by 109,000 acres, establish the 49,000-acre San Gabriel National Recreation Area and protect 45 miles of wild and scenic rivers.
  • Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act (Rep. Schiff, D-CA) which would expand the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area by 191,000 acres.
  • Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (Rep. Kilmer, D-WA) which would  designate 131,900 acres of wilderness and 465 miles of wild and scenic rivers.
  • Colorado Wilderness Act (Rep. DeGette, D-CO) which would designate over 600,000 acres of wilderness.

The Wilderness Society, founded in 1935, is the leading conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. With more than one million members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 111 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands. www.wilderness.org.   

Contact: Michael Reinemer, [email protected]; 202-429-3949