US approves new wilderness areas

Sweeping land and water conservation legislation has received final approval by the United States Congress, Reuters reported. The package of bills would set aside about 800,000 hectares of land in nine states as new wilderness. The areas of parks, rivers, streams, desert, forest and trails will be off-limits to development, including oil and gas drilling.


The new wilderness is mostly in the state of California, followed by Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Oregon, Virginia, West Virginia, New Mexico and Michigan. Separately, the legislation would permanently protect and restore a 10.5-million-hectare system composed of the US Bureau of Land Management’s most historic and scenic lands and waters, including the Canyons of the Ancients in Colorado and Red Rock Canyon outside Las Vegas.


Environmental groups said the legislation was among the most significant in American history. “Future generations will look back at this day as a major milestone in our nation’s conservation history,” said William Meadows, president of the Wilderness Society.


Opponents of the legislation, most of whom were Republicans, complained that it would deny access for oil and gas drilling, but Democrats in the House of Representatives refused to consider changes. The legislation now goes to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign it swiftly into law.


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