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house Bill H.R. 803

Should Nearly 1.5 Million Acres of Land in California, Colorado, & Washington Be Designated as Wilderness?

Argument in favor

Designating these federal lands as wilderness and making additions to the National Wild & Scenic River System would permanently protect some of the most majestic and unique landscapes in America from being tarnished by human development and management.

jimK's Opinion
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02/25/2021
There is no excuse to not protect our national wilderness areas from being exploited.
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larubia's Opinion
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02/26/2021
Yes, these wilderness lands need to be protected from oil & crude development...but also from wildfires that ravage this region. So, I hope there is adequate funding to manage the land & animals that inhabit it, but also the water & fire fighting resources that will be required.
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Alexa's Opinion
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02/25/2021
We need to protect endangered species and preserve our forest ecosystems!
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Argument opposed

The eight bills in this package failed to achieve the local consensus needed to merit permanent designation of these lands as wilderness. Additionally, these bills should be considered individually instead of being into a larger package for the sake of transparency & accountability.

B.R.'s Opinion
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02/26/2021
Probably the reason that this bill was not passed in the past is because it is an attempt to make it a one size fits all. Makes more sense to consider each location on its own merit.
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Kate's Opinion
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02/25/2021
Give it back to the indigenous nations to manage.
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Lisa 's Opinion
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02/25/2021
Appears that these need to be separate bills.
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What is House Bill H.R. 803?

This bill — the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act — would authorize the designation of several wilderness and conservation areas within public lands in California, Colorado, and Washington. In sum, the bill would designate about 1.49 million acres of federal lands as wilderness, add nearly 1,000 miles of rivers to the National Wild and Scenic River System, and withdraw over 1.2 million acres of public land from new oil and gas and mining claims. It contains provisions of six bills that were combined as part of this package,a breakdown of which can be found below.

Colorado Wilderness Act: This section would designate specified lands in Colorado managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Forest Service, the National Park Service (NPS), and Bureau of Reclamation as wilderness and components of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Specifically, it would incorporate these lands into the West Elk Wilderness area, and designate the Deep Creek Wilderness & Pisgah Mountain Wilderness areas following notice in the Federal Register.

The Dept. of the Interior (DOI) would be allowed to continue authorizing competitive running events that are currently permitted in the Redcloud Peak Wilderness & the Handies Peak Wilderness Areas. 

The Colorado Army National Guard could continue conducting aerial navigation training maneuver exercises through the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site over the wilderness areas designated by this bill.

Additionally, this bill would provide for the securing, adjudication, and use of U.S. water rights for wilderness areas designated by this bill.

Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act: This section would establish the South Fork Trinity-Mad River Restoration Area, the Northwest California Public Lands Remediation Partnership, the Trinity Lake & Del Norte County visitor centers, the Horse Mountain Special management Area, the Elk Camp Ridge National Recreation Trail, and the Sanhedrin Conservation Management Area.

It would also make the following designations:

  • Specified federal lands as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System;
  • The North Fork Wilderness as the North Fork Eel River Wilderness;
  • Specified federal lands as potential wilderness areas; and
  • Specified segments of certain rivers and creeks and of a specified river estuary as components of the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System.

Additionally, this section would:

  • Authorize the utilization of certain forest residues for research & development of bio-based products that result in net carbon sequestration;
  • Authorize initiatives to restore degraded redwood forest ecosystems in the Redwood National Forest & state parks;
  • Require studies about visitor accommodations in the Six Rivers, Shasta-Trinity, and Mendocino National Forests, as applicable;
  • Authorize partnerships for trail and campground maintenance, public education, visitor contacts, and visitor center staffing on federal lands in Mendocino, Humboldt, Trinity, and Del Norte Counties; and
  • Adjust the boundaries of the Elkhorn Ridge Wilderness.

Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act: This section would designate specific public lands on the Olympic peninsula in the state of Washington as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System, including the:

  • Lost Creek Wilderness;
  • Rugged Ridge Wilderness;
  • Alckee Creek Wilderness;
  • Gates of the Elwha Wilderness;
  • Green Mountain Wilderness;
  • Moonlight Dome Wilderness;
  • South Quinault Ridge Wilderness;
  • Sam’s River Wilderness; and
  • Canoe Creek Wilderness.

It would also make additions to the:

  • Buckhorn Wilderness;
  • The Brothers Wilderness;
  • Mount Skokomish Wilderness;
  • Wonder Mountain Wilderness; and
  • Colonel Bob Wilderness.

Central Coast Heritage Protection Act: This section would designate specified lands in the Los Padres National Forest & the Bakersfield BLM Field Office as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System, and as the Black Mountain Scenic Area.

It would designate certain land in the Los Padres National Forest as:

  • The Machesna Mountain Potential Wilderness Area, to be incorporated into the Machesna Mountain Wilderness Area;
  • The Fox Mountain Potential Wilderness Area, to be incorporated into the San Rafael Wilderness;
  • The Condor Ridge Scenic Area; and
  • The Condor National Scenic Trail.

This section would also designate specific segments of the Indian, Mono, Matilija, Sespe, and Piru Creeks and Sisquoc River in California as components of the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System, and require studies of new trails for recreation opportunities.

Indian tribes would be assured of access to the wilderness areas, scenic areas, and potential wilderness areas designated by this bill for traditional cultural religious purposes.

San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act: This section would expand the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument by establishing the San Gabriel National Recreation Area along the San Gabriel River corridor (portions of which would be added to the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System).

Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act: This section would adjust the boundary of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in California as depicted on a specified map to include the Rim of the Valley Unit. The Rim of the Valley Unit, and any lands or interests acquired by the U.S. and located within its boundaries, would be administered as part of the recreation area. The DOI could make acquisitions of non-federal land within the boundaries of the Rim of the Valley Unit only through exchange, donation, or purchase from a willing seller.

Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE): This section would provide for the conservation of land in the following parts of Colorado, giving the state 73,000 acres in new designated wilderness and about 80,000 acres as new recreation and conservation management areas. The lands to be conserved are:

  • Specified federal lands within the White River National Forest as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System,
  • The proposed Williams Fork Mountains Wilderness,
  • The Tenmile Recreation Management Area,
  • The Porcupine Gulch Wildlife Conservation Area,
  • The Williams Fork Mountains Wildlife Conservation Area,
  • The Camp Hale National Historic Landscape,
  • The Sheep Mountain and Liberty Bell East Special Management Areas, and
  • The Curecanti National Recreation Area.

It would also adjust the boundary of the White River National Forest and the Rocky Mountain National Park Potential Wilderness, provide for additional federal lands’ inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System, and cancel all Thompson Divide oil or gas leases. Finally, it would establish the Greater Thompson Divide Fugitive Coal Mine Methane Use Pilot Program to promote the capture and use of fugitive methane emissions to reduce methane emissions, improve air quality and improve public safety.

Grand Canyon Protection: This section would withdraw over one million acres of federal land in Arizona from entry, appropriation, and disposal under public land laws and prohibit mining and mineral leasing activities on these lands.

Impact

Residents of, and visitors to relevant areas in California, Colorado, and Washington; and federal land management agencies.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 803

A CBO cost estimate for this bill is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthSponsoring Rep. Diane DeGette (D-CO), who claims this is the largest wilderness protection package to be considered by Congress in more than a decade, reintroduced this legislative package from the 116th Congress with the primary goal of protecting over 660,000 acres of wilderness in her home state. In a press release upon introducing this bill, she said:

“Colorado’s majestic landscapes and vast wilderness areas are what make our state so special, and it’s why millions of outdoor adventurers come here each year to visit,” DeGette said. “It’s up to us, like those before us, to protect these precious lands for future generations to enjoy just as we’ve been able to do.”

Although the provisions included in this bill all received bipartisan votes of support in the House during the 116th Congress, they ultimately failed to clear both chambers to become law. With Democrats holding both the House and Senate in the 117th Congress, Rep. DeGette believes that this legislation has a real chance of passing both chambers to become law this year. “Our fight to protect more of Colorado’s wilderness gained tremendous momentum last year, and we are confident that we are finally in a position to get this bill approved and signed into law,” she says.

In the 116th Congress, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) offered the following statement in announcing that this package of bills designating nearly 1.4 million acres of federal land as wilderness and almost 1,000 miles of river to the National Wild and Scenic River System will be considered by the House:

“The areas in this bill are some of the most majestic and irreplaceable landscapes that our nation has to offer. By officially designating these unique places as wilderness, we will be providing them the permanent protection they each deserve.”

In the 116th Congress, this package consisted of six bills which passed the House Natural Resources Committee on largely party-line votes, including:

Republicans opposed these bills, arguing they lacked balance and local consensus and could hamper efforts to combat wildfires in the area by designating them as wilderness and closing them off to management by federal agencies like the BLM & Forest Service.

Lawmakers and industry interests take particular issue with provisions in the CORE Act and Central Coast Heritage Protection Act which would prohibit oil and gas extraction on certain lands in Colorado and California, respectively. Similarly, mining interests oppose the Grand Canyon Protection bill, which would uphold a mining moratorium that the Obama administration put in place in the Grand Canyon area. Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus, says legislation “prohibiting the safe and effective mining of uranium and other critical minerals in Arizona” ensures that America “becomes even more dependent on foreign regimes like Russia and Kazakhstan."

Some locals oppose efforts to designate more of the lands in their areas as wilderness. Montezuma County Commissioner Larry Don Suckla contends that wilderness designation in his county in Colorado, which is bounded by wilderness study areas, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, Ute Mountain Ute Reservation, and National Park and National Forest land, would hurt the community:

“We are surrounded like a wagon train, with only 27% of the county private property. Any time you want to shrink our access even more, it hurts our economy. Listen, our community thrives on federal public lands, and we need to continue to be public. We are not opposed to wilderness in certain areas. But these areas are not good wilderness.”

In the 116th Congress, this legislation passed the House on a mostly party-line vote of 231-183 but stalled after a veto threat from the Trump administration and then-Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) kept it from advancing in his chamber.


Of NoteMany of the bills contained in this package would help President Joe Biden achieve his ambitious goal of conserving 30% of all U.S. lands and waters by 2030. However, debate over this package also provides an opening for Republicans to force votes on amendments taking aim at the Biden administration’s aggressive actions to curb fossil fuels, which include freezes on new oil and gas leasing on federal lands.


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell and Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region via Flickr / Public Domain)

AKA

Protecting America's Wilderness and Public Lands Act

Official Title

To designate certain lands in the State of Colorado as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System, and for other purposes.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
  • The house Passed February 26th, 2021
    Roll Call Vote 227 Yea / 200 Nay
      house Committees
      Committee on Natural Resources
    IntroducedFebruary 4th, 2021

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    There is no excuse to not protect our national wilderness areas from being exploited.
    Like (86)
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    Probably the reason that this bill was not passed in the past is because it is an attempt to make it a one size fits all. Makes more sense to consider each location on its own merit.
    Like (23)
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    Yes, these wilderness lands need to be protected from oil & crude development...but also from wildfires that ravage this region. So, I hope there is adequate funding to manage the land & animals that inhabit it, but also the water & fire fighting resources that will be required.
    Like (45)
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    We need to protect endangered species and preserve our forest ecosystems!
    Like (29)
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    I agree with the bill to keep wildness lands. Total good for the planet in every way!
    Like (13)
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    I have no problem in making these separate bills.....just approve all of them.
    Like (13)
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    These are already public lands, and in many instances clarify and consolidate existing wilderness areas. The primary objection to the bill appears to be that corporate interests will no longer be able to rape and pillage these spaces as they have so many other public lands. Wilderness is sacred ground, it needs to be preserved.
    Like (13)
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    The more wilderness the better.
    Like (12)
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    Americans all benefit from the protection of lands as wilderness. This is good for the environment, the wildlife, and those who want to recreate safely on these lands. I support more protection of lands such as these.
    Like (11)
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    Our public lands must be protected and allowed to remain wild to support existing flora and fauna.
    Like (9)
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    Representatives have approved this bill! Thank you! -—__—- -—__—- -—__—- -—__—- Approve! Go Bold! “Designating these federal lands as wilderness and making additions to the National Wild & Scenic River System would permanently protect some of the most majestic and unique landscapes in America from being tarnished by human development and management.” Sounds Great! “The primary objection to the bill appears to be that corporate interests will no longer be able to rape and pillage these spaces as they have so many other public lands. Wilderness is sacred ground, it needs to be preserved.” - @davidf That should have been made clearer in the lede; but I assumed it. We need wide open spaces more than ever!
    Like (9)
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    Land conservation is vital to the health of the planet and for the enjoyment of the public. It is part of our country’s heritage and deserves protection as well as the wildlife.
    Like (9)
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    Appears that these need to be separate bills.
    Like (8)
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    Give it back to the indigenous nations to manage.
    Like (8)
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    Nature will take care of us if we take care of it. Trees suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and replaces it with some O2. Oil derricks certainly don't.
    Like (7)
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    Split this up and vote on the merits of each area
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    I vote “no” because we’ve found that broad brushing large swaths of land leaves it susceptible to forest fires with limited suppression abilities. Forest Plans can include use restrictions, i.e, limiting national resource removal for profit, handle it that way.
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    We have all seen what Calimexico does with their lands and the MW states with their wild fires because they would rather have half the state to burn to the ground rather than have a log company to come thin the forest by cutting one out of ten trees down and cutting fire breaks every ten miles or so. To allow natural down trees to be removed and at certain times when it is wet to do small control burns. Here in Louisiana and east Texas we control federal and state lands and forest and when private land is cut it is immediately cleaned and replanted. Each of these lands that they want to do in one bill needs to be voted on separately and it first needs the approval of the state to request turn over to the federal government then voted on. This really is all about gas and oil leases.
    Like (4)
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    Our land is being destroyed due to numerous factors, the more land that can be preserved the better for everything and everybody! I’d like to make sure the next president can’t come in and use it for some kind of mining profit.
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    As a constituent I support this I hope you do as well
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