House approves new wilderness areas in California, Oregon, and Idaho

The U.S. House yesterday unanimously approved bills that would create over 1,000 square miles of new wilderness areas and protect 47 miles of rivers in California, Oregon, and Idaho. A bill to ban drilling in New Mexico’s Valle Vidal also passed. All of the bills are compromises hammered out over several years, involving the disparate interests of business owners, ranchers, local governments, recreationists, conservationists, and Indian tribes. The Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Act would protect more than 277,000 acres as wilderness, and designate about 79,000 acres as a recreation area for off-road vehicles and mountain bikes. The Oregon bill would establish 77,200 acres of wilderness in the Mount Hood National Forest, and the Idaho legislation would create three new wilderness areas in the mountainous portions of the Sawtooth and Challis national forests, protecting a total of 315,215 acres. The bills now go to the Senate.