Conservationists in Idaho continue to celebrate the designation of nearly 300,000 acres of wilderness area in the central part of the state. The U.S. Senate voted Tuesday to approve a bill that would designate large sections of the region as federally protected.
The vote was the second on the proposal in eight days. The House passed the bill last week and President Obama is expected to sign it into law.
Edwina Allen is chair of the Idaho Chapter of the Sierra Club. She says after three decades of trying to get the region federally protected, it was thrilling to hear news of the Senate vote. Allen says the legislation isn’t as comprehensive as a previous attempt at lasting protections, but is still very good news for conservationists.
“We would have liked to have had some larger wilderness areas,” she says. “The previous version did have more wilderness. But 275,000 acres of wilderness is a lot of wilderness. And this is the heart of the area.”
Allen praises Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) for years’ of focus on the issue. She says the issue rose above bi-partisan bickering that has, at times, kept Congress from governing. Allen feels the effort to protect the land is reminiscent of the movement to create The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, as well as the more recent Owyhee Initiative.
“I think we’ve gotten away from that bipartisan nature of wilderness protection,” Allen says. “And I’m glad to see us returning to being able to work together.”
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