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09/25/2009

Utah's Red Rock Wilderness Act Gets a Hearing

In 1989, Representative Wayne Owens (D-UT), at the urging of the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations, first introduced what has come to be known as the America's Red Rock Wilderness Act.  The bill has been introduced every single Congress since then, with ever growing numbers of co-sponsors, without ever so much as a vote.  However, a legislative hearing has now been scheduled for October 1st in the National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee.

The current House bill is sponsored by Representative Hinchey (D-NY) and has close to 140 co-sponsors.  It would protect over 9 million acres of irrepaceable red rock wilderness lands in Utah.  Many of these lands are now threatened by proposed oil and gas exploration, development that would exacerbate the threats the region already faces from climate change.  Climate instability will become greater in this region as global warming takes its toll.  The projections are for higher temperatures, less rain, changes in patterns of snowmelt, and consequent disruptions in wildlife habitats and ecosystem services such as water supply for humans.

Unfortunately, none of the Utah delegation supports the bill.  This hearing, however, is an enormous first step and will make large strides toward raising the profile of the legislation and that which it aims to protect.

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