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Utah Travel Headlines

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Public Lands Bill Protects Utah Wilderness Areas

On Monday President Obama signed what is being called one of the most important public land bills ever, creating more than 2 million acres of wilderness areas in nine states, including 256,338 acres of wilderness near St George. It also enlarges Zion National Park to protect more land.

One important thing about this bill is that it represents a compromise approach, with give and take coming from all sides. That seemed impossible just a few months ago, when pro- and anti-wilderness groups refused to concede even an inch.

Some think this compromise approach may be key to determining how to manage vast areas of public land in southern Utah.

The Deseret News has this article about the new bill. Below are excerpts.

"The Washington County Land Bill is the most important natural resource bill I have introduced in my Senate career and it was rewarding to witness the president sign it into law," (Bob) Bennett said. "Today is evidence that groups with opposing interests can come together after years of debate to solve the wilderness problems in Southern Utah. It is my hope that this bill will be a blueprint for future public lands bills in the West."

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the land bills package is "one of the most significant protections for our treasured landscapes in a generation."

The Washington County bill included in the overall packaged also designates 165.5 miles of the Virgin River as a wild and scenic river, sort of a wet wilderness area — the first such designation in Utah. That bans development and building along its banks, and damming of the river along that stretch.

The bill also creates two new national conservation areas to provide permanent protection for the endangered desert tortoise and other at-risk species near St. George, while allowing development in other areas where it had been blocked.

Read the complete article.

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