U.S. House Clears Bill to Protect Virginia Wilderness

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The U.S. House of Representatives today passed H.R. 1011, the Virginia Ridge and Valley Act of 2007, which protects 55,000 acres of the Jefferson National Forest in southwestern Virginia as wilderness, wilderness study areas or scenic areas.

The bipartisan bill was introduced by Congressman Rick Boucher (D-VA), whose district includes nearly the entire proposed wilderness. The conservation measure was cosponsored by both Republican and Democratic Members of Congress from Virginia, and a companion bill, S. 570, has been introduced by Senators John Warner (R-VA) and Jim Webb (D-VA).

“Today's action by the House of Representatives to approve legislation adding more land to the National Wilderness Preservation System recognizes the growing clamor by the American public to protect our common ground, for the benefit of people today, and as a gift to future generations,” said Mike Matz, executive director of the Campaign for America's Wilderness. “That's why today there is such broad local support and solid bipartisan backing for these kinds of measures.”

“Protecting Virginia's wild forests boosts the economies of local communities by providing recreation opportunities for hunters, hikers, birders, anglers and others, as well as provides clean water, scenic beauty and undisturbed forest ecosystems,” said Jim Murray, president of the Virginia Wilderness Committee. “We have enjoyed working with Rep. Boucher on this success."

“We congratulate Rep. Nick Rahall and Rep. Rick Boucher for a job well done,” added Matz. “We hope the Senate takes up the Warner-Webb bill and sends a reconciled Virginia Ridge and Valley Act to the President soon.”

The Virginia Ridge and Valley Act is the second wilderness bill to clear the House this session. The Wild Sky Wilderness Act, which protects more than 106,000 acres outside of Seattle, Washington, passed on April 17. The Wild Sky bill, as well as a measure to protect land on Oregon's iconic Mt. Hood, are now included in larger lands packages offered by Senator Jeff Bingaman, Chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and could come to the Senate floor at any time.

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