America's Wilderness

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Wilderness and Conservation Legislation in the 115th Congress


Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument Act (H.R. 360)

Grand Canyon © Kristen M. Caldon

On Jan. 6, 2017, Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) introduced legislation to designate roughly 1.7 million acres of public land in northern Arizona as a national monument. This striking wild landscape, adjacent to Grand Canyon National Park, is home to sacred Native American sites and historical artifacts, and is a vital watershed that provides drinking water for millions of people.

Safeguarding these lands would protect the watershed from new uranium mining. It would also benefit native wildlife, including mule deer, mountain lions, and the endangered California condor, preserving an important wildlife corridor between the national park and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah.  This ancient landscape, which ranges from vast desert lands to Rocky Mountain forests, supports a multitude of ecosystems, including rugged cliffs, smaller canyons that feed into the Grand Canyon, grasslands, and numerous springs.


California Desert Protection and Recreation Act (S. 32)

Avawatz Mountains © John Dittli

On Jan. 5, 2017, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced a bill that would increase protections for more than 500,000 acres of public land in the California desert.

The California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act would designate 328,864 acres as wilderness areas, add 43,000 acres to Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks, designate 77 miles of wild and scenic rivers, create five off-road-vehicle areas covering 142,000 acres, and clarify how desert land can be used for renewable energy development.

Community, business, and conservation leaders from across the state support the legislation, which seeks to balance conservation and responsible development. The bill was developed through more than a decade of engagement with the public. Stakeholders include local and state government officials, environmental groups, off-highway recreation enthusiasts, mining interests, wind and solar energy companies, and the Department of Defense.

Representative Paul Cook (R-CA) introduced similar legislation Feb. 3.

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Susan Whitmore

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