By Jennifer McRae

FRIDAY UPDATE: House Passes Public Lands Bill After Debate By Colorado’s Congressional Delegation

DENVER (CBS4)– A bill is up for debate at the U.S. Capitol to permanently protect nearly 3 million acres of land across Colorado, California, Washington and Arizona. More than 1 million of that land is in Colorado.

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The bill is called “Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act” which is actually a package of eight individual public land bills. Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette is sponsoring the bill.

(credit: CSPAN)

A final vote is expected in the House on Friday.

Additional Information from DeGette’s office:

• The Colorado Wilderness Act – protects 660,000 acres in Colorado. Originally sponsored by DeGette, the Colorado Wilderness Act will protect more than 660,000 acres in 36 areas across Colorado. Unlike many of Colorado’s high-elevation landscapes that Congress has protected under previous land-protection bills, DeGette’s Colorado Wilderness Act seeks to protect more of the state’s mid- and low-elevation areas that often serve as critical habitats for a variety of plants and wildlife – and often serve as ideal locations for a wide-range of outdoor recreation activities. While more than two-thirds of the areas included in DeGette’s bill are already being treated as wilderness areas – including the Handies Peak, Dolores River Canyon and Little Bookcliffs – DeGette’s legislation would provide them the permanent protection they deserve.

• The CORE Act – protects 400,000 acres in Colorado. Originally introduced by U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO), the legislation would protect 400,000 acres to support the state’s multi-billion-dollar recreation economy.

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• The Grand Canyon Protection Act – protects 1 million acres in Arizona. Originally introduced by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) the legislation would permanently withdraw more than 1 million acres of federal land north and south of Grand Canyon National Park from eligibility for any future mining claims and leaves valid existing claims intact. Local stakeholders agree that uranium deposits in this part of Northern Arizona should not be mined for fear of contaminating the Grand Canyon or the seeps and springs in the region.

• The Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act – protects 306,500 acres in Northwest California. Originally introduced by U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), the legislation would expand nine existing wilderness areas in Northwest California and establish eight new ones. It would also add 480 river miles to the National Wild and Scenic River System.

• The Central Coast Heritage Protection Act – protects 287,500 acres in Central California. Originally introduced by Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA), the legislation would create two new potential wilderness areas and two new scenic areas in the Los Padres National Forest and Carrizo Plain National Monument. It would also create a 400-mile hiking trail to connect the wilderness areas in the southern and northern portions of the Los Padres National Forest.

• The San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act – protects 139,700 acres in Southern California. Originally introduced by Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), the legislation would expand the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, establish a new National Recreation Area, and designate approximately 30,659 acres as wilderness. It would also add approximately 45.5 river miles to the National Wilde and Scenic Rivers System.

• The Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act – protects 191,000 acres in Southern California. Originally introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the legislation would expand the existing Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area by adding 191,000 acres of the Rim of the Valley Corridor.

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• The Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act – protects 131,900 acres in Washington State. Originally introduced by Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), the legislation would designate 126,544 acres on the Olympic Peninsula as wilderness and another 5,346 as potential wilderness. It would be the first new wilderness designation in Olympic National Forest in nearly 30 years and would add more than 460 river miles to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Systems.

Jennifer McRae