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Congress Goes 'Wilder' Than Ever Before

June 30, 2008

Washington, D.C. – By year's end, Congress will be considering designating 12 more "untrammeled" areas of America as wilderness. If this unusual bipartisan effort stays on course, North Dakotans will have more wilderness to visit.

Mike Matz, executive director of the Campaign for America's Wilderness, says lawmakers are responding to efforts by local communities to protect unspoiled areas. He notes they could designate as many acres of wilderness this year alone as they did in the last five.

"They are really getting their act together in this one particular issue area and accomplishing great things for the American public. It's pretty impressive to see."

Matz adds this bipartisan effort is coming at a time when the White House is trying to open up more areas for energy exploration.

"Congress is trying to strike the right balance here: 2 million acres of protected areas versus 68 million acres that the oil industry already has its hands on and is doing nothing with."

He says in recent weeks the House has passed six wilderness bills that would protect more than 500,000 acres, and by the end of the year, that number could grow to two million acres put under wilderness protection.

Dick Layman/Eric Mack, Public News Service - ND