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Wilderness Group Has High Hopes for New Congressional Reps

December 4, 2008

Warren, PA - A Pennsylvania wilderness group is hoping new leaders in Congress will prioritize protecting the Allegheny National Forest.

Kirk Johnson, director of Friends of Allegheny Wilderness, says obtaining the support of newly elected members of the U.S. House of Representatives is important, since the Wilderness Act requires Congress to approve designating wildlands as wilderness. Currently, less than two percent of the Allegheny National Forest is protected as wilderness, he says.

"The U.S. Forest Service tells us that we are losing 6,000 acres of open space and wildlands every single day. If we don't protect these areas as wilderness now, there is no guarantee that they will be around for future generations."

Some worry that Congressional protection under the Wilderness Act would threaten timber production in the Allegheny. However, Johnson says his group isn't against logging and multiple uses of the forest. He stresses they do want to protect its remaining wild areas, though.

Friends of Allegheny Wilderness, as well as other wilderness supporters, are reaching out to newly-elected Representatives Glenn Thompson and Kathy Dahlkemper, whose district includes the Allegheny National Forest region. Johnson hopes they will make protecting wild areas a top priority.

"It's very important that we get in on the ground level and make them understand that wilderness is one of the primary issues for Northwestern Pennsylvania in the 111th Congress."

Kelly Glorioso Fodel, Public News Service - PA