September 12, 2006


80 grassroots groups urge colleagues to halt support for development/privatization bills



Western Lands Project, Seattle: Janine Blaeloch, 206- 325-3503
Wilderness Watch, Missoula: George Nickas, 406-542- 2048 ext. 4
Western Watersheds Project, Boise: Katie Fite, 208- 429-1679
Friends of the Clearwater, Moscow: Gary Macfarlane, 208-882-9755

A coalition of 80 grassroots environmental organizations today issued an open letter to the conservation community at large, urging their support to stop current legislation that would harm public lands. The groups are asking their colleagues to join them in opposing the legislation.

At issue are bills that combine wilderness designation with land and water development provisions. Four bills cited in the moratorium letter include privatization of public lands and critical wildlife habitat through giveaways, sales, and exchanges:

  • White Pine County [Nevada] Conservation, Recreation and Development Act, S. 3772
  • Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act, HR 3603
  • Washington County [Utah] Growth and Conservation Act, S. 3636, HR5769
  • Owyhee Initiative Implementation Act, S. 3794 [Idaho]

Read an in-depth analysis of these four bills on our website.

A small but influential group of conservation organizations is supporting three of the bills, hence the call for solidarity by the signatories to the letter.

“Some support these bills for their wilderness designations,” the moratorium letter states, “ but the bills are laden with environmentally damaging provisions and land privatization schemes that have dire implications for future public-land and wilderness protection.”

The groups reason that the upcoming election, just weeks away, could change the makeup of Congress and open the way for wilderness bills free of development and privatization tradeoffs. Citizens have overwhelmingly rejected schemes by Congress and the Administration to sell off public lands.

Since 2000, an estimated 250,000 acres of public land have gone into private hands in just a handful of bills that mixed land sales, mammoth water pipelines, and local development subsidies with wilderness designation. Three such bills now pending in Congress would privatize more than 80,000 acres of public land. The fourth could open up as much as 75,000 federal acres for ranchers to select from in land trades. To add insult to injury, the bills create highly- compromised wilderness designations that allow the use of snowmobiles, ATVs and helicopters for routine management practices, allow aerial gunning of predators to protect livestock, provide for stream- poisoning and military maneuvers, and allow clearcutting and other habitat modifications to benefit game species.


Thank you to all of our members and supporters for your interest in these issues!
Joanne, Janine and Chris

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