Great News and Many Thanks . . .
 
Washington County Land Bill Gets the Axe in Congress


The final week of the 2006 Congressional session was a bit of a cliffhanger for the controversial Washington County land sell-off, but in the end common sense prevailed and the bill was not included in last-minute legislation. This is a victory everyone who cares about wilderness can share.
 
We especially want to thank you and others who have taken the time to speak out against this misguided legislation, because it truly was the overwhelming opposition to this proposal by citizens throughout the country that stopped it.
 
Here's what happened:
On Tuesday, December 5, Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT) and Representative Jim Matheson (D-UT) acknowledged in the press that they would not be able to pass their Washington County Growth and Conservation Act (S. 3636/ H.R. 5769) during this session of Congress. Wilderness advocates began to breathe a bit easier with this admission, yet we knew that a few days still remained in the session and that our optimism ought to be balanced with caution. We knew that Senator Bennett had hoped to attach his bill to other proposals that might have a better chance of making it through at the last minute.
 
As it turned out, incoming Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) persuaded House leaders to include his own White Pine County lands bill in tax legislation that passed both houses in the last 24 hours of the Congressional session. Fortunately, Bennett's Washington County bill was not included. Why not?
 
Because over the course of the last year, people all over the United States made sure that Congress and the media knew that the Washington County bill was bad news for wilderness and that it ought to be stopped.
 
Your letters, emails, phone calls, and visits made the difference.
 
Your passion made the difference.
 
And the logic of your arguments made the difference.
 
The Washington County legislation was bad news for wilderness, but it wasn't until you took action that members of Congress understood this. In the last six months alone over 120 local, regional and national organizations went on record opposing this bill; newspapers across the country took editorial stands against it; and members of Congress received well over 100,000 emails from their constituents, and countless phone calls and letters opposing the bill.
 
Washington County, Utah has over 350,000 acres of wild land, and it all deserves to be protected. Yet this ill-conceived legislation failed to protect the vast majority of it. At the same time it would exacerbate threats to wilderness by selling off almost 25,000 acres of public land, threaten critical habitat for the endangered desert tortoise, fuel runaway growth in one of the fastest growing counties in the country, and divert conservation money to fund local development projects.
 
The Denver Post recently called this bill a "land grab" that would "reward developers at the expense of the public interest"  and said that federal lands are a "priceless public asset that must be managed thoughtfully." We couldn't agree more.
 
We hope that Senator Bennett and Representative Matheson will decide not to re-introduce this short-sighted proposal next year. Time and energy ought to be devoted to better legislation.
 
During the next Congress, we intend to renew our efforts to protect ALL the public land in America's Red Rock Wilderness, including the stunning landscapes of the Zion-Mojave in Washington County.
 
We thank you for all you have done on behalf of Wild Utah!

 

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