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US House defeats expansive wilderness bill

US House defeats expansive wilderness bill

The U.S. House of Representatives defeated on Wednesday a bill that would have set aside as protected wilderness more than 2 million acres (810,000 hectares) in nine states.
Majority Democrats agreed to amend the bill to clarify that it would not impose new restrictions on hunting, fishing or trapping on federal land. The amendment was sought by the National Rifle Association.
A majority of House members supported the bill, but the measure was defeated because it did not receive the needed two-thirds votes in support. The vote was 282-144 in favor, two votes short. The House has 435 voting members.
House debate on the bill turned contentious, as Republicans complained that the measure, among the largest expansions of wilderness protection in 25 years, would cost up to $10 billion and block oil and gas development on millions of acres of federal property.
They also said it should not have been brought up under special rules that blocked most amendments and required two-thirds support for passage. Such rules usually are reserved for non-controversial bills.
Republican Rep. Doc Hastings called the Democratic rules "an extreme abuse of the process." He said the legislation, a collection of more than 170 individual bills, was "a 1,200-page monster piece of legislation" that could criminalize collecting rocks on federal land, among other problems.
Democrats disputed that and said the bill was among the most important conservation measures debated in the House in many years.
When headlines shout that banks are failing, it is important for Americans to know that "our national parks are still beautiful, our national battlefields are still sacred and our national rivers are still wild and scenic," said Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.
The defeated measure would have conferred the government's highest level of protection on land ranging from California's Sierra Nevada mountain range to Oregon's Mount Hood, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and parts of the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia.
Land in Idaho's Owyhee canyons, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan and Zion National Park in Utah also would have won designation as wilderness, and more than 1,000 miles of rivers in nearly a dozen states would have gained protections.
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Updated : 2021-05-08 06:59 GMT+08:00