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East, West clash over wilderness
Capital Press 10/16/07
WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) — Eastern and Western members of the U.S. House clashed sharply Oct. 18 over legislation that would designate almost 20 million acres of Western land as wilderness.
Western members angrily criticized the bill, which is sponsored by two members from the East Coast — Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Rep. Christopher Shays, RConn. It would give a new level of protection to lands and rivers in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
In testimony before a House Natural Resources subcommittee, Maloney said the bill would only apply to current federal lands.
“These are lands that belong to all American taxpayers,” she said. “We all have a right and responsibility to protect our precious resources.”
Declaring land as wilderness, the highest form of federal protection, usually bans logging, oil exploration and other development. It also generally prevents motorized access, limiting recreation on the land.
Supporters have called the wilderness bill an “ecosystembased” plan meant to transcend political boundaries and replace natural resource jobs with others tilted toward restoration.
Western Republicans on the committee challenged Maloney and Shays, saying they shouldn’t be interfering with land so far away from their own districts.
Utah Rep. Rob Bishop, the top Republican on the subcommittee, called the bill absurd.
“The issue is the division between East and West. It’s a
division between urban and rural,” he said.
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