Yesterday the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands held a hearing on H.R. 1581, the “Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act,” that would open up 60 million acres of wilderness-quality lands to potential development, making it the latest GOP giveaway to industry. At the heart of H.R. 1581 is the question of what to do with millions of acres lands that are pending wilderness designation, the highest form of land protection in our country and a uniquely American idea. The Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service manage “wilderness study areas” and “inventoried roadless areas” while they await a Congressional decision on whether or not to call them wilderness.
The bill being advocated by Republicans strips away these temporary protections. Proponents tried to justify it in many ways during the hearing, but the bill’s author, Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), went so far as to invoke President Theodore Roosevelt in validating it:
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