A GOP star for Utah wilderness

When the Wilderness Act passed in 1964 the lead sponsor in the House of Representatives was John Saylor, a Pennsylvania Republican.  In those days the bipartisan support for conserving America’s natural heritage was widespread.  It’s much harder to come by today.

Rep. Tim Johnson

However, there have been several GOP stars in recent years.  One of them has been Rep. Tim Johnson of Illinois.  And he’s done it again by writing President Obama and asking him to designate a Greater Canyonlands National Monument.  Calling Greater Canyonlands a “national treasure”, Rep. Johnson asks President Obama to designate a Monument “not for myself but for the constituents throughout the land.”

The many members of Illinois Clergy and Laity for Utah Wilderness and the Illinois Task Force for Utah Wilderness have met frequently with Rep. Johnson and his staff.  His support has been characterized by enthusiasm.  His fine staff has reflected that deep dedication.

With 2 members of Rep. Johnson’s staff I had the privilege several years ago to visit the Greater Canyonlands area.  Our hosts were staff and leaders of SUWA and the Sierra Club.  The purpose of this visit was to become acquainted with the damage done by off-road vehicle use and oil/gas exploration to these pristine and beautiful landscapes.  The result was greater dedication on the part of Rep. Johnson to do what he could to preserve and protect these special lands.

Having already become a co-sponsor of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, Rep. Johnson committed himself to work with Rep. Hinchey in securing the signatures of colleagues in the House of Representatives to a sign-on letter requesting Secretary of the Interior Salazar to do all he could to protect this wilderness land from further exploitation by oil/gas exploration and off-road vehicle use.

In addition, Rep. Johnson has vigorously opposed legislation which would expose our remaining red-rock wilderness lands to further misuse.  More than simply expressing appropriate opposition he has been a spokesperson supporting legislation that would protect this land.

Without exception his staff in Illinois’ Fifteenth Congressional District and in D. C. has been receptive to our repeated contacts and expressions of concern for protecting redrock wilderness lands.  They knew and supported the commitment of Rep. Johnson to these goals

Sadly, however, this letter will be among his last actions on behalf of America’s redrock wilderness as Rep. Johnson is retiring at the end of his current term.

You can help his constituents here in Illinois honor and express appreciation by calling his office at 202-225-2371 and thank him for being a leading star of bipartisan support for Utah’s redrock wilderness.

Guest blog by Howard Daughenbaugh, member of Illinois Clergy and Laity for Utah Wilderness