Holt and Durbin Introduce Bill to Protect America’s Red Rock Wilderness

From the offices of Representative Rush Holt and Senator Dick Durbin:

Thursday, 18 April 2013 15:04


(Washington, D.C.) – In an effort to preserve 9.1 million acres of Utah’s spectacular red rock country as wilderness, U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12) and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (IL) today introduced legislation in the Senate and House that would ensure the public land remains in its natural, undeveloped state. Holt and Durbin’s bipartisan America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, which was introduced with 60 cosponsors in the House and 11 in the Senate, would protect the land from commercial development, motorized vehicles, road building, as well as oil and gas drilling. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) currently owns the 9.1 million acres, but the agency is not prohibited from selling part of the land for development or developing parts itself.

“Development and irresponsible land use threaten one of this country’s most spectacular landscapes, Utah’s Redrock country,” Holt said. “America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act would preserve and protect these deep red canyons, windswept mesas, and fantastical sandstone formations for current and future generations.”

“The legislation Congressman Holt and I are introducing today will designate as wilderness some of our nation’s most remarkable, but unprotected public lands,” said Durbin. “This land was chosen based on meticulous research and surveying of thousands of square miles to determine which lands should be protected. America’s Red Rock Wilderness is a lasting gift to the American public that will give future generations the opportunity to enjoy a landscape that so many now cherish.”

The publicly owned wild places of Utah are renowned for their spectacular beauty, with deep, narrow red rock canyons, fantastic sandstone arches, tremendous open vistas, and wild rivers. Currently, only 1.1 percent of Utah’s BLM public lands are protected as wilderness. These areas are a haven for outdoor recreationists, backpackers, hikers, wildlife enthusiasts, and many more. The red rock area is also rich with archeological remnants of prehistoric cultures.

“We are thrilled to have Congressman Holt join Senator Durbin to introduce America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act in the 113th Congress” said Scott Groene, Executive Director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “Champions of this caliber match the world-class landscapes they are working to protect from oil and gas drilling and off-road vehicle abuse.”

The original version of the America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act was introduced in 1989 by former Utah Congressman Wayne Owens. The bill is based on an extensive survey conducted by volunteers from the Utah Wilderness Coalition (UWC). This public inventory, called the “UWC Citizen’s Proposal,” found that the BLM had overlooked or ignored vast areas of wild country in the agency’s original inventory. As additional inventory work has been conducted for the Citizen’s Proposal, the America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act has been updated to reflect the latest findings. The new version of the bill proposes protections for roughly 9.1 million acres of BLM public land in Utah.

The America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act would ensure the 9.1 million acres in Utah remain wild in their natural state, and strictly prohibit mining, road and dam construction, off-road vehicle use, and other activities that would destroy the area’s special character. Non-consumptive uses such as hunting, fishing, camping, backpacking, hiking, and horseback riding would be permitted and grazing rights existing at the time of any wilderness designation would also be unaffected.

The measure is endorsed by the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance in Utah, and more than 240 local and national conservation groups with the Utah Wilderness Coalition.