America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act would protect iconic western landscapes with evocative names like Cedar Mesa, the Escalante Canyons, and the Kaiparowits Plateau. This visionary legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives since 1989, first by then-Utah Rep. Wayne Owens, and subsequently by Rep. Maurice Hinchey of New York and Rep. Rush Holt of New Jersey. In 1997, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois agreed to introduce a Senate version of the bill and has done so every Congress since. Rep. Alan Lowenthal of California is the current House sponsor.
The wild and expansive landscape proposed for protection under America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act comprises a prime piece of what scientists say is needed today—protecting 30% of America’s lands and waters by the year 2030 in order to prevent catastrophic collapse of our natural systems. Centrally located in the Intermountain West, these lands are also a vital link in the interconnected chain of largely undisturbed ecosystems running from the Grand Canyon to Glacier National Park, providing important migration corridors for wildlife.
New peer reviewed research shows that America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act also makes a significant contribution to mitigating climate change. Protecting these wild landscapes would keep a significant amount of fossil fuels in the ground, accounting for 5.7 percent of the carbon mitigation needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, scientists estimate that the lands proposed for protection currently sequester and store 247 million metric tons of organic carbon in plants and soils. Designating these lands as wilderness would even help preserve flows in the Colorado River (the lifeblood of the arid Southwest) by preventing surface-disturbing activities that cause windborne dust to coat Colorado snowpack, melting it faster and earlier.
All lands proposed for wilderness designation in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act are owned by the American public and administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The bill is supported by SUWA, Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Wasatch Mountain Club, and more than 200 other national and regional conservation organizations belonging to the Utah Wilderness Coalition.