Legislation scheduled to be taken up Thursday by a U.S. House subcommittee wouldn't create any national parks if passed, but it would go a long way toward providing some serious buffer zones around four national park units in Utah through the creation of officially designated wilderness.
For decades the Red Rock Wilderness Act has been something of a pipe dream for conservationists since it first was introduced in Congress back in 1989 by then-Congressman Wayne Owens of Utah. When he left office in 1992, he asked his colleague, Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-New York, to carry the legislation forward. Since then the measure has, quite frankly, gone nowhere while Rep. Hinchley worked on building support in Congress for it. On Thursday, the legislation gets its very first congressional hearing, when the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands takes a look at it.
None other than Robert Redford has come forward to urge passage of the Redrock Wilderness Act of 2009, which would designate roughly 9 million acres of wilderness around such places as Canyonlands, Arches, and Capitol Reef national parks, as well as around Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
"All of these lands -- some of the last great places on earth -- are owned by the public, but most of them remain vulnerable to industrial development. America's Red Rock Wilderness Act would protect them from oil and gas development, uranium mining, and off-road vehicle use. Meanwhile, hunters, anglers, hikers, and families could continue to enjoy these lands, including the renowned Cedar Mesa, San Rafael Swell, and the Book Cliffs," the actor, who lives in Utah, wrote in a column for the Huffington Post.
"This is our chance to be present at the creation. If we pass the Red Rock Wilderness Act, we can tell our grandchildren that we helped birth the latest Yellowstone. We can say we preserved treasures equal to Zion, Arches, and Canyonlands National Parks. We can add to the wilderness inheritance of future generations, and they will thank us for it."
The bill currently has 137 sponsors in the House, and 20 in the Senate. However, without any members of the Utah delegation, either in the House or Senate, endorsing the bill, it remains a long-shot to gain congressional passage.