WASHINGTON – The US House of Representatives today unanimously passed the Ojito Wilderness Act of 2005 – a measure to permanently protect 11,000 acres of colorful, wildlife-rich desert less than an hour’s drive from Albuquerque, New Mexico. The measure, which cleared the Senate last summer, now goes directly to the President for his signature.
“We’re heartened that Congress passed this important conservation measure early in the session,” said John Gilroy, associate director of the Campaign for America’s Wilderness. “And we applaud the leadership of Senators Bingaman and Domenici and Representatives Udall and Wilson, who worked diligently to move it through Congress. Today New Mexicans – and all Americans – have something to cheer about. Ojito is a unique treasure, filled with diverse plants and wildlife, ancient petroglyphs, amazing landforms and magical hoodoos. Now this natural gem can be handed down to future generations – to hike, hunt, horseback ride, camp, climb, explore, and otherwise enjoy forever.”
The Ojito bill is just one of many wilderness bills conservationists hope to see enacted in this Congress. A bill to protect a third of Puerto Rico’s Caribbean National Forest as the El Toro Wilderness has cleared both the House and Senate in similar versions, and should move to the President’s desk soon. Measures to permanently preserve special wild places along California’s North Coast and Washington’s Wild Sky have also seen Congressional action. Legislation to create 300,000 acres of wilderness in the Boulder White Clouds Mountains of Idaho, part of an economic development and recreation bill, is scheduled for a hearing in the House next week. And citizens from all walks of life – ranchers, teachers, business leaders, members of the faith community and conservationists – are working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to protect wilderness on South Dakota’s prairie grasslands, Arizona’s Tumacacori Highlands, Virginia’s forested mountains, Nevada’s sagebrush expanses, and beyond.
“Let’s hope passage of Ojito is just the first of several common sense measures to preserve America’s wild land this Congress,” said Gilroy.
“Americans across the board, from all walks of life and all regions, overwhelmingly want to protect more of their natural heritage. After all, wilderness is our common ground.”