After Years Of Lax Protection Congress Expands Wilderness Areas

The Washington Post reports that the U.S. Congress has recently moved to designate a dozen tracts of land, totaling 2 million acres, as wilderness areas — the highest level of federal protection. The 2 million acres equals the total amount of wilderness area created in the previous five years and will mean that roughly five percent of America’s land mass is now in the wilderness system. The Post reports that a confluence of factors has led to this recent expansion of the wilderness system: a change in Congress from Republican to Democratic, a more pragmatic approach taken by environmental groups in working with local communities, and the recognition by those communities that unspoiled wilderness can create more economic opportunities than extractive industries. Under the Bush administration, Congress has opened up more than 100 million acres of other federal lands to oil and gas exploration, logging, and commercial uses.