House to take up bill to designate first wilderness in 5 years

The Republican-dominated U.S. House of Representatives will decide Monday whether to designate land along Lake Michigan as wilderness.

If the chamber approves H.R. 163, the nation would be on track for the first addition to the National Wilderness Preservation System since January 2011 and the first decision by Congress to expand NWPS since March 2009.

The bill covers 32,557 acres, nearly half of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Running for more than 60 miles along Lake Michigan, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was chosen in one recent survey as the “most beautiful place in America.”

The NWPS contains 757 segments totaling more than 109 million acres. More than half of them overlay National Park Service lands.

Elkhorn Ridge Wilderness, located in northern California, was the last addition to NWPS. That wilderness area had been designated in 2006.

Congress last approved a bill creating new wilderness areas more than five years ago. The Omnibus Public  Land Management Act of 2009 added more than 2 million aces to NWPS. It was signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 30, 2009.

The Senate has already approved legislation to protect land within Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which means that H.R. 163 will head to Obama’s desk if the House agrees to it.

Its prospects appear to be good, as Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Mich., is the lead sponsor.

This image shows Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in winter. Photo courtesy Wikimedia.
This image shows Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in winter. Photo courtesy Wikimedia.

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