It took a long time getting there, but Bend's Badlands area has finally achieved federal wilderness status.
The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 passed the U.S. House of Representatives today by a vote of 285-140, with all five of Oregon's members of the House voting for it. The legislation already has cleared the Senate and now only needs President Obama's signature.
The omnibus bill -- strongly supported by conservation, hunting and fishing groups and just as strongly opposed by mining and timber interests as well as off-road vehicle enthusiasts - protects a total of more than 2 million acres of wilderness, monuments, trails and rivers across the US.
Among many other provisions, it includes the Oregon Badlands Wilderness Act of 2008, which designates almost 30,000 acres of the Badlands about 15 miles east of Bend as federally protected wilderness. "The legislation protects this unique and treasured high desert plateau from mining and geothermal leasing as well as encroaching off road vehicles," Sen. Ron Wyden's office said in a press release.
The bill also includes the Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness Act, which gives wilderness protection to almost 127,000 acres around Mount Hood, and the Spring Basin Wilderness Act, designating approximately 8,600 acres of land overlooking the John Day River as wilderness.
"It was a long and winding road to get this bill passed, but it was worth it to make sure that Mount Hood and all the other special places in this bill are protected," Wyden said.
The group Friends of the Badlands and other advocates have been trying for decades to win wilderness status for the area. The federal Bureau of Land Management recommended more than 20 years ago that it be protected because of its wildlife, geological, archaeological and recreational value.