House passes wilderness bill

WASHINGTON — The House has passed and sent to President Barack Obama a long-delayed bill to set aside more than 2 million acres in nine states as protected wilderness, including Soda Mountain and an area along the coast in Southern Oregon.

The 285-140 vote comes two weeks after the House rejected the bill amid a partisan dispute over gun rights. The measure was brought up again in the Senate and approved last week, setting up Wednesday's vote.

Supporters said the bill would preserve national forests, parks, rivers, battlefields and other public lands for generations.

Opponents, mostly Republicans, called the bill a "land grab" that would block energy development on vast swaths of federal land.

The bill would confer the government's highest level of protection on land in California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia — ranging from California's Sierra Nevada mountain range to Oregon's Mount Hood, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and parts of the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia.

Land in Idaho's Owyhee canyons, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan and Zion National Park in Utah also has won designation as wilderness, and more than 1,000 miles of rivers in nearly a dozen states will gain protections.

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