A sweeping conservation bill that would designate more than 700,000 acres of California public land as wilderness passed the Senate -- again.
Today's 77-20 vote cleared the way for House approval, perhaps next week.
The Senate approved a similar version of the lands bill in January. But it took the measure up again after it narrowly fell short of the two-thirds approval required in the House for noncontroversial matters. Democratic leaders brought the bill back before the Senate in a procedural move designed to set up a House vote that would allow it to be approved on a majority vote while preventing opponents from attempting to amend it.
It would designate as wilderness -- the government's highest protection -- about 190,000 acres in Riverside County, including parts of Joshua Tree National Park; about 450,000 acres in the Eastern Sierra and San Gabriel Mountains north of Los Angeles; and about 90,000 acres in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks. The measure also would authorize $88 million toward an effort to restore the San Joaquin River.
Opponents complained that the bill would infringe on private property rights and close off areas to energy production.