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Source: United States House of Representatives – Congresswoman Diana DeGette (First District of Colorado)

The move significantly increases chance of DeGette’s Colorado Wilderness bill becoming law

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi today appointed U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) to serve among a select group of members who will be tasked with negotiating a compromise between the House and Senate’s annual defense spending bills for the upcoming fiscal year.

DeGette’s appointment to the conference committee will provide her more than just an opportunity to sway future military funding, it will also provide her a unique opportunity to ensure that her legislation to permanently protect more than 1.4 million acres of wilderness across three states remains in the final version of the bill. 

The House voted in July to attach legislation known as the Protecting America’s Wilderness Act – which DeGette had originally introduced in May 2019 – as an amendment to its version of the National Defense Authorization Act. 

The language, which would provide permanent protection to more than 50 unique wilderness areas in Colorado, Washington and California, would also ensure that one of the nation’s top military flight schools – the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site, or HAATS, in Colorado – is able to continue its mission uninterrupted.

“Protecting more of our nation’s wilderness for future generations to enjoy is vital not only to the overall health of our planet, but also to our nation’s military who use these untouched terrains to train some of our nation’s most elite pilots,” DeGette said. “Ensuring more of our public lands are protected under this year’s NDAA bill will be one of my top priorities.”

Despite the House having included the wilderness-protection language in its version of the NDAA bill, it was not included in the version the Senate passed later that same month.

Now, DeGette and others appointed to serve on the conference committee will be charged with drafting new legislation that can pass in both chambers of Congress. 

And further increasing the chances that DeGette’s wilderness bill will remain in the final version of this year’s NDAA, Pelosi named three other key backers of the wilderness-protection language to serve on the committee alongside DeGette: U.S. Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Salud Carbajal (D-CA). 

If ultimately approved, DeGette’s wilderness bill will be the largest wilderness protection bill Congress has approved for her home state of Colorado in more than 40 years.

It would provide more than 660,000 acres of wilderness in 36 unique areas across Colorado with the highest level of land protection available, including Handies Peak, Dolores River Canyon and Little Book Cliffs. 

Members appointed to serve on the conference committee are expected to meet later this month to begin drafting a compromise to the House and Senate NDAA bills. 

Once a compromise is reached, it must then be approved by both chambers of Congress before heading to the president to be signed into law.