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Press Release: Groups Praise Senator McCain's Support for Bipartisan Resolution Celebrating 40th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act

Groups Say Now is the Time for New Arizona Wilderness, Call on Senator to Act

Phoenix— Today Arizona conservation groups praised Senator John McCain’s (R-AZ) support for a bipartisan resolution commemorating the 40th anniversary of the 1964 Wilderness Act, while calling on him to take action now to protect more of Arizona’s special wild places, like the Tumacacori Highlands southwest of Tucson.

“Senator McCain played an important role in passing the 1984 and 1990 wilderness bills in Arizona that protected critical wildlife habitat and outstanding recreation lands in our state,” says Matt Skroch, Field Director for the Sky Island Alliance, a member of the Friends of the Tumacacori Highlands. “He has shown us time and again his dedication to providing for Arizona’s outstanding recreational opportunities and wildlife. We continue to look to Senator McCain for his leadership and support on a popular proposal to designate the Tumacacori Highlands as wilderness. With 2 million more residents living in Arizona since the last wilderness was designated here, it is time to ensure that this magnificent area will remain for future generations.”

  Introduced today by Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), the resolution calls on the Senate to “recognize and applaud the extraordinary work of the organizations and individuals involved in building the National Wilderness Preservation System,” which today protects nearly 106 million acres of wild America from urban encroachment and degradation.

  The resolution also remembers the legacy of conservation leaders, such as former Arizona Representative Morris K. Udall, who worked closely with Senator McCain and other congressional representatives to bring bipartisan support to Arizona wilderness legislation in 1984 and 1990. The resolution, in part, re-emphasizes the critical nature of Republican and Democratic involvement in passing the original wilderness legislation:

“Whereas Senator Hubert H. Humphrey, a Democrat from Minnesota, and Representative John Saylor, a Republican from Pennsylvania, originally introduced the legislation with strong bipartisan support in both bodies of Congress;

Whereas with the help of their colleagues, including cosponsors Gaylord Nelson, William Proxmire, Henry ‘‘Scoop’’ M. Jackson, and Morris K. Udall, and other conservation allies, Senator Humphrey and Representative Saylor toiled 8 years to secure nearly unanimous passage of the legislation, 78 to 8 in the Senate, and 373 to 1 in the House of Representatives…”

Today, conservation advocates are calling on Senator McCain to follow in Udall’s footsteps and work to permanently protect 85,000 acres of prime jaguar habitat in the Tumacacori Highlands, a lush, canyon-riddled maze of subtropical meadows and forest lands. Led by a local coalition of businesses, civic groups, nonprofits, and citizens called the Friends of the Tumacacori Highlands, advocates for Arizona’s newest wilderness are working to protect the largest remaining roadless area not yet designated as Wilderness in Arizona’s National Forests. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) has put forth a proposal that would establish the first national forest wilderness in Arizona in 20 years.

  “John McCain gives us a refreshing, overdue example of conservation leadership that knows no party lines,” says Don Hoffman, Executive Director of the Arizona Wilderness Coalition. “He has worked with men and women who saw wilderness protection as a national cause—a duty to our future generations. We greatly appreciate his voice of reason to reinforce that message with today’s lawmakers.”

In Arizona, wilderness protection bills after the 1964 Wilderness Act have protected more than 4.5 million acres—gems such as Mazatzal, Four Peaks, and Hellsgate Wilderness areas. It was former Republican President Ronald Reagan who signed the 1984 Arizona Wilderness Act into law, creating other outstanding natural legacies like Escudilla, Chiricahua, and Munds Mountain wildernesses.

“John McCain joined with Morris Udall to save some of wild Arizona when they were both Congressman in the 1980’s,” says Joni Bosh, wilderness co-chair of the Sierra Club’s Arizona chapter. “We hope Senator McCain will continue that work by setting aside other special places, including the Tumacacori Highlands, for future generations.”

Find the full text of the resolution here.

Contact: Don Hoffman, Executive Director, Arizona Wilderness Coalition, 928-339-4525

Matt Skroch, Field Director, Sky Island Alliance, 520-624-7080

Rob Smith, Sierra Club Southwest Office, 602-254-8362



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