Add More Land To Wilderness Bill

For many years Congress took the comparatively easy way out in preserving wild, natural areas of our country. It did so by designating tens of millions of acres of land in the West for protection. That was relatively easy because nearly all of the land involved already belonged to the federal government.

Meanwhile, not much was done in the East. A growing population in this region had to make do with a relatively stagnant list of wild places kept that way through government protection.

It has been apparent for many years that more land in eastern states needed to be set aside and protected. Some evidence of that is in the use of national parks in the East. In some cases, rangers have had to take special steps, including charging admission to some places, to keep them from being damaged by overuse.

That may be changing, in part because a Mountain State lawmaker, U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., is chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. That panel plays a major role in deciding what areas are to be set aside as federally designated wildernesses.

A bill in the House would add about 2 million acres throughout the country to those already designated for federal wilderness protection. About 47,000 acres are in the Monongahela National Forest of West Virginia.

If anything, the amount ought to be increased. Gov. Joe Manchin has proposed adding about 4,000 acres to the 47,000 in the bill.

We agree. For too long, eastern states were virtually ignored in terms of providing areas where Americans could enjoy relatively unspoiled natural beauty. It’s long past time to end that neglect — not just for us, but also for our children and grandchildren.