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National Briefing

March 20, 2009|Times Wire Reports

For the second time this year, the Senate passed a long-delayed bill to set aside more than 2 million acres in nine states as protected wilderness, including a California mountain range and a forest in Virginia. The 77-20 vote sends the bill to the House, where final legislative approval could come as early as next week.

The Senate first approved the measure in January, but the House rejected it last week.

The legislation -- a package of nearly 170 separate bills -- would confer the government's highest level of protection on land including California's Sierra Nevada range, Oregon's Mt. Hood, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, and parts of the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia.

Supporters called the legislation among the most important conservation bills debated in Congress in decades.

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