From: Thomas Ferraro, Reuters
Published March 26, 2009 11:07 AM

Congress approves landmark conservation bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Democratic-led U.S. Congress gave final approval on Wednesday to sweeping land and water conservation legislation that environmental groups praised as one of the most significant in U.S. history.

The measure, a package of more than 160 bills, would set aside about 2 million acres -- parks, rivers, streams, desert, forest and trails -- in nine states as new wilderness and render them off limits to oil and gas drilling and other development.

The House of Representatives approved the measure on a vote of 285-140 a week after it cleared the Senate, capping years of wrangling and procedural roadblocks.

It now goes to President Barack Obama to sign into law, which he is expected to do swiftly.

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