[Source: Faye Bowers, Christian Science Monitor] -- This swath of desert is in full bloom. The mountainsides blanketed by towering saguaro forests are now dotted with yellow and orange Mexican poppies, purple lupine, and white chicory. The monument is home to three wilderness areas and two historic trails. These 487,000 acres sit along a corridor between Arizona's two largest metropolitan areas, Phoenix and Tucson, where demographers predict the population will increase from 5 million people to more than 10 million by 2040.
That's a key reason, many conservation and wildlife advocates say, Congress should permanently designate this national monument and more than 800 additional federally managed properties as the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS). The House Natural Resources Committee moved toward that Wednesday, voting the National Landscape Conservation System Act out of committee. The bill can now be scheduled for a vote by the full House. The Senate, meanwhile, is ready to vote on a similar bill. "Congress … took a major step toward permanently recognizing the National Landscape Conservation System," said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, in a statement. "These places are living history books of the American West, and by unifying them into a single system under the [Bureau of Land Management's] careful management, we are ensuring that these irreplaceable treasures ... are preserved for future generations." [Note: To read the full article, click here.]