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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Obama signs protections for Mon Forest acreage

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Lewisburg Mayor John Manchester on Monday had a bird's-eye view of President Obama signing into law a bill granting wilderness protection to more than 2 million acres of land, including 37,771 acres in the Monongahela National Forest.

"For some reason, they stuck me in the second row," Manchester said after the signing. "It was a wonderful ceremony, and I got to shake the president's hand and meet a lot of the congressional leaders."

Manchester was among about 150 supporters of various pieces of the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 who were invited to attend the bill-signing ceremony at the White House. The legislation protects tracts of federally managed land in nine states, from Oregon to Virginia.

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and a longtime backer of the legislation, was among 13 U.S. senators and representatives in attendance, along with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

"As Americans, we possess few blessings greater than the vast and varied landscapes that stretch the breadth of our continent," Obama said. The new law, he added, guarantees that Americans "will not take our forests, rivers, oceans, national parks, monuments and wilderness areas for granted, but rather we will set them aside and guard their sanctity for everyone to share. That's something all Americans can support."

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