Landmark US conservation bill signed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US President Barack Obama signed sweeping land and water conservation rules into law yesterday, setting aside millions of acres as protected areas and delighting environmentalists.

The measure, a package of more than 160 bills, would designate about 2 million acres (809,400 hectares) — 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.

Opponents, most of them Republicans, complained the legislation would deny access for oil and gas drilling and said House Democrats refused to consider changes.

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