Wilderness gains

IT is good news for the wilderness - and for all Americans: A compromise weeks in the making has now been reached. As a result the way has been cleared to add several million acres of unspoiled land across the United States to the wilderness system, which preserves land from development.

There are now some 80 million acres of officially designated wilderness. Some 10 million more will be added if all additional land now being considered is approved by Congress and President Reagan.

Two issues had been contentious between conservationists and opponents of the wilderness measures, including industries that wished to develop some of the land in question. One was how much acreage, and precisely which parcels of land, should be preserved in some states. The second was whether land not now preserved could ever be added to the wilderness rolls. A compromise has been reached on both points.

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Economic development of much of the American landscape is important - for mining and lumbering, for homes and factories, and for recreational uses. Yet at the same time it is important to preserve some land in its wild state, to save its flora and fauna, and to see that America always has plenty of wilderness. Land once turned into shopping centers or parking lots can never be returned to its original wild state.

Even in these financially difficult years some states, just as the federal government, are finding a way to finance the preservation of open spaces. So are some communities, which with public or private funds are quietly buying up small parcels for preservation or recreational use. The State of Massachusetts, as one example, recently set aside $162 million to refurbish some parklands and buy additional open land.

Every level of government has the opportunity to preserve land for future generations.

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