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Autumn on Dugger Mountain.
Photo by Francine Hutchinson.
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 A Project of Jacksonville State University's
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Dugger Mountain Legislative Summary
  by Pete Conroy

Certainly the conceptualization and  legislative history of the Dugger Mountain Wilderness goes back a long way. It includes more dreams, discussions and dedicated people than anyone will ever know. The following are just a few of the more visible highlights that have taken place along the way.

As long ago as the mid 1980ís, Congressman Bill Nicholls was interested in a bill that would protect Dugger, Alabamaís second highest mountain, but at the time the creation of Sipsey Wilderness in the Bankhead National Forest was considered to be of greater importance and the timing was never right. Strike one.

Congressman Glen Browder wanted a bill too and in September of 1996 he was able to take an early step by introducing H.R. 4087. Called the "Dugger Mountain Wilderness Act of 1996" it was introduced into committee where it stayed, and stayed and...died. Despite Congressman Glen Browderís noble efforts and despite the attention paid to it by his legislative assistant, Robert Gibbs, strike two had occurred.

Up to bat came Congressman Bob Riley, who looked kindly upon the concept of a Dugger Wilderness, even during his campaign. Then after several meetings with Dugger advocates, reviews relating to boundaries, possible opposition, in-holdings, view-sheds, removal of the historic Dugger Mountain tower, etc., legislation was drafted for the second time.  Internal meetings with conservation groups including Alabamaís Environmental Council, Audubon Society, Sierra Club, as well as other groups like the Southern Environmental Law Center took place and more support for the bill was generated. Then with constant attention from Bob Rileyís legislative assistant Shana Jones, H.R. 2632 was referred to the first of several House committees. On July 29, 1999 the bill went to the Committee on Resources and the Committee on Agriculture. Then after hearings and mark-up sessions, H.R. 2632 was placed on the Union calendar (No.245) and on November 1, 1999 the House approved it by voice vote.

Pete Conroy Pete Conroy at 
Dedication Ceremony
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The next day, H.R. 2632 was received by the US Senate where Senator Jeff Sessions and his legislative assistant Gerry Gilligan had a plan. They wanted the bill to avoid committees where the bill could get held up. Ordinarily the bill would have gone to the Senate Energy Committee, but thatís where over 50 bills were being held hostage. Senator Sessions worked closely with the Senate leadership and, as unusual as it may have been, he had the bill reported directly to the Senate calendar so it could be taken up directly. Too bad, but upon its arrival to the calendar, Senator Herb Kohl of Wisconsin began holding up about 20 bills (including our Dugger legislation), in hopes of passing his dairy compact legislation. Thatís right, our mountain was up against milk!  Luckily, deals were made allowing for consideration of these bills and on November 19, 1999, the Dugger Mountain Wilderness Bill passes the Senate, without amendment by Unanimous Consent. Finally, the message on Senate action was passed to the House on October 22nd and a week later, the bill was presented to President Clinton. In the meanwhile, Governor Don Siegelman had sent a letter to the President encouraging his support. On December 9th, Public Law: No.106-156 was signed in to law by the President. Finally, 9,200 acres of Dugger Mountain received the protection that had been sought after for so long. Today, we celebrate this protection!

 

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Environmental Policy & Information Center
Jacksonville State University 
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Jacksonville, AL 36265 
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Link to www.jsu.edu
Last Updated: October 12, 2003