Teddy Bear News

December 2008 Congressional Update on Wilderness bills
Author: teddygirl | Sunday January 25, 2009

The following is from Campaign for Americas Wilderness, an organization that is working to achieve lasting protection for threatened wild lands.

Since last month, we had been anxiously awaiting the return of the 110th Congress the week of November 17th in anticipation of the Senate’s consideration of the pending Omnibus Public Lands package, which includes 15 wilderness protection bills totaling nearly two million acres. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of many in the conservation community, this “lame duck” failed to take off for the lands package, as Congress focused its attention solely on actions needed to address the Nation’s continuing economic crisis.

While Congress may return yet again for a second lame duck session prior to year’s end, we believe it will only do so in a continuing effort to take up economic relief measures.

But there is still hope for this important lands package. In his opening speech on the Senate Floor during this special post-election session, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) committed to moving the package early in the New Year when the 111th Congress convenes. According to the Majority Leader, “…[O]ne of the first things we are going to do is, there will be a bipartisan piece of legislation introduced that will include [all the provisions of the Omnibus Public Lands package]…That will be the first or second thing we do when we come back in January.”

Majority Leader Reid acknowledged that the lands package is of great importance to many Senators, as well as “a lot of people around the country.” Prior to the convening of the lame duck session, a bipartisan coalition of 20 Senators wrote to Senator Reid expressing their strong support for the package and encouraging its consideration during the post-election session. This support of the package from both Democrats and Republicans, as well as many outside groups, clearly impressed the Majority Leader.

This assurance by Majority Leader Reid, along with indications that the House leadership will also quickly move to consider most, if not all, of the provisions of the Senate package when the 111th Congress convenes, is most promising. So, we are heartened by the likelihood that one of the first major pieces of legislation that the new President will sign into law will be the creation and expansion of millions of acres of wilderness across the country.

The Omnibus Public Lands package includes many important provisions for protecting and preserving America's public lands, cultural values, and local economies. Examples of the valuable bipartisan public land provisions in the bill include the Virginia Ridge and Valley Act sponsored by Senators John Warner (R) and Jim Webb (D), the Owyhee Public Land Management Act sponsored by Senator Michael Crapo (R), the Wild Monongahela Act sponsored by Senator Robert Byrd (D) and Senator John Rockefeller (D), and the Mount Hood Wilderness Act sponsored by Senators Gordon Smith (R) and Ron Wyden (D).

Following is a list of all 15 wilderness bills, which would enhance the quality of life, safeguard clean air and watersheds, and provide for hunting, fishing, camping, canoeing, and other popular outdoor activities.

Copper Salmon Wilderness Act (OR)
Wild Monongahela Act (WV)
Virginia Ridge and Valley Wilderness and National Scenic Area Act (VA)
Owyhee Public Lands Management Act of 2008 (ID)
Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness Act (OR)
Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness and Indian Peaks Wilderness Expansion Act (CO)
Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument Voluntary and Equitable Grazing Conflict Resolution Act (OR)
Beaver Basin Wilderness Act (MI)
Sabinoso Wilderness Act (NM)
Oregon Badlands Wilderness Act of 2008 (OR)
Spring Basin Wilderness Act of 2008 (OR)
Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area and Dominguez Canyon Wilderness Area Act (CO)
Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act (CA)
California Desert and Mountain Heritage Act of 2007 (CA)
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Wilderness Act of 2008 (CA)

Working to ensure that this important package comes up for an early vote will be our priority as the 111th Congress convenes.

For more information, visit Campaign for Americas Wilderness website.

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