Channels Bush and adds a presidential signing statement-
Updates to 4-2. State specific information added at end of post
There was much rejoicing as the President signed the Omnibus Public Lands Bill, usually and incorrectly called the giant new “wilderness bill.”
It does add 2-million acres to the National Wilderness Preservation System, but it does many other things, including protect 1.2 million acres of the Salt River Range, Wyoming Range, and Commissary Ridge areas in Western Wyoming from oil and gas leasing (and hence drilling). These areas will not be managed as Wilderness, although as a result of the bill, large parts of them will remain roadless. Drilling in these scenic, but unstable, wildlife rich areas would cause immense devastation. They still suffer from excessive livestock grazing.
The bill also designates new Wild and Scenic Rivers, including the first in dry Utah, where building dams on rivers has been a tradition. To win support for the bill, money was provided to study the rebuilding of the Teton Dam in Eastern Idaho, which failed catastrophically in 1976 when it was first being filled after a long fight with conservation groups who predicted it would not hold water. I should note that fighting this dam was my first major conservation issue.
There are 500,000 of new official Wilderness in Idaho and 316 miles of wild and scenic rivers included in the larger Owyhee Canyonlands bill. This bill has sparked conflict among conservation groups, not because it designates Wilderness, but because it also releases to livestock development a number of roadless areas, plus other provisions. I have heard that the bill did undergo some improvement in the U.S. Senate when it was “cleaned up” by Committee Staff.
A controversial road in Alaska is also authorized.
Entire new programs were also established such as the Federal Ocean Acidification Research And Monitoring Act of 2009
Those who believe President Bush was trying to establish an imperial presidency will be disappointed that President Obama did as the former president. He added a constitutionally questionable “signing statement” as he signed the bill into law.
Conservation supporters in Congress are not through, however, and another bill is in the works for this Congress.
Story: The Caucus: Wilderness Lands Bill Becomes Law. By Kate Phillips. New York Times.
On the signing statement: The Caucus: Obama Issues Signing Statement With Public Lands Bill. By Charlie Savage. New York Times.
Text and legislative history: H.R. 146: the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009
In sum, despite imperfections, I’d say that overall this is a big victory for conservation.
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Colorado: Obama signs legislation protecting Colorado’s natural resources. Examiner.com
Utah: Washington County lands bill may be the wilderness model. Compromise . Obama signs legislation that includes both wilderness and development. By Matt Canham. The Salt Lake Tribune
Oregon. Five land measures in bill for Oregon. Press release from Oregon US Senator Ron Wyden.
California: Eleven Wilderness areas and three Wild and Scenic Rivers. LAist.com
Wyoming: Wyoming Range Legacy Act, Snake River Headwaters Legacy Act. Jackson Hole Daily
Idaho: Owyhee Canyonlands bill, study for more dams in Idaho, rename the Snake River Birds of Prey area
New Mexico: Sabinoso Wilderness Act (20,000 acres), Rio Grande Pueblos Irrigation Infrastructure Improvement Act, the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System Authorization Act, the Navajo-San Juan Indian Water Rights Settlement, the New Mexico Aquifer Assessment Act
Arizona: Congress OKs protection for Arizona lands. Arizona Republic
Washington: Washington gets three new public lands features. Posted by Terry Richard. Oregonian. “the Ice Age Floods National Geological Trail, a section of the 1,200-mile Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail and off shore ocean monitoring.”