Obama signs the omnibus public lands bill

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.

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Owyhees bill hits a new snag

Owyhees bill hits a new snag. By Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman.

Efforts to move the headwaters of the Snake River into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System could derail Idaho Senator Mike Crapo’s Owyhees bill.

Once again the person troubling Crapo is Idaho’s other “more famous” senator, Larry Craig.

Craig who voted against protecting the Wyoming Range from gas drilling is also opposing the efforts of Wyoming’s senators to protect the Snake River (and many of its headwaters streams in Wyoming). Craig’s objection is about the stretch of the main Snake downstream from Jackson Lake (actually a reservoir).

Downstream irrigators in Idaho hold almost all the water rights to the Snake River. Craig thinks the protection bill as passed by the key Senate Committee, supported by Wyoming’s senators, will somehow hurt the interests of Idaho irrigators. The problem for Crapo arises if the Owyhee bill and the Snake River bill are put into a public lands legislative package. Democrats may drop the Owyhee bill from the package if the Republicans keep wrangling among themselves.

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More on this: Idaho irrigators fight Wyo effort. Casper Star Tribune.

Added May 11. Additional information on one of the reasons why the Owyhees matter to more than the livestock industry. Idaho, Oregon desert canyonlands offer early-season camping with amazing views. By Pete Zimowsky. Idaho Statesman.

Owyhee Country public lands bill passes key U.S. Senate committee

Yesterday I posted about the passage of the bill to protect the vast Wyoming Mountain range from oil and gas — a big matter for Wyoming.

The same committee also passed Idaho Senator Mike Crapo’s “Owyhee bill,” which failed at the last minute at the end of the last Congress.

This has been very controversial in Idaho with some conservation organizations and ag organizations saying it shows what can be accomplished to settle differences, protect the land and the traditions of the area if people are willing to settle down an talk and compromise over the long run.

Others are saying that yes it does show exactly what can be accomplished — not much protection and free money for well positioned ranchers who give up wasteland and “paper cows” for excessive payments.

This bill is likely to also pass the full U.S. Senate attached as a pdf file is the language of the bill as it passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The Owyhee Bill as Passed by Committee

I should mention that this is a huge chuck of country.

Owyhee Canyonlands protections back before Congress

Owyhee Canyonlands protections back before Congress. By Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman

Posted in B.L.M., cattle, politics, privatization, public lands, wilderness roadless. Tags: , . Comments Off on Owyhee Canyonlands protections back before Congress

Western Watersheds Project takes a look a grazing conditions in Current Creek in the Owyhee

Video of the condition of Current Creek in the Owyhee.