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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