Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Public Lands bills fail 2/3 vote

Posted By on Wed, Mar 11, 2009 at 1:57 PM

The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 failed a house vote today, killing more than 2 million acres of wilderness in nine states, including the Owyhee Canyonlands in Idaho.

“Despite falling just two votes short in the House, we will continue to press ahead with efforts to pass the Owyhee Initiative legislation,” Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo stated in a press release. “The process of collaboration is succeeding in solving long-standing issues in Idaho and that process is too important to be cut short by one vote in the U.S. Congress."

Crapo said the vote was not aimed directly at the Owyhees part of the bill and that it will be voted on again.

"The way the House voted on the Omnibus Lands package was based on other issues and was not directed at the Owyhee Initiative specifically. We will now look for the next opportunity to bring the legislation forward and I will be discussing this with bipartisan leadership, Congressmen Simpson and Minnick and the Owyhee Work Group in Idaho to discuss the timing of our continuing efforts," Crapo said.

The House voted on the bill under suspension of rules, in order to stave off amendments and avoid its return to the Senate where it faced further hurdles. That required a two-thirds vote. House Democratic leaders could try for another suspension vote or could bring the bill back through the normal legislative process.

Idaho Rep. Walt Minnick spoke in favor of passage on the House floor.

“Although I am disappointed, today’s action shows that there are more than enough votes for this bill to pass the House under normal rules. I urge House leadership to put this bill back on the floor as quickly as possible, and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting, reflecting and representing the collaborative work represented in this bill,” Minnick stated in a release.

Minnick's floor speech:

Mr Speaker I rise today in support of the Public Lands Management Act.

Teddy Roosevelt once spoke of his fondness for the out of doors when he said, "there are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm."

This legislation contains a protection for a number of America’s public lands and in particular, for a treasured place back in my home of Idaho called the Owyhee Canyonlands.

Last summer, I had the privilege of spending a week floating the river which created the area this bill will protect. We saw redband trout in the pristine rapids, camped along the lush river banks, climbed up the rocky canyon walls to see bighorn sheep, and stood at the top looking at a rich desert plateau of sage grouse, antelope and bald eagles.

If passed, this bill will permanently protect as wilderness 517,000 beautiful acres in the southwestern corner of my home state’s landscape and would provide wild and scenic status to nearly 315 miles of rivers. It will also guarantee that the ranching families who have protected this land for generations will continue on, with their grazing rights protected.

None of that would be possible without the hard work of my friend and colleague in the Senate, Mike Crapo, who fostered a collaborative process of ranchers, public officials, community leaders and conservationists to preserve our cherished Owyhees.

Many of these provisions in this bill have been waiting on Congressional action for years and are supported by Members from across the political spectrum. I urge you to join us today in supporting this historic legislation.


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