Draft Omnibus Bill

Crossposted from Left in the West here.

Draft Omnibus Bill: North Fork Flathead protections in, Tester’s mandated logging bill out
by: Matthew Koehler
Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 12:57:22 PM MST

The folks at Politico have obtained a draft copy of the “Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2010“, which is currently being circulated by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.).

A quick search of the 327 page draft turned up good news for clean water and wildlife habitat for Montana’s North Fork of the Flathead region:

Title XXXI – North Fork Flathead River Watershed Protection (page 115-116)

“Subject to valid existing rights, the eligible Federal land is withdrawn from – 1) all forms of location, entry, and patent under the mining laws: and 2) disposition under all laws relating to mineral leasing and geothermal leasing.

Perhaps equally important is what’s missing from the draft Public Lands Omnibus Bill: Senator Tester’s “Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.” Since my views regarding the FJRA have been well-stated over the past two years here at LiTW and elsewhere, I won’t bore anyone – or annoy anyone – with too many additional thoughts on the matter, except to repeat this.

I’d encourage Wilderness supporters in Montana to consider the fact that if Senator Tester and the collaborators (Montana Wilderness Association, National Wildlife Federation, Montana Trout Unlimited and few timber mill owners) would have accepted the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s draft revisions back in May 2010, Montanans would have seen about 660,000 acres of new Wilderness designations – and some important watershed restoration provisions – included in this draft Omnibus bill.

However, what transpired was actually what we predicted all along. The bull-headed insistence from Senator Tester, MWA, NWF, Montana TU and the timber mills that any Montana Wilderness bill must include mandated logging of over a minimum of 100,000 acres cost all of us the opportunity to see over 660,000 acres of world-class wildands in Montana designated as Wilderness.

Hopefully in the next session of Congress, Senator Tester and his collaborators won’t hold Montana Wilderness protection hostage in order to get their wish for mandated logging. Then again, all indications are that Senator Tester will simply reintroduce FJRA as is.

Ironically, Senator Tester’s bill might find a warmer reception in the new Congress, where Republican members might actually like the idea of politicians by-passing science and the established open, inclusive and transparent processes which currently govern the Forest Service and other public lands agencies, in favor of mandating logging, drilling, mining and grazing on federal public lands in their own states. Stay tuned….

7 thoughts on “Draft Omnibus Bill”

  1. This week, Senator Tester and his staff have acknowledged they are working behind the scenes in this lame-duck session of Congress to attach his mandated logging bill, the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, to a completely unrelated $1.2 trillion omnibus spending bill, which is a ‘must-pass’ bill required to fund the US Government through September 2011.

    This is despite the fact that the FJRA never made it out of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, never made it to the floor of the US Senate and never was introduced in the US House.

    Many Montana’s from all walks of life still have serious, substantive concerns with the FJRA.

    It’s unfortunate that Senator Tester is pursuing such a questionable, and some might say underhanded, tactic to pass this bill. Back in 2006, didn’t state Senator Tester campaign against Senator Burns for using just these types of questionable, undemocratic tactics?

    Don’t forget that this past summer Senator Tester had his chance to have the FJRA approved by the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee. That version would have designated over 660,000 acres in Montana as Wilderness and would have moved some important watershed and restoration work forward.

    However, Senator Tester blew that chance because he and four timber mills were completely unwilling to compromise on the mandated logging provisions and allowing motors within Wilderness.

    More info, including the Great Falls Tribune article from Dec 11th, is available at this link:

  2. Matthew- I read in your link to LITW

    “Tester recently told the Associated Press that the bill will be a big boost to the logging industry and give motorized users some certainty with designated areas while giving environmentalists increased protections they desire in other parts of the forest.”

    Is there a difference between “designated areas” and Wilderness? Aren’t motorized things generally illegal in Wilderness? Please clarify.

  3. Good questions Sharon. Yes, there is a huge difference. What Senator Tester is attempting to do is to permanently designate certain Inventoried Roadless Areas into permanent motorized recreation areas.

    Take, for example, the 229,710 acre West Pioneers Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRA), which includes the 151,00 acre Metcalf Wilderness Study Area (WSA). What Sen Tester’s bill would do is turn 129,252 acres of this IRA into a permanent, motorized Recreation Management Areas (RMA). Seriously, do we really want politicians ignoring the USFS’s travel plans to just legislate where they want motorized recreation permanently permitted?

    Of course, our recommendation would be to designate the entire 151,000 acre Metcalf WSA as Wilderness and eliminate the permanently motorized RMA, returning the management of that area to USFS travel planning, where it belongs.

    Or take, for example, what Tester’s bill would do to the West Big Hole IRA, a 213,987 acre area along the crest of the continental divide that provides linkages and connectivity between the Greater Yellowstone area and forests to the west and north.

    The Tester bill would turn just 44,084 acres of this IRA into two small, far-apart Wilderness Areas while turning much of the IRA into a single, large, permanent, motorized National Recreation Area (NRA) totaling 94,237 acres. The large NRA would be twice as large as the two proposed Wilderness areas together and access to these two proposed Wilderness areas would be forced to use the motorized NRA trails.

    Those are just two examples contained in the bill. I can provide more examples if anyone likes. Thanks for the question.

    In the meantime, I’d encourage anyone who cares about public lands or public process to please take a moment to contact Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and ask him to NOT include Senator Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act (FJRA) in the Senate’s completely unrelated $1.2 Trillion omnibus spending bill. Please call (202) 224-3934 or send an email via http://inouye.senate.gov/Contact/ContactDKI.cfm.

    Also, please contact Senator Tester and let him know that you strongly disapprove of his FJRA, as written, and his underhanded tactics to get it passed. The fact is that FJRA never made it out of the Senate ENR Committee, never made it to the floor of the Senate and was never even introduced in the US House. Secretly attaching it to an unrelated, must-pass $1.2 Trillion spending bill is disgraceful. Please call (202) 224-2644 or send an email via: http://tester.senate.gov/Contact/

  4. Word on the street from DC is that Senator’s are busy “gluing all of their pet projects” to the Senate’s ‘must-pass’ $1 trillion plus omnibus spending bill.

    What a great way to run a country, and, in the case of Tester’s mandated logging bill, manage America’s public lands, eh?

    You gotta love “American exceptionalism!”

  5. Matthew Koehler :Don’t forget that this past summer Senator Tester had his chance to have the FJRA approved by the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee. That version would have designated over 660,000 acres in Montana as Wilderness and would have moved some important watershed and restoration work forward.

    Hey Matthew, I’m wondering where I could find a copy of this other bill draft?


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