Get On The (omni)Bus!
Lovers of wilderness take note: some long-fought land legislation has just been kicked into high gear. Senate Bill 22, aka. the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act, has been taking shape over the past few years. While stymied repeatedly by vigorous filibuster, a recent re-shuffling of the Congressional deck seems to have cleared the legislative log jam. Upon returning from their holiday break, the new Congress found the Omnibus Lands Bill near the top of their to-do list.
Passage of this act holds a significance that's hard to convey, some are calling it the most significant piece of wilderness legislation since the passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act. In writing about this issue, Montana-based NewWest.net has gathered the below list, which helps convey some sense of the enormity of the act's scope. The Omnibus Public Lands Management Act includes:
- The Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act, California: permanently protects 450,000 acres of wild mountain tops, open spaces and alpine meadows, 40,000 acres of wild lands in northern Los Angeles County, and designates 73 miles of rivers as Wild and Scenic.
- California Desert and Mountain Heritage Act: protects 190,000 acres in Riverside County as wilderness, add 31 miles of four rivers to the Wild and Scenic River System and expand by 5,000 acres the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument.
- The Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Wilderness Act, California: permanently protects almost 85,000 acres in the Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, including Redwood Mountain Grove, the largest stand of Giant Sequoia within the park, California’s largest cave, and the Old Hockett Trail.
- Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness and Indian Peaks Wilderness Expansion Act, Colorado: protects nearly 250,000 acres (94 percent) of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park as wilderness.
[Classic alpine terrain in the high country between Yosemite National Park and Hoover Wilderness, one of California's wilderness areas that will be expanded through the Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act. Photo: localcrew]
- Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area and Dominguez Canyon Wilderness Area Act, Colorado: creates the 200,000 acre Dominguez-Escalante Canyons National Conservation Area, including more than 66,000 acres designated as wilderness.
- Owyhee Public Lands Management Act, Idaho: this bill permanently protects 517,000 acres in Idaho’s Owyhee-Bruneau Canyonlands in the southwestern corner of the state and designates nearly 315 miles of rivers as wild and scenic.
- Beaver Basin Wilderness Act, Michigan: protects 11,739 acres of wilderness at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, some 16 percent of the scenic national lakeshore.
- Sabinoso Wilderness Act, New Mexico: designates more than 15,000 acres in San Miguel County as wilderness.
- Copper Salmon Wilderness Act, Oregon: protects 13,700 acres of pristine old-growth forest surrounding the headwaters of the Elk River in the Siskiyou National Forest.
- Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness Act, Oregon: protects 128,600 acres of national forest on Mount Hood and puts nearly 80 miles of river under the National Wild and Scenic River System.
- Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument Voluntary and Equitable Grazing Conflict Resolution Act, Oregon: protect 23,000 acres of Southeastern Oregon’s wild land as the Soda Mountain Wilderness.
- Spring Basin Wilderness Act, Oregon: includes over 8,600 acres of wilderness overlooking the John Day Wild and Scenic River.
- Oregon Badlands Wilderness Act, Oregon: includes nearly 31,000 acres of wilderness in the Badlands just east of Bend.
- The Washington County Growth & Conservation Act, Utah: protects nearly 256,000 acres of wilderness in the county, including Canaan Mountain, Red Mountain, Doc’s Pass, and Cougar Canyon; establishes the Red Cliffs and Beaver Dam Wash National Conservation Areas; and protects more than 160 miles of the Virgin River in and around Zion National Park.
- Virginia Ridge and Valley Wilderness and National Scenic Area Act, Virginia: protect 55,000 acres in the Jefferson National Forest as wilderness, wilderness study or national scenic areas (43,000 acres will be wilderness), including parts of the Appalachian Trail.
- The Wild Monongahela Act, West Virginia: designates 37,000 acres of wilderness in the Monongahela National Forest, expanding three existing wilderness areas, Cranberry, Dolly Sods and Otter Creek and creates three new wilderness areas.
- The Wyoming Range Legacy Act: withdraws 1.2 million acres in the mountains of western Wyoming from future oil and gas leasing, forever.
A more complete list of affected areas (and pictures) has been made available by the Campaign for America's Wilderness.
Voters are encouraged to contact their representatives and let their voices be heard. Most importantly, representatives who have remained undecided on this issue need to hear from their constituents if they are to represent their wishes. A complete list of undecided legislators is available below.
When contacting your representatives, indicate your support in whatever way you feel comfortable. Here is one suggested template for your phone call:
“Hello. I am _____, and am from your state. I want to encourage you to vote for Senate Bill 22, the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act that includes ____(act[s] in which you are most interested)_____. I am particularly concerned about ___(your chosen area)____ because . . . (providing information about your personal connections to a particular area is particularly helpful).”
Some background on the bill:
- The act is packaged with approximately 160 other public lands bills, ensuring protection of a broad representation of American landscapes;
- It is a truly bipartisan creation, brought forth from Republicans and Democrats;
- The act is a textbook representation of citizen involvement; brought about through grassroots efforts across the country.
The bill stands to establish more than 2 million acres of wilderness in nine states, establish three new national park units, a new national monument, three new national conservation areas, more than 1,000 miles of national wild and scenic rivers and four new national trails. Additionally, it will expand the boundaries of xisting national park units, as well as creating 10 new nat'l heritage areas.
Several U.S. Senators are presently undecided about the bill. Those of you who are from these Senator’s states, or have lived there in the past, have a powerful voice. Please call their D.C. offices and indicate your degree of support for the bill.
If you are from one of the following states, please consider giving your senator a call:
Susan Collins (202) 224-2523
Olympia Snowe (202) 224-5344
Amy Klobuchar (202) 224-3244
Lamar Alexander (202) 224-4944
Bob Corker (202) 224-3344
Kit Bond (202) 224 5721
Claire McKaskill (202) 224-6154
Evan Bayh (202) 224-5623
Richard Lugar (202) 224-4814
Joe Biden (202) 224-5042
John Ensign (202) 224-6244
Robert Casey (202) 224-6324
Arlen Specter (202) 224-4254
Jon Kyl (202) 224-4521
John McCain (202) 224-2235
Sherrod Brown (202) 224-2315
George Voinovich (202) 224-3353
Judd Gregg (202) 224-3324
Jeanne Shaheen (202) 224-2841
[Second from top: looking into the heart of Sequoia/King's Canyon Nat'l Park; Middle: Boundary and Montgomery Peaks at the northern tip of California's White Mountains; Bottom: Looking into Yosemite from the south-eastern edge of Hoover Wilderness, CA. Portions of each of these ranges will be protected by the Omnibus Lands Protection Act of 2008. Photos: localcrew]