The Adventure Life with Steve Casimiro Congress Promises Huge Public Lands Gift, But You Have to Ask
Part of the California wildlands to be protected.
Text by West Coast Editor Steve Casimiro, photo by John Dittli
“Vote the Environment” doesn’t stop with the culmination of the presidential election: Congress is set to protect 3 million acres of land across the United States and add safeguards to 1,000 miles of rivers—but it needs encouragement to get its lame-duck butt back to D.C. to approve it.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has promised to call back the Senate to vote on the massive Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2008, but Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has not said whether she’ll force her fellow reps to return and consider it. She should. And you should call her office and tell her so. Here’s why:
The omnibus bill is a collection of 140 smaller pieces of legislation that were cobbled together earlier in the year in the face of opposition from Republican Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). It includes proposals from members of both parties and would protect land from Virginia to Oregon. The president has promised to sign the bill if it passes and while there’s nothing to stop it from being reintroduced in part or total when the new Congress is sworn in next January, Reid is determined to get it through the Senate before this session expires. The House is in recess until January 3, but can be brought back by the speaker. If Pelosi doesn’t whistle her colleagues back, the bill is dead.
The legislation would also shift the focus of the Bureau of Land Management, known under the Bush administration for its extremely proactive stance on oil and gas drilling, to be more environmentally conscious. It also identifies 26 million acres and 850 sites of special natural, archeological, and cultural value.
“The omnibus package is a bipartisan proposal and the product of years of negotiations among federal, state and local officials, conservation groups and private citizens,” wrote a New York Times editorial last week. “President Bush has indicated that he would sign it. Its only real enemy is time. Failure to approve it this year would require many of the negotiations to start all over again. Congress should not miss this chance.”
How to act? Pick up the phone, call Pelosi’s office (202.225.4965; firstname.lastname@example.org), and tell them she should call ’em back. Then send this letter to your representative and senators telling them to vote “yes”.
What’s at stake? It’s an impressive list of lands. Take a look:
Would add 465,000 acres of wilderness and protect 52 miles of rivers in the eastern Sierra and White mountains.
Would add 77,000 acres of wilderness to Sequoia-Kings Canyon National
Park and protect the largest stand of giant sequoias and California’s
Would set aside 190,000 acres in Riverside County as wilderness.
Would add 31 miles to Wild and Scenic Rivers system.
Would add 5,000 acres to the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument.
Would convert 250,000 acres of Rocky Mountain National Park to wilderness.
Would create the 200,000-acre Dominguez-Escalante Canyons National Conservation Area, with 66,000 acres of wilderness.
Would add 500,000 acres of wilderness to the Owyhee-Bruneau Canyonlands.
Would add 315 miles of waterways to the Wild and Scenic Rivers system.
Would create 15,000 acres of Sabinoso Wilderness in San Miguel County.
Would add 128,600 acres of wilderness on Mt. Hood.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Would add 40,000 acres of wilderness to the Oregon Badlands and Spring Basin.
Would create the 23,000-acre Soda Mountain Wilderness.
Would protect 13,700 acres of pristine old-growth forest surround the headwaters of the Elk River in the Siskiyou National Forest.
Would protect 55,000 acres in the Jeﬀerson National Forest as wilderness, wilderness study or national scenic areas.
Would expand 37,000 acres of wilderness in Monongahela National Forest, enlarging three current wilderness areas and creating three new ones.
Would add 440 miles of rivers and streams of the Snake River headwaters to the Wild and Scenic Rivers system.
Would block oil, gas, and mineral leases in the Wyoming Range south of Jackson.