For the duration of the 110th Congress, one Senator has held up each of the individual 160 public lands bill that comprise this omnibus legislation, lending the bill its nickname, the “Tomnibus.” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) used the Senate’s byzantine procedural rules to prevent any of these bills from coming to the floor. Despite the fact that many of the individual bills were hammered out by the bipartisan delegations and had significant Republican as well as Democratic support, they couldn’t overcome the 60 vote margin required to break a filibuster. Until now.
The cornerstone of the Tomnibus is comprised of seven different bills authored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), that have both huge scope constituency, as described by ENS:
Wyden’s bills, including one designating eight wilderness areas on Mount Hood and another protecting 13,700 acres in the Siskiyou National Forest as the Copper Salmon Wilderness Area, had each passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee before the end of the 110th Congress but were blocked by Dr. No [Sen. Coburn].
The Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness Act of 2007 was originally introduced by Senator Wyden in 2004 and following months of public review and discussion, was modified and reintroduced with Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon, a Republican, in 2006 and again in 2007. Oregon Congressmen Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat, and Greg Walden, a Republican, championed a House version of the bill.
The Act includes input from more than 600 constituents who attended two public forums, as well as input from more than 1700 constituents, as well as Oregon’s entire congressional delegation, Governor Ted Kulongoski, the Bush administration and over 100 community groups. The bill preserves almost 127,000 acres around Mount Hood with wilderness protection and adds almost 80 miles on nine free-flowing stretches of rivers to the National Wild and Scenic River System.
Some of the key fisheries for wild salmon are included in these designations. The wilderness bill included in the legislation are listed in this report from the Campaign for America’s Wilderness [pdf]:
- 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.
- 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 head-waters 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.
Besides all this, the omnibus package includes measures dealing with water issues and heritage lands, and creates a national landscape conservation system. It also contains four ocean provisions:
The Ocean and Coastal Exploration and NOAA Act will authorize the National Ocean Exploration Program, National Undersea Research Program, and the Integrated Ocean and Coastal Mapping Program within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to increase scientific knowledge for the management, use and preservation of oceanic, coastal and Great Lake resources.
The Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act will authorize the establishment of an integrated system of coastal and ocean observations for the nation’s coasts, oceans and Great Lakes.
The Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act will authorize a coordinated federal research program on ocean acidification.
The Coastal and Estuarine Land Protection Act will authorize funding for a program to protect important coastal and estuarine areas that have significant conservation, recreation, ecological, historical, aesthetic, or watershed protection values, and that are threatened by conversion to other uses.
It’s a fitting end to the past eight years–and particularly the last few months–of the trashing of our nation’s natural heritage. There’s still a tremendous amount of damage that has been done and could be done if some of the last-minute lame duck regulations pushed by the administration are allowed to stand. This Act provides a breath of fresh air and a glimmer of hope that at least some of our most wild and special places will last just a little bit longer.
Editor’s note: Joan McCarter’s weekly blogs are part of NewWest.Net/Politics’ “Diary of a Mad Voter” feature, a group blog, published in partnership with the Denver Post’s Politics West intended give a glimpse into the hearts and minds of several independent-minded voters and thinkers in the Rocky Mountain West in the ’08 election cycle. For more columns check in with www.newwest.net/madvoter. And for more information on each of the bloggers, click here.