UPDATED at 12:55 pm. Update at end of article.
In a surprise vote this morning, the U.S. House of Representatives failed to achieve the two-thirds majority needed to pass a landmark public lands protection bill that would have ensured access and opportunity for hunters and anglers today and for generations to come.
That news just in courtesy of Trout Unlimited, one of the main backers of the massive bill that the U.S. Senate has already passed.
By vote of 282-144, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 was voted down, even though it achieved a majority of votes. Unfortunately, according to Steve Moyer, TU vice president for government affairs, the vote was conducted under the suspension of House rules, which is why the two-thirds majority was needed.
The act includes the Wyoming Range Legacy Act, the Copper-Salmon Wilderness Act, the Wild Monongahela Wilderness Act and the National Landscape Conservation System Permanence Act, among other pieces of conservation legislation important to sportsmen and women across the country.
“This bill would do more for sportsmen than any bill in the last 25 years, so we are understandably disappointed in today’s outcome,” Moyer said in a press release. “But, the good news is, we’re only a few votes short, so hopefully, the House leadership can round up the needed support and try again. We’re disappointed, but we’re encouraged that we can get the help we need from Congress.”
Tom Reed, a TU field coordinator in Wyoming and Montana, expressed his disappointment over the outcome of today’s vote, noting important legislation that benefits hunters and anglers and solidifies the country’s hunting and fishing heritage remains in limbo. Reed worked with Wyoming sportsmen and lawmakers to draft a bill to protect 1.2 million acres of the Wyoming Range from new oil and gas development in order to protect that region’s unmatched hunting and angling resources.
“There are a lot of disappointed hunters and fishermen in Wyoming who value the Wyoming Range and believe it’s not worth risking for a few days of natural gas and a few hours of oil,” he said. “We are hopeful the House will take another shot with this bill—it’s just too important to drag out much longer. We’re watching closely. We have a lot at stake and we’re not going to give up.”
UPDATE: Immediately after I posted this story, Jared White of The Wilderness Society emailed me to assure readers that “this goose wasn’t cooked.”
“From a Wilderness Society perspective,” White said, “the lopsided 282-144 vote in support of the legislation reflects the strong bipartisan support for new wilderness. The bill is likely to come up again in the House, and we expect it to be enacted into law this year.”