Giant omnibus public lands bill to be voted on soon in new Congress

Looks like Harry Reid is keeping his promise to bring the bill back up-

This is a really big thing, much larger than the two parochial stories below, even though a lot of it deals with “cannonball parks.”

Here is s.22, ” The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009.” This replaces the 2008 version I had up. They are debating it this weekend. Republicans are filibustering.

Last Congress the omnibus measure passed the House, but failed due to Senator Coburn’s filibuster at the last minute in the U.S. Senate. Majority Leader Reid said he would bring it up again without having the bills inside this “omnibus container” having to start at square one back in the committees of the two chambers of Congress.

Regarding Idaho, this contains the controversial Owhyee Initiative.


  1. kt Avatar

    I didn’t plow through enough of this to get to the 3 million dollar Larry Craig dam study.

    Regarding the Owyhee Initiative: What is not laid out for clear understanding in the Bill is that it will release to development 200,000 acres of lands currently WSAs, and managed under the protective Interim Management Policy. WSAs to be released will suffer certain intensified cattle disturbance, and they include areas of critical importance to sage grouse.

    The “Science Center” is cattle industry mythologizing, not “science” science. Taxpayers will be funding efforts by the livestock industry and their enablers at the “range” department at the U of I to prove that cows are innocuous, and to assist the ranchers in staving off legal challenges by enviros – so cattle herds can continued to destroy some of the very “values” a real Wilderness Bill should be protecting. More industry welfare. Taxpayers will pay. Cost unrevealed.

    Specifically mentioning fencing along the boundary of the Wilderness means ranchers will whine loudly for potentially hundreds of miles of taxpayer new fences all along the stinger wllderness areas. This fencing will fragment sage-grouse habitats, kill birds that fly into it, entangle deer, antelope and bighorns, etc.. Fencing costs five thousand dollars a mile – or more. More rancher welfare. Taxpayers will pay. Cost unrevealed.

    The AUM Buyout that is supposed to bring about a reduction in grazing in some areas is to be done with private funds. Why? Well, the unparalled greed of the 7 or 8 Owyhee ranchers over-reached even for Crapo and his Blue Dog buddies. The ranchers/Owyhee Initiative folks had relied on appraisals for AUMs done by non-legitimate appraisers (a former County Commissioner and his buddy) who doubled or even further inflated the values of AUMS – compared to values determined by a Certified Appraiser. So when word of that oozed out, it was too outrageous even for Congressfolk to swallow, so now the Buyouts are supposed to be done with private funding of some kind. We shall see.

    Now, just what grazing AUMS are being bought out:

    Areas with “reduced” grazing – like the Davis-Simplot grazed portions of Little Jacks Creek in reality will not see reduced grazing – even though millions of dollars – from some source – may go to a “Buyout”. Why? Here is an example: Right now in much of this area Simplot and Davis cattlemen (separate permittees) graze together in some areas. NEITHER party currently stocks up to “permitted” levels. In fact, stocking is much below the AUMs allowed. BLM Actual Use records show this. Yet the lands are still being damaged and cheatgrass and other weeds spreading in cow-trampled areas, even under these levels. So now along comes an OI Buyout for Davis while Simplot herds will remain grazing. In buying out one permittee and not the other in the same allotment and the same pastures – it will merely “reduce” AUMS to the level that is now actually being grazed, and annually reported as Actual Use for both permittees combined. BLM monitoring records also show that the level of utilization occurring is well below the level BLM allows at present – this is often the case when monitoring sites are place distant from areas much used by cows. So the utilization cap in place in reality won’t serve to suppress cow numbers either.

    Some other ranchers would be bought out for “paper cows”/suspended AUMs – AUMs that are never able to be grazed but which are still left tacked onto the permit because BLM has never had the nerve to cut them off. Like Hanley in Trout Springs country. So here too – despite hundreds of thousands of dollars that would be paid to a rancher (by parties unknown)- not a single AUM less will be grazed. It is kind of like a bribe – here take this money and let us slap a “wilderness” title on something. Who will be paying this bribe? CAW?

    Some areas are to be completely bought out- largely the most marginal grazing lands.

    The great majority of the wilderness designated would remain grazed.

    No water right allowed on land or in Wild and Scenic Rivers. Nothing more need be said about this.

    Other concerns, too but it is getting late. Like just what public land will be sold, and what exactly will funds from land sales go to purchase – for a King’s Ransom – from the ranchers?

    I wonder if some group might clamor about the need for a Monument as soon as any ink is dried on the Owyhee Initiative? Especially with heightened threats to wildlife and plants stemming from the OI.

    Does anyone know what in the 700 pages of the Omnibus Bill Harry Reid so eager to move along?

  2. JimT Avatar

    I haven’t read through it either, but if it is Harry Reid, has to be mining protection or washed down, sound pretty, don’t do crap “reform”of the Mining Law.

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    The current version of the bill, S.22 is now up, replacing the 2008 version I had. I used red text so people would notice.

    It is being debated in the Senate today. Republicans are filibustering.

  4. kt Avatar

    This is a much easier version of the Omnibus Bill to read.

    Thank you, Ralph. You must have C Span if you are watching a filibuster?

    Here are several provisions of the OI that remain a blatant assault on the Wilderness Act.

    ” 9) WILDFIRE, INSECT, AND DISEASE MANAGEMENT- Consistent with section 4(d)(1) of the Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1133(d)(1)), the Secretary may take any measures that the Secretary determines to be necessary to control fire, insects, and diseases, including, as the Secretary determines appropriate, the coordination of those activities with a State or local agency.

    (11) MILITARY OVERFLIGHTS- Nothing in this subtitle restricts or precludes–

    (A) low-level overflights of military aircraft over the areas designated as wilderness by this subtitle, including military overflights that can be seen or heard within the wilderness areas;

    (B) flight testing and evaluation; or

    (C) the designation or creation of new units of special use airspace, or the establishment of military flight training routes, over the wilderness areas.

    (12) WATER RIGHTS-

    (A) IN GENERAL- The designation of areas as wilderness by subsection (a) shall not create an express or implied reservation by the United States of any water or water rights for wilderness purposes with respect to such areas. “.

    I ask you: Does THIS sound like Wilderness? They can herbicide/prescribe burn/whatever the Owyhee junipers and sagebrush. They can use Bush Healthy Forests type projects to killing trees and sagebrush that are deemed by the BLM Manager to be Hazardous Fuels and that the ranchers want killed.

    Overhead the Singapore, Israeli, German, or whoever Air Force the Owyhee air space is outsourced to at the moment – nosedives at 100 feet AGL (above ground level) while sonic booming away putting out chaff and flares, and trying new military technology – all INSIDE the wilderness. It has been rumored that the Israeli Air Force may be one of the next in line to pollute the Owyhee airspace – I can’t wait to see what kind of Gaza-dweller killing plane technology they try out over here.

    Meanwhile livestock water or other projects can be developed right outside the Wilderness, result in drying up water inside the Wilderness, and there is no recourse as there is no federal reserve water right to protect Owyhee wilderness waters in the same aquifer.

    This is on top of the secret backroom deals made with ranchers that have never been made public.

  5. Salle Avatar

    I guess you can’t watch C-SPAN online… couldn’t find anything ongoing.

    I see and hear LARGE military aircraft and sometimes helicopters that absolutely cross Yellowstone NP on a regular basis. Have for several years now… guess that provision is already in effect.

  6. Brian Ertz Avatar

    WINO – Wilderness In Name Only – multiple use in spirit

  7. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Filibustering nowadays (actually for over 20 years) rarely involves very much talking.

    That might seem odd, but today’s filibuster is mostly a procedural weapon that requires 60 or more votes to pass a measure. 60 votes (not 60%) is the number of votes required to invoke “cloture” — to pass a motion to end debate (cloture) even though quite possibly no debating is taking place.

  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    While many folks in Idaho don’t like the Owyhee Initiative contained in this big bill, as Brian and KT have written at length, to Harry Reid its inclusion is way to getting the vote of Republican Mike Crapo, and probably new Idaho Senator Jim Risch, for cloture.

    Should Crapo and Risch vote with their party against cloture, and the omnibus bill itself fail, I suspect Reid would take out the Owyhee Initiative and put it in the darkest legislative corner of the Senate.

    I imagine Reid will pick up a number of Republican votes for cloture because there are several measures in the Omnibus that individual Republican senators like.

  9. kt Avatar

    Ralph – Would that be the same place where Harry plans to put Burris when the inevitable finally happens?

    Salle – There have been, unfortunately, airspace expansions going on in areas of the West. There is a big one now in Central Nevada – called White Elk, I believe. Foreign planes have been using the airspace here for training to some degree since at least the Idaho Bombing Range days – which was when I first heard about it. There are MTRs (Military Training Routes – sort of linear airlanes) all across the West. These hook together the great big fat MOAs (Military Operating Areas).

    The planes go from one MOA area to the other via the MTRs- so the Singapore Air Force bed-down pork barrel project so beloved of Craig and Crapo – which is really to keep Mountain Home ID in military income welfare – may result in planes you see or hear over Yellowstone being from Singapore, or any of several other countries.

    The Owyhee Initiative language basically allowing anything to occur over the wilderness, is all about keeping the Base competitive (so it does not get closed). Public lands, including any supposed wilderness, are second fiddle to keeping Mountain Home airbase open and the Singapore Air Force with a place to train.

    Across the West, the military has sought out the wildest public land places – with little resistance. And never analyzing the real impacts like contrails polluting the sky – with enough at times to make the sky cloud up. In training maneuvers in MOAS, they at times use enough chaff that it shows up as clouds on weather radar.

    Foreign fighters train here – because there is not enough airspace distant from densely inhabited areas in their homeland. The Israelis are rumored to perhaps be coming to Mountain Home at some point. So our Airspace may be used to train them for future terrorizing of the Palestinians.

  10. kt Avatar

    Salle – Some Cong excerpts are on-line at c span . Does anyone know if there is another source?

    Here is a link to a clip of Coburn:

    Bewailing being the minority party! But all I can think (OI aside) the Repubs are already doing what the Dems failed to do for 8 solid years – aside from Chris Dodd a time or so on FISA was it? HOW many times could the spineless wimpy Dems led by the biggest most spineless of them all – Harry Reid – have filibustered yet they did nothing but talk big and then cave spectacularly?

    AND why are the Democrats doing this big blob of a Bill? No amendments allowed, not even a hearing in the House for the Owyhee Initiative – I don’t know about the other big parts of the Omnibus Bill

  11. outsider Avatar

    KT would you feel better if we gave Hesbola and Hamus, my spelling is not correct, a place to practic lanching rockets?

  12. Brian Ertz Avatar


    I would prefer the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and training for such, stay the hell off of our public lands –

  13. JimT Avatar

    Scheduled for a vote at 2PM EST today last time I heard, but it has been yanked and postponed so many times…who knows? From someone I know who worked on this bill very hard, it appears that the Senate is the hangup..the House folks seem to get it on the need to strip things out, but they get put back in by the Senate folks….we will see.

  14. Salle Avatar


    I saw that but it was the only “viewing” i could find on anything remotely related. That’s where I went first.

    They’ll probably post it later, doesn’t seem like live streaming is always available for all hearings.

    I think the aircraft I have been seeing is more like major transport, large things that are headed in from trancontinental flights into-or out of Cheyenne or Rapid City. Really late at night.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan